Art / Interviews

The Miles Davis Online Interview: Michael Stadtlender

(Artist Series, Volume 7)

Before I delve into my introduction of Michael Stadtlender, I just want to say that if I were running the show on the Miles Davis Movie, I would absolutely run a contest to have people design the movie poster. Maybe the winner gets his or her design published in a magazine, have the poster appear in various locations for marketing or whatever. But I would do that. Moving on…

Our talented friend Julien Trédan-Turini designed an awesome teaser poster for the Miles Davis Biopic. And then the accomplished graphic designer Heath Killen joined the party and delivered a kick-ass design of his own for a teaser poster. His uncomplicated, yet wonderfully compelling design showed up all over the web, many believing this was, indeed, the first teaser poster for the film.

But let’s talk about the supremely talented Michael Stadtlender. We have previously published seven – SEVEN! – of Stadtlender’s movie poster designs inspired by the forthcoming (we hope!) Miles Davis Biopic from Don Cheadle. Each of the seven posters are wonderful, unique, and I highly recommend checking them out here and here.

Whichever distributor eventually nabs the rights for Cheadle’s film will have a marketing team to design promo materials, posters and whatnot. No reason in the world not to give Stadtlender and the other designers I have spotlighted a call to discuss all the ways to promote the film with a variety of exciting design concepts. And goodness let’s utilize the ‘Net as much as possible.

In the meantime, Stadtlender has returned with yet another entry into his terrific collection of movie posters for the Miles Davis Biopic. This time he forgoes any images of Davis for just a simple, yet poignant shot of a trumpet. We have no idea what the name of the film will be, but I like Stadtlender’s choice of copy. Stadtlender also worked up a design in the first trio of Miles Davis Movie posters of just a trumpet as the focal point, but the new design has a more delicate feel to it. What I like about Stadtlender’s work that shows up in the now eight posters is his ability to zigzag between design styles; his excellent nod to the legendary Saul Bass (see: below left) just might be my favorite of the bunch.

Stadtlender was kind enough recently to step away from his design work to answer a few of my questions for our latest installment in the Miles Davis Online Artist Series. He has some interesting things to say about his creative process and offers a few helpful suggestions for those who might one day have the enviable task of designing movie posters for the Miles Davis Biopic.

Miles Davis Online: Your teaser posters for the Miles Davis Biopic are terrific. Was their a specific inspiration for the designs, or did you just jump in and let your creativity take you where it wanted?
Michael Stadtlender: I would say both. Miles and his music were so complex that there can be many styles of design. They have led me to creating styles from mellow and soothing to bold and mind-bending. For instance, I love the art of Saul Bass so I was inspired to design a teaser poster that has all the elements of his unique style of art while another poster was inspired solely by the power of Miles’ instrument, which I colored blue as an homage to his brilliant masterpiece, “Kind of Blue.”

I will have thoughts and ideas on what I want to include in the design but never really know where it will take me so the final design has been, for the most part, not what I envisioned in the beginning but always satisfying in the end.

MDO: What’s the creative process behind designing those types of posters? How do you arrive at a final product?
Michael Stadtlender: My love of Miles and his music is the initial step. Even if you don’t love the subject you are designing, you must understand it in order to convey it properly. I begin with a theme, or style, I have in my mind and choose photos and colors that would compliment the theme(s). With that, typography plays a big role in my designs so I want the titles to stand out not only with the lettering but placement as well.

I experiment with all these elements until something grabs a hold of me and I continue with it, adding more elements if need be until I feel the work is completed. Being that I am very meticulous, I look over and study my work for a good amount of time to see if it needs reworking or has been completed.

MDO: Who are some artists/designers that inspire you?
Michael Stadtlender: There are so many but my main sources of inspiration are Dave Mckean, Wassily Kandinsky and Saul Bass. All three have extremely different styles of art yet each is equally powerful.

MDO: If you had any advice for the eventual team that will one day be asked to design the movie posters for the Miles Davis Biopic what would it be?
Michael Stadtlender: I would say, listen to the music and get to know what kind of man Miles was. A greater understanding will lead to better design that can communicate the passionate man and musician he was. Of course, this also depends on what story Don Cheadle wants to present to the public.

Personally, I would go for a more subtle approach that will spark curiosity as well as please the eye. Most Hollywood posters I see these days focus on photos of the actors/actresses for selling purposes (which is understandable) but I would either use an photo that depicts a sublime Miles or his trumpet alone. Both would be intriguing and profound.

MDO: Are you working on anything special at the moment?
Michael Stadtlender: As a matter of fact, I just finished another Miles Davis poster teaser especially for your blog (see: above). I hope you and your audience enjoy it. Hopefully, Mr. Don Cheadle will see it and want to hire me for the design team!! Aside from that, I have just begun working on a gig poster for a band called, Olivia Tremor Control.

MDO: Favorite Miles Davis album?
Michael Stadtlender: Tough question!! I would say “In a Silent Way” is my all-time favorite. I have gone back and forth on favorite Miles albums for years. “Bitches Brew” was a favorite for a long time, along with “Kind of Blue” & “Tribute to Jack Johnson” which are still in my top 5 but “In a Silent Way” is definitely my number 1.

Artwork is © Michael Stadtlender
To contact Michael about his work please email him here.

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