Jay is a graphic designer based in the UK and as most of us know, he’s the guy whose The Lighthouse alternative poster got plagiarised by the independent film distribution company A24. Apart from his job as an honourable member of film twitter and letterboxd influencer, he works with “student filmmakers worldwide to develop marketing campaigns and print advertisement.” At Scratch Cinema, we were lucky enough to have a word with him about his works and life as a graphic designer.
Scratch Cinema: Before we start, I have to say that everybody here at Scratch Cinema has been huge fans of your alternative posters and we appreciate you for agreeing to interview with us! To begin with an easy question, could you tell us about yourself a bit?
Jay Bennett: Thank you so much, it’s my pleasure! I hate speaking about myself but it’s worth a try! I’m a graphic designer notably known for my film poster design, looking to pursue a career in creative design and marketing and ultimately freelance. I run my own online print store, which has sold over 250 prints in the first year, promoted through Twitter and Letterboxd. I often struggle to find a balance in my work between stylistic fan-art (benefiting the print side of my trade) and poster design fit for marketing, which I hope to start a career in. I believe every film has a unique tone and message to portray and it’s our job as designers to connote that message and entice the audience from the start.
SC: Personally, I’ve been following you for quite a while now and I’ve always wanted to ask you this question because you’re really good at what you do. Are you self-taught or have you had any professional training/help?
JB: I’ve been using Photoshop from as early as 2012 and though I’ve always wanted to merge my design talents with film, it’s never really taken it’s full effect on my career until now. I gained my basic knowledge for Photoshop/illustrator from coursework at secondary (middle) school and the diploma I completed, but as far as poster design training goes I’m entirely self taught. Like anyone starting in a creative career you tend to draw a lot from inspiration and imitation at the start, a lot of my early designs are almost entirely ripped off layouts from already established designers, none of which I profited off or even showcase on my website anymore, however it helped me learn the laws of poster design layouts and what works for my own style. Recently I applied for a course in Film and TV design in London but unfortunately couldn’t make the interview due to employment, however I think I still have so much more to learn and will revisit this when the course runs next year.
SC: You’re known for making a better poster for The Lighthouse than the official one and I reckon that the controversy about plagiarism involving A24 helped you reach to a bigger audience because everybody saw the talent in you.Where do you get the inspiration before you start working on a new poster and how does that process go?
JB: I think it’s poetic that I’m most known for that poster when The Lighthouse poster means so much to me because it was sort of my return to poster design. Before then I was in an enormous slump (I think I made Get Out/Her in February and my next was The Lighthouse in June?) and as soon as I returned home from Cannes it was the first thing I got to work on. I think what drew me to this one specifically was the imagery used in the film and how there was nothing pre-existing to compare my work to, and after a weekend at Cannes Film Festival I knew this what I wanted to do with my career and life. Despite having such a clear idea of what I wanted to make for The Lighthouse and knowing which imagery I wanted to source, this isn’t always the case, a lot of it depends on what I’m inspired by at the time and the assets I have available to me. I approach every design with an idea in my head by 80% of the time that idea can be thrown out for either not having the correct stills or simply finding something that works better along the way. Even to this day I still get sent links to youtube reviews of people using my poster over the official and tweets from strangers seeing A24’s design and calling it a downgrade, I personally don’t like to make a huge fuss over it because I want to keep professional and hope one day I may work with them, but I can’t deny it makes me smile every time.
SC: As we all know, Twitter is a great platform to promote your work but the feedback may not be always constructive. Have you ever received a criticism that affected your work or creativity in a negative or positive way? And if there has, what was the comment?
JB: I can’t thank the people on Twitter enough for the platform I’ve gained and reception I’ve received, and aside from just the odd “I prefer the official Lighthouse poster to the fan-made!”, fortunately I’ve only received one piece of forward criticism when the whole A24 drama went down and even that was anonymous. I personally still struggle with criticism, however I’ve learnt if the criticism offers nothing constructive and from someone who doesn’t work in a design based field, you’re just taking an insult over someone’s personal preference, in which there is nothing to gain from and pointless to stress over, unless of course you receive an unanimous backlash, but even then there’s more to learn than no response at all. You can’t please everyone at the end of the day but if I’m going to take criticism to heart and change my work from it, it’s going to have to come from Vasilis Marmatakis or Akiko Stehrenberger, because their opinions would carry the most weight.
SC: Last but not least, I want to ask you about your goals in this career path and what we, as your followers, should expect to see from you in the future?
JB: I’ve recognised recently since my Little Women poster I’ve taken a bit of a backseat due to moving out and starting a new full-time job, I’ve got so much in the pipeline, it’s just a task finding the balance! As previously announced, posters for Lady Bird and Drive are complete, which in due course will be released and added to my store along with other requested designs on my website. Aside from my alternate works my first freelance job for a budgeted American/Chinese short called Ex-Wife Monotagari dir. Zihao Su has been released which is set to do the festival circuit next year, early next year I will be working on an undisclosed film with Peccaillo Pictures and I have a few filmmakers I’ve been in contact with who have projects lined up early next year which I will be working on when the time comes. Watch this space!