A Dude Called Tom
With the unveiling of the Monster Fest poster, many people will be asking “who the fuck did that?”, the answer is Tom Hodge, a designer based in London under the moniker ‘The Dude Designs’. So who is the Dude? Josh Saco a New Yorker based in London recently asked that very same question…
Film posters are often the opening salvo in the never-ending war to get the content in front of your face or in your hands. No easy task in a world inundated with screaming images pleading for your attention. The weight upon the artist is immense, since ultimately the underlying remit is “SELL MY MOVIE!”
Over the years film posters have morphed and became more and more about over the top imagery, shouting, screaming, pleading with the world to “See this film!”. As time, technology, art trends and film advanced, those early volleys have as well. Posters have become glossier, slicker but sadly over-thought, over-blown and soulless. Committee meetings and supplied imagery have reduced the role of designer to one of a mere child connecting the dots and “try to stay within the lines, my son.”
For many the heyday of the film posters was the 70s and 80s, increasing levels of the bombastic in your face, zealous overselling and artist content had seemingly reached it’s pinnacle. Yet over the past few years, we’ve started to see more and more throwbacks and references to these halcyon days of big tits, big guns and big flames, carefully slaved over for the greatest impact and bang for buck. Leading the charge is Tom “The Dude” Hodge, not content with his previous corporate designer jobs, Hodges found a way of marrying his love for VHS covers and exploitation poster art with self employment, arguably the dream of many out there. This UK based graphic designer got his start designing posters for London’s Curzon Soho late night strand, before lending his talents to UK cult label Arrow Film and Video and finally achieving international acclaim with his now iconic Hobo with a Shotgun poster.
Since then he’s been delivering a steady stream of devastating posters from Ti West’s The Innkeepers to the upcoming Father’s Day and Dear God No! Hodges has become the go to guy for retro style poster art. He spends up to a month on each design, in total submersion. His aim: to visualise the film, to sell it to the audience, and capture it’s soul. Soul is something he feels is lacking from the current stream of film posters. When pushed to name a current poster that he feels captures it’s subject, he pauses, stumbles, and eventually says “the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D is kind of fun, with the heads and all.” I think we can all agree that when one feels the need to reference that film, we’re in a bit of trouble.
Often working from just stills, plot summaries and soundtracks, he successfully weaves together adventure filled imagery. Pulling elements together from films he may have only seen in the roughest of cuts, Hodges is careful not to spoil the adventure for the viewer; leaving enough mystery twisted in the flames, so that all the elements hopefully won’t come together until after you’ve seen it. Dropping in hints is half the fun, inside jokes and personal references abound in his works. This wielder of the tablet is not likely to turn work down, but equally not prepared to sell himself out. The rather moralistic approach to his chosen profession is commendable as is the level of respect he has for fellow artists, both new and old.
Embracing the low budget, genuine productions comes naturally to The Dude, it is after all what drove him into this field, those early days spent staring at VHS covers, covers which often promised more than they delivered, but rewarded the viewer in other ways, widening the possibilities. His love for the forgotten and overlooked film is well known counting Burt Reynold’s late career hitman classic Malone amongst his favourites. He knows his reference points and wields them mightily. Dear God No! alone drawing from Drew Struzan, Frank Frazetta and R.O.T.O.R (itself inspired by Mad Max) with added chopper passions, Hodge’s himself is steeped in Americana and it comes out in his work. That idealised sense of those 50 states, seen through the foreigner’s rose tinted glasses, able to wash away whatever sins others may see and spruce up the glorious bits.
Hodge’s ultimate, idealistic goal is to crack the States, hoping to bring his breath of fresh, if old fashioned air, to the current stale, stagnant mists that lay over the industry, cloud it’s integrity and bore us.
Will working his way up from the indie schlock hits lead to our visual salvation? Who knows, but even in the two short years that Tom Hodges has been impressing us, his talents have grown by leaps and bounds, with no sign of letting up, who knows what he’s got coming, one thing’s for sure, while he may not be master of the universe yet, but he’s drawn first blood and one day may prove to be the death dealer himself.