Promotional posters for for monthly film event
Silent Sundays (now called Silent Revue) is hosted at Toronto’s oldest active cinema, the Revue. Embracing the history of the building (which opened in 1912), the event aims to recreate the silent film experience by presenting classic silents with live piano accompaniment in an era-appropriate venue.
My involvement with Silent Sundays sprang from my lifelong love of dinosaur films. I had been a regular attendee of the series and when I learned of a planned showing of the 1925 stop-motion dino film The Lost World, I wanted to create something. I approached the series' programmer Alicia Fletcher with the idea of printing a limited run poster to sell at the event.
The Lost World was the beginning of a long collaboration with Fletcher. We soon began producing prints to sell at each screening. Though I loved the irregular sizing of the first piece, the unique format increased the price, and we soon abandoned it in favour of the more easily framable 12” x 18” sheet.
My second collaboration with Silent Sundays was for one of Chaplin's most enduringly popular films, The Gold Rush. Rather than trying to reinvent or add to the massive body of artwork already associated with such an iconic character and film, I simply wanted to provide attendees with a souvenir. This single-colour print, based on artwork from an original 1925 herald, allowed me to experiment with a recently constructed home silk-screen studio.
Unfinished poster concept for Destiny
Destiny also known Der müde Tod (The Weary Death) is a little-seen but great film by Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M), but unfortunately, like many German films of the 1920s no original promotional materials are known to exist.
Destiny was originally scheduled to screen after The Gold Rush, but the event was postponed for emergency renovations on the cinema. At the time of the postponement, I had developed a handful of half-completed designs for a 13" x 24" collectable print (the irregular size of The Lost World). Most of these concepts involved illustrations involving some combination of the following: blackletter typography, the setting of the film (a small Bavarian hamlet), and three symbolic candles that are central to the film's plot.
Over a year later, when the film was eventually shown, I revisited the original designs and was amazed at how fully formed they were. Rather than producing a poster, we leveraged two of the original designs for the front and back of a promotional postcard. (For the curious, I've included two examples of the unfinished original art at right.)
—Alicia Fletcher, Silent Revue Programmer
Craig's designs made a huge impact on the visibility of the programme. With his ability to draw upon vintage aesthetics and combine them with modern design elements, his work perfectly summarizes all that is behind our programme. He was an integral part of our programme and his designs were often as highly anticipated as the films!"
While I wasn't initially satisfied with this print for Peter Pan, positive reaction from patrons and Fletcher (who cites it as her favourite of the posters) changed my thinking. Peter Pan was the first Silent Sundays event primarily aimed at children. The audience embraced the film as if it were a brand new CGI-laden spectacle. The kids reaction was genuinely stirring — especially in one particular scene where Tinkerbell requests audience's help — and speaks to the surprising accessibility of what seems like niche event. The first time I attended Silent Sundays, I recognized the series as something special. The Peter Pan screening re-enforced that view.
Regardless of a film’s familiarity, the unique combination of live musical accompaniment, short films, and the general atmosphere of the hundred-year-old Revue Cinema distinguish each Silent Sundays as a one-of-a-kind performance, rather than a simple screening.
For two special events in September 2013, the series took leave of the Revue to join in the centennial celebration of Toronto's St Clair Avenue Streetcar (a.k.a a tram or cable car). The screenings were all about celebrating both the best and worst of a constantly embattled form of public transit, whether that's the horde of people in Harold Lloyd's Speedy or the breezy romance of Murnau's Sunrise.
Though these pieces were originally developed as a digital-only promotion, I eventually produced a batch of prints after persistent requests from Silent Sundays regulars.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney was chosen for a special Halloween screening in 2013. Rather than leaning on a well-trod image of Chaney as the Phantom, I focused on a scene where he arrives at a masquerade party dressed in the Masque of the Red Death. It's an incredible colour sequence in what is otherwise a black-and-white film, and the exact sort of surprise that makes exploring of these classics so worthwhile. On the poster itself, I compensated for image quality issues by introducing an oil painting-like texture to the image of the Phantom (which was originally a blu-ray screen grab).
For the first Silent Sundays Comedy Revue — the first of a now annual tradition — I opted to stray from the more illustrated style I'd utilized for the series so up to this point.
I was eager to explore a more modern look, cropping the icon's photo quite severely and tightly compartmentalizing the copy to free up the top and bottom of the poster. My hope was to develop a template for future Silent Sundays promotional materials. Though the specific design wasn't utilized as a template, a lot of the thinking behind it informed the artwork for the next season, IT GIRLS: Sirens of the Silent Screen.
Originally a triptych of posters featuring Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, I scaled back the project to include just one design, with Chaplin being the obvious choice as the most iconic figure in silent film (perhaps the most iconic figure in film altogether).
Pandora's Box served as a bridge of sorts to the next era of Silent Sundays. The film is unlike any I'd seen before, thanks in no small part to the charms of its lead actor, Louise Brooks. With Brooks as a subject, this layout almost seemed to compose itself, and the strong sales of this poster inspired the design of the next full year of Silent Revue prints as we embarked on IT GIRLS: Sirens of the Silver Screen.
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