The Art Behind AV Print’s Posters for Focus Features and FX

By: Andie Hughes, Project Manager

The Outfit

The whodunit genre is one that’s been around forever, been loved forever, and done to death in so many ways. They can lean too tropey, too obvious, or just generally uninspired so when a new one comes along that feels fresh and unexpected, it becomes irresistible. This was exactly the case with the Focus Features film, The Outfit. As soon as Focus approached the AV Print team with the project and we were able to screen it, we fell in love. The acting was top-tier, the art direction and costuming of the production were superb, and the story was absolutely thrilling. We couldn’t wait to get started, so the Focus team let us loose to get inspired. Our goal with this payoff was to entice viewers with easter eggs visible both before and after watching, allude to the different allegiances and factions that were literally and metaphorically at war during the film, and—as we did in the teaser poster which was also an AVP special—honor the legacy of the genre.

Mysteries like this come packed with details, hints if you will, for audiences to sink their teeth into. Every element used through the poster references moments or specific props from the film. Perhaps most notable is the giant pair of shears (not scissors, as Leonard would tell us). These serve the dual purpose of graphically dividing our cast and referencing one of the biggest plot points in the film. The sheers are not only the representation of Leonard’s livelihood but also his literal weapon at the end of the film. Placing Leonard between the blades is also a nod to the dangerous game he plays and the dangerous situation he puts himself, and at times Mabel, in. At his feet, we also see what is revealed at the end to be his get-away bag: a collection of things to take with him to his next beginning. Next, we find no shortage of smoking guns—the smoke swirling mostly around the characters who meet their fate by a bullet. Not only are these props framing the talent, but the entire poster is framed by tape-recording reels. The whole ordeal is kicked off by these tapes, and the pursuit of them by all parties for different reasons. They are also evidence of Leonard’s superb control of the situation and the people around him—they’re all caught up in these tapes. Finally, in the title treatment, we find the symbol for the infamous “Outfit”—the calling card by which all the tapes are labeled and transferred.

Another classic element of the whodunnit is the cast and we wanted to showcase as many of them as we could. All perfectly fitted within the holding device of the sheers—we have our various ‘crews’. In the top center, we find the LaFontaines, who are billed throughout nearly the whole film as the rival gang. They hang over the rest of the cast as an ever-present threat. On either side, we have different members of the same team, who find themselves at odds through the shifting accusations due to Leonard’s manipulation. Here we’ve placed Richie and Francis at opposite corners—those who work most closely together are most suspicious of each other. The boss is also looking down on his son on the right side, the son he loses in this fight for supremacy. Finally, in the bottom center, we have Leonard and Mabel—both in positions of control. Mabel might have been part of Leonard’s plan all along, but she has his back even while he is watching hers. And nothing alludes to Leonard’s twist at the end more than his pose—casual yet powerful: he is ruling from his throne.

All the elements of this poster emerge from darkness and smoke to come together in a stunning blend of mystery and danger. AV Print had a blast working and finessing all of these elements to maintain a beautiful symmetry and balance. To top it all off, the copy reminds viewers that everyone has something to hide, and everyone is a suspect.

Reservation Dogs

The AV Print team is always stoked to work on projects with the FX Networks creative team. Their vision and direction always stem from a strong desire to truthfully represent every story they release. The marriage of art and character is something their creative teams push agencies (and push themselves internally) to strive for, making their marketing some of the best in the business. Our collaboration with them on the second season of the hit comedy show Reservation Dogs was just the kind of challenge we were looking for. The first season was a triumph of feeling and connection; to call this show simply a comedy is to sell it short. Yet still, it has so many youthful moments of joy that keep the audience laughing in between their involuntary bursts of catharsis. All of this to say, creating a single image to encapsulate everything this show has to offer was certainly a challenge. Through our initial talks with the client, we landed on a few things that we knew needed to make it into the art. We needed to show how the personalities of these characters, the soul of their home, and the overall journey of the show encourage its viewers to join.

First and foremost, we wanted to highlight the beautiful and unique personalities of this quartet of talent. The leader, the renegade, the lovable youngster, and our curious wanderer all had to exist together and be distinct from each other while at the same time reminding viewers that they’re all still just kids—grieving kids trying to find their way in a big world that at times feels so very, very small. Before even getting into a photo shoot with the show’s cast, we did a photoshoot of our own with body doubles. To sell through any idea we had to get the posing and posture of the characters down on the page. This early shoot also helped us direct the real cast—who are quite young themselves—when it came time to do the full shoot: a situation where it is not always easy to act naturally as yourself or as a character. Through this process we were able to get photography that let Bear read as strong and confident, Willie Jack as defiant yet relaxed, Cheese as loyal, lovable, and perhaps the most nuanced of the group, and Elora as a little bit lost. Viewers may notice how she sits a bit further from the other three, her back toward them. Her story through the second season saw her stray away from the main group a bit as she became closer friends with Jackie, seeking her own avenues for growing up and moving on.

Once the personalities were covered, it became a question of where to put them. Season one ended with a significant tornado wreaking havoc through the town which led to some conversation as to how we would represent their home. For season two, the actual visual representation of their reservation home became something the clients were sure they wanted to include. Both visually and thematically this reservation town becomes a character through the series—it’s their home and whether they want to leave it or not, their home is always with them. We played with several different points of view from street-level houses and yards to looking down from the water tower. Ultimately, we felt that less is more—we didn’t lock ourselves or viewers into one view of a real part of the town, but instead, we created a more constructed environment that evoked the sense of the whole town. By placing the cast on top of the non-descript rust-colored wall, we were able to pepper in those hints and details of their reservation home. It was early on that we landed on the ratio of sky to wall. We gave so much real estate to the wall intentionally—the town is an inescapable fact of their existence, but they’re on top of it all: seeking their own paths wherever they lead. We played with different windows, different placements, different phone lines, and spray paint cans—even played with adding a ground in front of the wall on a few. With the help of our FX clients, we landed on the delicate balance we see here. Enough to say this is who we are and this is where we live, but not so much that we took focus away from the talent or the show’s title.

The show’s title was another essential element of personality. We lifted the spray-painted title from season one—it worked so well there and couldn’t have worked better here. Bold, textured, and unapologetic, it leaps off the wall. Additionally, the clients spent a bit of time greasing some wheels to allow the golden FX logo to also have that spray-painted treatment. Even though it bent a few branding rules, we felt that detail really helped tie this piece together and sell what this show is and who these kids are.

Needless to say, we were incredibly happy with where this piece landed and perhaps even happier to see it renewed for a third season. Congrats to the entire FX Networks creative team, and a huge THANK YOU for the opportunity to be part of the journey.

AV Squad is a creative advertising agency specializing in entertainment marketing. Founded by Chad Miller and Seth Gaven in 2004, AV Squad has grown into one of the leaders in the entertainment marketing space, garnering numerous awards for campaigns that span all genres, audiences, and budgets. Fostering a culture of collaboration, respect, creativity, and diversity, AV Squad’s work speaks for itself. In 2019, Peter Stark joined the team, adding a new division AV Print, to handle all key art, illustration, design, and OOH capabilities. Together, these teams continuously collaborate to create outstanding, attention-grabbing campaigns that stand out in the busy media landscape.

AV Squad hails independent artistic expression while also embracing audience, client, and creator feedback to build some of the finest and most impactful advertising creative imaginable. Every client is a creative partner on a shared mission to produce successful marketing campaigns that garner industry acclaim and yield commercial success. We are proud to employ some of the most talented designers, editors, artists, and illustrators in the industry. It’s difficult to not encounter a piece of creative that this agency has produced. Be it trailers and key art across theaters, billboards around any major city, or the numerous TV and digital spots, AV Squad is proud to help share the delight and excitement of entertainment with the world.

Social: Instagram, X, LinkedIn, Facebook

Discover more award-winning Poster 2024 entries here. And don’t forget to enter our Poster 2025 competition!

Author: Graphis