I got involved with The Rover from the beginning of pre-production and had sent some detailed instructions to the producers about the kinds of shots I thought would be useful to use in the final key art. This is always a bit tricky before the film has even shot - I'm relying heavily on scripts which however well-written aren't necessarily great in terms of defining tone or mood. And David's script for the film (as with the film itself) is spare and unwilling to greatly expand on detail. So I took his phrase "It's kind of a western, love story thing" at its word and requested some kind of western kind of love story images from the gallery photographer (the very good John Tsiavis).
The first concept
I was working on the titles and at the time I was designing them to have a rolling cloud motif, to symbolise the days that Eric endures, time passing without judgment or grace, just an almost post-human existence without any hope of redemption. God is absent. This is a rough of what they were looking like at the time:
That later changed, obviously. Directors get kind of picky about other people stealing the first two minutes of their films, so we returned to white text on a black background. Still, the idea informed the artworks below. Stark and beautiful. And different.
The teaser poster:
I still think this direction feels like the film more than any other. I liked it a lot.
Nobody else did...
Stage two: Quick, before the Americans turn up
Time to case about looking for some inspiration. While it's always tempting (to me) to go as far away from actors' heads as possible, you aren't really allowed to have Rob Pattinson in a movie and not have his face on the poster. It's actually illegal in most countries :)
The basic idea with the 'head shots' are to make Robert's character the direct entry into the film - he's as close to an innocent in the world as it's possible to get and his guileless, direct stare is in contrast to Eric's unknowable avoidance of gaze.
The colours are so far mostly kind of dreary - this comes from only having seen ungraded footage where everything was pretty grey and drab. After a number of asserrtions from Liz and David that, actually, it did look quite beautiful really, I decided to go back to my normal modus operandi of using all the colours at the same time.
Stage three: Too late, the Americans are here (hopefully)
The local distributors and producers were waiting on the US distributor to produce their artwork before committing to any of designs, putting me in a weird David and Goliath situation against one of the largest key art shops in the world, except this time Goliath kind of won, so that metaphor is pretty useless. But as a consolation prize I was invited to design 'character art' in advance of the likely US key art arriving. So I got on with that for a while...
The close-up portraits were so powerful it became clear that this was the way to go. So I tried a number of different moods and tones. It might be instructive to see what large differences can be brought about by some small changes.
Stage Four: And then, suddenly...
The request came through to put Rob in the background of Guy's poster. And suddenly, this became the release poster here in Australia. I don't mind admitting I was pretty disappointed. I'm never really convinced that this type of poster tells you anything about the film other than who's in it. But time was against us and the client is always right. This was my delivered file which was re-graded and used as the release poster.
Bonus prize: The teaser artwork
And finally, almost out of nowhere, this appeared and was used as the teaser poster in Australia. It does admittedly belong to that cliche of the protagonist-with-his-back-to-us-poster but if there's a protagonist who deserves that poster, it's this man, and it's this movie. I think it works rather well. David Michôd said this was his favourite artwork for the film, and that's a pretty good note to sign off on.
Thanks to everyone involved in the process, particularly David Michôd and Liz Watts, John Tsiavis for the amazing photography and Roadshow Films for their encouragement and patience.