I Am Not a Serial Killer

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Four whole years ago, friend and neighbour Billy O’Brien asked me to do some concept sketches for the film he was working on, I Am Not a Serial Killer, based on the YA book by Dan Wells. At the time it was thought John Hurt was going to be in it, but the role ended up going to Christopher Lloyd – equally legendary in terms of sci-fi film credentials.

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After overcoming a frustrating obstacle course of delays (not uncommon in the film industry) the film was finally shot in Minnesota last year, with the special effects shots completed in Billy’s garage a stone’s throw from where I’m typing this. Toby Froud (stripey pyjama wearing baby from Labyrinth) flew back home to help – he grew up here on Dartmoor but now lives in the States where he works for animation film company Laika.

The film was finally released a couple of weeks ago (although it’ll be a couple more months before you can see it in the UK); the official poster isn’t bad, but Billy was keen to get some different looks out there to reflect the quirky nature of the film. Unfortunately, marketing is often taken out of the director’s hands, and Billy is particularly unhappy with the image used to sell the film on iTunes and Amazon USA, which makes the film look like a cheap slasher flick (it isn’t).

Here’s the official poster for the USA release with the first variant designed by Midnight Marauder.

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Billy was after a “Bande Dessinée, Tin Tin meets Rear Window” feel, and provided me with the sketch on the far left. It turned out to be quite a task settling all the elements into place, but having the perspective lines emanating from the Christopher Lloyd character helped anchor things.

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Once that was sorted, I drew the design out in pen…

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…then dropped some tone onto it via Photoshop (this is the tone layer without the lines).

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There followed a lot of experimenting with colour palettes, strength of line, typeface, etc. until the final poster was settled on.

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You can see what Billy gets up to via his Tumblr and see his short film The Tale of the Rat that Wrote here.