50s and 60s Movies Inspire Caro Emerald’s That Man
I was recently chatting with Donald Roos. As Bureau.Donald he designs and produces commissioned and self-initiated typographic (and) interactive projects. He was formerly known for Letter-Dispuut and Lettersatwork, together with Onno Bevoort, and for the repository for type-related information TypeBase. In 2007 he founded the type foundry Vette Letters, which originally released only fat type. Donald also plays saxophone with Wolfraam [Myspace music page], the first Dutch band consisting exclusively of typographic designers – Donald Roos, Donald Beekman a.k.a. DBXL (bass), Just van Rossum (50% of LettError) and Peter Verheul (guitars), and Henk Lamers (beats). At a certain point in our conversation Donald mentioned the video for That Man by Caro Emerald he had been working on. I checked it on Vimeo and really liked it.
Caro Emerald is a Dutch singer with a seductive and sultry voice who performs old style jazz blended with contemporary beats. That Man is the third single from her debut album Deleted scenes from the cutting room floor, “a mix of 1950s inspired ballroom jazz, cinematic tango, groovin’ jazz tracks, infectious mambo, and banging beats. On 20 August 2010 the album set an all time chart record in the Netherlands by spending its 30th week at number one on the Dutch album chart, beating the previous record set by Michael Jackson’s Thriller by one week.
Inspired by the vintage feel of music, director Maikel van der Laken came upon the idea to produce a video based on classic movie titles and posters from the 50s and 60s, a tribute to the œuvre of legendary designer Saul Bass. He invited post-production company Planet X FX, located right across Donald Roos’ office, to create all the animations. As they are no illustrators nor designers, they only wanted to take on this assignment with the help of Donald, so in turn they asked him to design all the visuals and typography for the video. Bureau.Donald® | VetteLetters elaborated the director’s concept for all scenes in the music promo. For a whole month Donald collaborated intensively with Dennis Kleyn from Planet X FX, who animated all his designs and did the post-production.
The original storyboards were drawn by the director himself – very rough sketches outlining the basic sequence of images and scenes. Maikel’s sources of inspiration were the opening title sequences for the contemporary movies Catch Me If You Can and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but also older examples like The Man With The Golden Arm and OSS 117.
Donald Roos decided that if he had to work in a certain style, he’d rather do it properly, so he ran with project. He researched iconic movie posters and title sequences, gathering as much reference material as he could find. All visuals and transitions were conceived by him, working from the general directions of Maikel. For example the director had specified he wanted to do something with the silhouette of the band and the little guy, and the chorus had to have colour blocks, but other than that Donald had absolute creative freedom.
To add an extra layer Donald integrated numerous nods to famous posters and title sequences. This adds to the period style, and movie connoisseurs simply love to “get” all those classic references. For example James Bond’s Dr. No opening titles sequence was lifted quite literally, and stuck to an Ocean’s Eleven-style segment. The stairs imagery near the end comes from the famous movie poster for West Side Story. Making all these intentional references, Donald realised he ran the risk of being decried by movie buffs. This is the very reason why so much of the repurposed material was left intact.
In many Saul Bass lookalike clips the free font Hitchcock is used. However this is a rather poor interpretation, so Donald took it upon himself to closely study Art Goodman’s letter shapes. The typography in the music video is composed with reworked letters originally drawn for Saul Bass movie posters. All the icons (the balloons, the arm,…) in the choruses come from movie posters as well. Donald even intentionally put the famous arm in to acknowledge the source material. However not everything is a reference. The emerald in the beginning and the end are new drawings, made specifically for this video, although the green colour does come from yet another opening titles sequence, from North By Northwest. Sadly the sequence itself could not be used, yet the arrows survived in the title.
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