THE ART OF PARASITE - PART 7
In this interview series, Gabby Kere introduces some of the most talented members of the Bong-hive who channelled their passion and fandom for Parasite into artworks so pleasing to the eye that they demand space on your bedroom wall. Read the previous parts published on the Curzon Blog.
This interview series wouldn’t be complete without introducing Andrew Bannister. If you are a regular cinema goer, chances are you already saw some of his work. After seven years of collaboration with Curzon that resulted in countless captivating movie posters Bannister was the obvious choice for the task to create a Parasite alternative poster for the Curzon magazine. I talked to Andrew about his brilliant artwork that appeared on the frontpage of the 2020 January-February issue. You might still have an old copy lying around somewhere! After reading this interview I guarantee you will treasure it!
Andrew Bannister is an art director, illustrator and simply a poster design icon from Garstang, a small market town in Lancashire. Today he works from his home studio in London where he is surrounded by old books and piles of cardboard poster tubes. At a very young age he was certain about wanting to make a career in art, so he decided to study graphic design without really knowing much about the field at first. After finishing his studies at Blackpool College of Art & Design and then graduating from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design in Epsom he moved to London where his career really took off. As a junior designer of a small studio that specialised in design for the music and film industries, he developed his skills and gained the confidence to take a leap of faith and start working as a freelance illustrator. His big breakthrough came in 2012. “I had the opportunity to pitch for the ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ promotional campaign, which I won and it ended up becoming very successful. This opened up lots of new opportunities for me.”
Before we dive into his work on Parasite, first I ask him about what makes a great poster in general. He quickly points out that it is the initial impact of a poster that sparks his interest most. “I think that you tend to remember an image if it breaks convention and isn’t quite what you were expecting. The best posters are able to distil a concept or message down to the simplest image.” Bannister used this magical formula when he started to work on the Parasite project.
After watching Parasite he recalls what inspired him the most. “I love that you can enjoy the rollercoaster ride experience of watching the film play out on screen but there are also wider themes about class and society that stay with you long after your first viewing.”
Bannister's creative process began with playing around with a few ideas. “Possibly the most difficult thing was choosing one strong idea out of them all that I would then use to represent the film as a piece of poster art. Bong Joon Ho has a very visual way of thinking and seems to be very interested in the idea of props and the production design telling one part of the narrative.” – he explains.
“I had the main staircase image as an idea right from the start.” – Bannister tells me, remembering back to the very beginnings by sharing his first drawings with me. “I did some initial sketches and proposed four different concepts at the first stage" - he tells me. Then he goes on explaining that first he was experimenting with the ‘Penrose’ staircases and different layouts. This process led him to the realisation that he could use the stair motif to split the poster into two sections and create a double-sided look.
Like many of his fellow creators I introduced earlier in this series, Bannister was also inspired by director Bong’s fascination with stairs. Many artworks I saw before placed the stairs in the focal point of the image, arguing that this object is one of the main heroes of the film and Bannister is no exception. “The staircase is like the unofficial fifth Beatle of Parasite! It definitely plays a big part and so it was the obvious choice but it also happens to be an aesthetically pleasing feature so it was the perfect fit for the poster design.”
Bannister’s design shows well-crafted balance and contrast. His aim was to capture “the sense that even though the two families were worlds apart in their social status, they do have some similarities.” I think that his design solution is not just refreshingly original but playful and highly functional as well! By visually splitting the canvas in half, he adds an extra dimension to his artwork and plays with its physical medium it appears on: the magazine, that can be picked up, held straight and turned upside down, allowing the viewer to examine the artwork from different angles. “There was something interesting about the two families both ascending towards something simultaneously, but when one side is upside down it almost gives the appearance of them descending.”
As an aspiring poster designer myself, I have been an admirer of Bannister’s work for years! I love that his posters have a hand-crafted quality with lots of interesting layers and tactile details. If you remember the posters made for Non-Fiction, Zama, I am Not A Witch or Faces Places – just to mention a few from the long list of Bannister’s colourful repertoire - you know what I mean.
I noticed that his signature patchwork-like aesthetic is not present that prominently on his Parasite poster. I was wondering if this shift was a natural step forward in his own style and evolution as an artist or it was more of a conscious choice for this specific project. “I like using texture and pattern and for many recent projects I’ve been using some of these methods. I became interested in the immediacy of making collages from all sorts of mixed media. I do like the tangible quality that you can achieve from these ways of working.” – he explains. “I tend to begin any project by thinking about the most effective ways of meeting the requirements of the design brief. This might mean opting for a particular style to match the tone of the film or to appeal to a certain audience. For Parasite, my first thoughts were that I wanted to have a bright, modern image that would really stand out if hung on a wall or in a cinema foyer. It made sense to create an illustration that was clean and simple to try and convey a strong message. So the style I’ve adopted for this poster is unique to this particular project but it also acts as a means of developing my illustration work further.”
Bannister spent a month perfecting the image with special attention to the accuracy of the characters. Lastly, he added the finishing touches: “The last additions were the detailing of the two backdrop walls and pictures, pipes on the walls etc.”
How many easter eggs can you see?
I find that teasers are becoming an increasingly popular tool to interact and engage with audiences and build their anticipation. Although it is not easy to find the right balance between teasers and spoilers. “Yes, it was a difficult challenge to get this right!” – Bannister admits. “I did want to include a few teaser elements, as this means people who have seen the film might pick up on these afterwards. I think that most of them are so subtle that if you had not seen the film, you wouldn’t be looking for the hidden messages, so I like to think we got away without spoiling it for anyone!”
After following Bannister’s work for years I am curious to ask if he felt more artistic freedom and a difference in his approach when working on an alternative art in contrast to working on an “official” poster: "I think there is probably more room for experimentation in an alternative poster, although I’m very lucky that I get to work with independent and international titles that often have much more open briefs than any Hollywood blockbuster. With alternative designs there is always the opportunity to use illustration instead of having to include film stills which I suppose is the main difference."
Those film still posters might be a safe solution for the studios, but they also come across lazy and unimaginative – and this is an opinion that I share with Bannister. “There have been some quite big shifts over the last 10 years or so. I think the main thing that changed has been the surge in interest of poster design on the internet, more specifically on social media. I believe this has made film distributors reassess how they promote films online, and this has had a knock-on effect to the style choices and aesthetics they employ.” he says and adds a very optimistic “I’m very excited for the future of film posters.”
The best thing about working on this interview series was that I could catch a glimpse of the fascinating world of movie poster designers and geek out with them about our shared fascination for graphic design and Parasite. Which poster is your favourite?