Press > Escape From New York
> Exclusive Interviews > Barry E. Jackson (Poster Artist)
Prior to your film career,
how did you get involved in creating art for album covers, movie posters and
I began by walking the streets with my portfolio, making cold calls from
recommendations, and going anywhere and everywhere. My first job was in the
animation business doing backgrounds for Ralph Bakshi's animated film, The
Lord of the Rings. After a few years I left there and began seeking work in
the movie poster and album cover business. I just phoned people and asked if
they would look at my work. That is very hard to do today.
How did you get the assignment to do an Escape From New York
I had done a number of assignments for a design studio called
Seiniger Productions in West LA. An Art Director named David Renerick had the
idea of the Statue of Liberty's head in the street. I composed a rough drawing
that everyone liked so they asked me to paint the finished poster.
How was the poster
conceived and can you elaborate a bit more about the decapitated
head of the Statue of Liberty?
There was a lot of competition to get the poster for Escape from New
York. John Carpenter was very hot at the time. I had even done other ideas
for the poster for other design studios. When I heard David Renerick's idea I
knew it was a winner. I did one rough and one finished piece that took about two
weeks. It came back for corrections that took another week. I had not seen the
film. I don't think David had seen it either. David knew the decapitated head
was not in the movie but felt it was a valid metaphor. I am sure some people
felt cheated that they didn't get to see that scene but the movie was not what
you would call an effects extravaganza. It was more tongue in cheek. If people
went to see the movie Cloverfield they actually did the shot with the
statue of liberty's head! I read that J.J. Abrams got the idea from my
poster! It's weird how this industry works.
What other ideas for the
poster did you have prior to the final one?
I can't remember all the roughs, but I did one finished black and white of a
down shot of Manhattan in which the building tops spelled out Escape from New
York. Not used. Prior to my Poster an illustrator named Stan Watts had done
an illustration of the Statue of Liberty's arm with a handcuff holding the
torch. He was told he had the poster for the whole campaign. It was printed and
used in film festivals I believe. I aced him out at the last second.
What reactions did you
get from the poster?
As far as comments go, they were all positive. I probably could have
become a full time movie poster artist if I wanted to, but I had plans to move
to New York and try other things.
you ever get any comments from John Carpenter about the poster?
I never heard a word from John Carpenter.
Are there any other
anecdotes you'd like to share with us about the poster?
The original art was stolen and still legally belongs to me. I never
found out who stole it. Avco Embassy brought the job to Seiniger Productions, I
made a deal to do the art but did not do it work for hire. I signed away rights
to print the poster while maintaining the right to keep the original art.
Seiniger Productions told me someone at Avco had the art. I went there and was
stone walled at the reception desk. I called and called but didn't have the
power to shake things up. Avco went under the next year. That art is in
somebody's closet somewhere.
What do you think of the
The movie attempts to be nothing more than a classic lowbrow B-movie. It
is funny and enjoyable if you watch it keeping that in mind.
Hand drawn posters have
become rarer and rarer. How do you feel about this?
I don't have any big yearning to go back to the days of hand drawing and
airbrush. That was very hard work and the only thing that made it worth while
was that it paid well and I had my own freelance business. Today art is done
digitally and most artists work in a corporate environment. That, I don't like.
What made you quit making
art for posters etc and move on with becoming a production designer, concept
designer, writer and director for animatics for Electronic Arts etc? Also, how
come you've ended up in doing mostly animated stuff in your career? Was this
The digital revolution effected the movie poster business, and every
other business. Photoshop enabled Art Directors who can't draw to paste together
movie poster ideas and thus cut a lot of illustrators out of the business. There
are still illustrators who photoshop imagery for movie posters but not many. I
don't miss it. Working as a production designer on animated films is far more
challenging. You are making a movie not advertising one. You are actually in
charge of an art dept. and of what a movie looks like. Although it is the
directors medium a production designer can have tremendous influence.
What work of yours
are you the most proud of and why? Also, in what field do you feel most at home with
I am proud of the album covers I did for ZZ Top, Afterburner and
Recycler. I am proud of winning the Telly award for best production
design of a television feature for the movie Firebreather. I am very
proud of the publishing of Danny Diamondback by Harper Collins. I have
written a screenplay based on the book and the book has been recently optioned
by a film company in Vancouver. I have
hopes that it will reach the screen. Oddly enough my favorite thing to do is to
teach art. Currently, I teach at Art center College of design and at Cal State
University Long Beach.
Purchase Barry's book Danny Diamondback
What are you
currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I have all CG animated short film called the Warehouse Fly,
which I am directing, writing, animating, modeling, lighting, texturing etc.
However to pay the bills I work as a designer at studio called Yu and Company. I
am doing a lot of art for the opening titles for The Great and Powerful Oz,
as well as the new 300 movie.
I play golf for physical activity. I work on my own animated film for pleasure.
Thank you for your time, Barry.
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