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Oscars 2021 Pablo Matilla: What makes a movie poster great? Spanish designer behind Oscar hits shares his secrets | Culture

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The legendary line “and the Oscar goes to…” has never preceded the name of a movie poster art designer, and there is no indication that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has any short-term plan to award prizes in this category.

But Pablo Matilla, who has won other industry accolades including Clio Entertainment awards, considered the Oscars of film publicity, recently shared with EL PAÍS the secrets behind a good Hollywood movie poster.

Born in the western Spanish region of Extremadura and raised in Seville, the 40-year-old designer has been making posters for the Hollywood film industry for the better part of two decades. An associate creative director at Concept Arts studio in Los Angeles, he was the mind behind the poster art for hits such as Dunkirk, Interstellar, 1917 and Roma, which means that he has worked with leading directors including Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes and Alfonso Cuarón.

“‘Interstellar' is a project with a lot of production value. For films like this, studios make a lot of posters," admits Matilla.
“‘Interstellar’ is a project with a lot of production value. For films like this, studios make a lot of posters,” admits Matilla.

Matilla has developed the promotional images for many movies that have gone on to the Academy Awards, most recently The Trial of the Chicago 7, which was nominated for six Oscars.

Matilla says that the posters he has made for Oscar contenders do not necessarily share any traits. However, “I think that most of them have sincere graphics that try to remain faithful to the director and the team’s artistic vision. They are a sample of the movie’s tone and genre,” he notes.

The designer speaks enthusiastically about his work, and is happy to be able to put his imagination at the service of interesting projects, no matter what their size. Creating poster art in the US film industry – and increasingly in Spain as well – involves a large number of professionals and complex processes, including many trial-and-error cycles that make an art form out of rejection management, something that should probably be taught at design schools.

The poster for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7,’ designed by Matilla, on display in Los Angeles.
The poster for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7,’ designed by Matilla, on display in Los Angeles.pablo matilla

But Matilla himself never studied graphic art. Instead he studied filmmaking at schools in Barcelona, Los Angeles and New York. As a poster art designer, he feels that his work mostly involves interpreting the director’s vision. “Obviously, you are free to focus on scenes from the movie that you find the most interesting and representative, but ultimately it’s the director who will decide if you accurately translated his vision in one brushstroke,” he explains. “The best movie directors have a clear vision of their movie from the first scene to the last advertising element. Not all of them decide to get that involved in the process, but those who do want the poster to remain faithful to the movie, to the story it tells and to the tone of the artistic proposal.”

According to Matilla, the key to designing a good movie poster lies in finding the balance between art and publicity. “When they show too much advertising information, they lose visual impact. On the other hand, there are some very aesthetic posters that don’t attract anybody to a movie theater because they are not a window into the film’s narrative. That’s why it’s so important to strike a balance.”

“The hug on the beach is a very emotional moment;" "It's a work of art." These were some of the comments from the audience about the poster for 'Roma.'
“The hug on the beach is a very emotional moment;” “It’s a work of art.” These were some of the comments from the audience about the poster for ‘Roma.’

“If you’ll notice, both Dunkirk and 1917 have some things in common. The color range in both is modern. The soldiers are not wearing helmets, they are not shooting or pointing their weapons at anybody; their body language is vulnerable. All of this humanizes the characters and creates feelings of empathy in the viewer. Although both fall under the war movie category, they label themselves as anti-war and this is reflected in the posters,” he explains.

And then there was the Hollywood hit Interstellar. For this kind of movie, studios make many different posters instead of trying to cram everything into a single image. “If you analyze the poster art prior to my own that was made for this movie, each one highlights different virtues: the space trip, the lead character’s emotional connection with his daughter, the sense of group adventure.”

The payoff, or final poster designed by Matilla, shows the main character’s vulnerability in a hostile environment, without providing too many details about the story other than the fact that he is wearing a NASA spacesuit. There is not even a spaceship in sight. And even though it stars a famous actor, his presence is not unduly exaggerated. “I think that this is where the movie studios are really brilliant in their marketing strategy: they are able to identify the main audience and provide the basic information to attract it,” says Matilla. “In the posters for Dunkirk and for Interstellar, the most important information is the director, Christopher Nolan, so we avoided unnecessary distractions. In cases such as Kong: Skull Island, you have a spectacular cast and a good director, but the main message for the audience is that this is a movie by the producers of Godzilla.

Matilla's latest work was for 'Godzilla vs. Kong.'
Matilla’s latest work was for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong.’

Matilla says that studios can test out posters the same way that they test the movies themselves, but that at the end of the day, “the best indicator that the poster is the right one is whether the director likes it.”

“There are people out there with a lot more talent than me,” he claims. “I’m just lucky to be in the right place at the right time to work on these movies. It is not false humility, it’s the truth.”

There are hardly any awards for movie poster art in Spain, but the Premios Feroz, considered the Spanish answer to the Golden Globes, do have a specific category for Best Poster. Matilla does not believe that this is going to happen in Hollywood any time soon: “I see the opposite trend: I think that TV networks favor award ceremonies with fewer categories and more attention on the stars. We have other forums such as the Clio Entertainment Awards or the Golden Trailer Awards, although I miss the Key Art Awards, which used to judge posters by movie genre and by specialized professionals.”

A poster for 'The Nun' on display in Los Ageles.
A poster for ‘The Nun’ on display in Los Ageles. pablo matilla

English version by Susana Urra.

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Nadine Lott told ex-partner who later killed her not to ‘threaten’ her, court hears

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Nadine Lott told her former partner not to “threaten” her two weeks before he killed her, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The jury in the trial of Daniel Murtagh was given transcripts on Tuesday of WhatsApp messages between the accused and his ex-girlfriend in the days and weeks leading up to her death.

In them, the accused asks her if she is “seeing someone from Dublin”. In reply, Ms Lott tells him she is not seeing anyone. Mr Murtagh asks her if there was a “Dublin lad” in her “place” and she tells him to “leave it out”.

She tells him that “nothing is ever going to happen between us again, I want to make that clear.”

In another text from December 5th the accused said: “Nadine I worry about ye, not in love, just don’t slip”.

She replied: “Don’t threaten me either”.

Evidence has previously been given that Mr Murtagh told a motorist that he had “killed my wife because she was with my friend”, just hours after he assaulted her.

John Begley testified last week that he saw a car in a ditch as he was travelling over Bookies Bridge in Laragh on the morning of December 14th and then came across the accused man standing at the side of the road.

“Daniel said to me ‘you don’t know what I’ve done”. I said what did you do. He said ‘I killed my wife’. I didn’t think anything of it. He said it a second time and said he hoped she was not dead. He said ‘she was with my friend’,” said Mr Begley.

Mr Murtagh (34), of Melrose Grove, Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old ex-partner Ms Lott at her apartment in St Mary’s Court, Arklow, Co Wicklow on December 17th, 2019.

The jury has heard that Ms Lott suffered “severe blunt force trauma” and stab injuries at the hands of her former partner “in a sustained and violent attack” in her Arklow home.

They have heard evidence that the injuries to Ms Lott were so serious that she never regained consciousness and died three days later in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

An intensive care nurse at the hospital has told the jury that Ms Lott was “completely unrecognisable” and that she had never seen anybody so badly injured. A paramedic who attended to Ms Lott at her home told the jury that the call will “haunt” him for the rest of his career and was one of the most “horrendous scenes” he had ever walked into. The garda who telephoned ambulance control informed them that Ms Lott had been “beaten to a pulp”.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.

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Five unwritten rules that explain life in Austria

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Adjusting to life in a new country takes time – even more so when navigating unwritten rules of how to act in social and professional situations.

But learning how to live like a local in Austria will not only make it a more pleasant experience, it will also show that you fit in and respect the rules.

To help you further understand Austrian culture, here are five unwritten rules that explain life in Austria.

Always say hello – at least in the countryside

Austrians have a reputation for being direct in their communication, but politeness is also highly valued. 

A prime example is the unwritten rule of saying hello to people – even if you don’t know them.

This applies more in the countryside than in the cities but it’s worth being aware of to avoid making a social faux pas.

According to a Kurier article, failure to greet others will even have you labelled as unfriendly, arrogant or badly educated.

READ MORE: Nine things you might be surprised are actually Austrian

So, if someone is walking towards you, you walk into a bakery (for example) or you see neighbours on the street, then a greeting is expected.

It could be a simple nod of the head, but in most cases it will be “Servus”, “Griaß di” or even “Hallo”.

But don’t try it in a city like Vienna. Saying hello to strangers will just result in funny looks.

Saying hello to someone will show them that you come in peace. Photo by Tom Leishman from Pexels

Always bring food or drink to a social gathering

If invited to a barbecue or dinner party at someone’s house, always take a drink or something to contribute to the meal.

For example, if your host is cooking, offer to bring a salad or a dessert.

If they are taking care of the food then offer to bring a nice bottle of wine or a selection of beers.

If you’re going to a gathering, always bring something – especially if someone tells you it’s not necessary. Photo by Nicole Herrero on Unsplash

And if they are hosting a barbecue, always take your own meat and expect a wide selection of salads and bread that other guests will also bring and share with everyone else.

Not only is this polite, but it will stop other people from talking about you because you violated the unwritten rule.

Don’t expect polite queues at ski lift stations

While Austrian society can be polite in many ways, queueing at ski lift stations in the Alps is a different story.

In fact, it’s a free-for-all and it’s something that both tourists and international residents in Austria have experienced.

REVEALED: What do Austrians think about foreigners?

An Austrian in Tyrol, who asked to remain anonymous, summed it up when he told The Local: “Don’t be civilised and politely queue up at the ski lifts – just push in.”

So, when going skiing in Austria, leave your manners at home, be prepared for others to cut in front of you and get ready to push to the front of the queue.

For a country that loves order and predictability, Austria sure doesn’t know how to queue. Photo by Mael BALLAND on Unsplash

Lateness is not appreciated

People in Austria are generally punctual, like to be on time and expect others to do the same – just like in neighbouring countries Germany and Switzerland.

The unwritten rule applies to both work and social situations, including going out to dinner at a restaurant.

READER QUESTION: Is it legal to drink in public in Austria?

This means if you’re running late it’s polite to call the host and let them know. Likewise if you have a reservation at a restaurant.

However, there is still a limit on how much lateness can be tolerated, with 15 minutes typically the maximum delay before people become annoyed.

Always carry cash

Cash is king in Austria. 

What can I get for this many? Always carry cash in Austria. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

It always has been and it probably always will be, with a pre-pandemic study showing that 83 per cent of Austrians preferred paying with cash.

Customers can even expect a grumpy roll of the eyes when trying to pay with cash in some places because it’s so deeply ingrained in the culture.

READ MORE: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

This attitude towards cash is perfectly reflected in the Austrian saying “Nur Bares ist Wahres” (only cash is true) and there are three reasons for this – freedom, anonymity and control. 

Austrians like to have the freedom of not relying on a bank, the anonymity to spend money on whatever they like and control over spending.

For international residents from card-favouring countries like the UK, Ireland and most of Scandinavia, the best way to deal with this is to just get used to carrying cash.



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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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