A brand new e book paperwork Paul Thomas Anderson's 30-year artistic journey
Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks is the latest in a series of monographs that Little White Lies has produced in partnership with New York-based Abrams. Masterworks was written by film critic Adam Nayman and compiled by the LWW team of in-house designers. It's a psychedelic feast for the eyes.
The design team started writing a book about Anderson about three years ago and Design Director Fabrizio Festa was instantly impressed. “His tone of voice, his choice of topics, his visual and artistic decisions have always impressed me,” says Festa.
“I also heard an interview with him years ago and was very surprised at how down-to-earth and downright funny he sounded. I always had an idea of him as a Serious-with-a-Capital-S director making those monolithic films about broken people. After hearing him speak, I began to appreciate his sense of humor and the more human side of his job. "
All images by Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, published by Abrams
Festa was keen to create a book that combined informed, insightful writing with a joyful approach to design and art direction, and wanted to incorporate some of Anderson's approaches into the book.
“I like how uncompromising and meticulous his work is. In my design practice, I like to set rules for myself that feel arbitrary and aren't necessarily the easy way to do things, but they help me focus my creativity and do the project in a fun way. I think PTA takes a similar approach, ”says Festa.
"This can be seen in his selection of stories, for example in the adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice without explaining it, or not necessarily understanding it himself, or on the technical side, for example with an old 65mm camera, to film The Master. This influenced our own approach, for example not to use “tricks” to create the chapter dividers, but only modern technologies and techniques. "
The overall concept of the book was "California". As a result, the cover, graduation papers, color palette, and layout are all influenced by the history of the US state. "For example, the cover was inspired by the legendary Californian artist Ed Ruscha, who felt connected to Anderson's visions of the San Fernando Valley, in which some of his films are set," explains senior designer Tertia Nash.
“And the endpapers were created as a Californian version of the William Morris Fruit Wallpaper featured in Phantom Thread. We really wanted the design to feel spacious and colorful, hence the sinuous and ethereal compositions and extensive use of negative space. "
Another key element of the book is the chapter dividers that celebrate Anderson's craftsmanship. Each has been created using methods that match the specific themes and timeframes of the director's films. “Everyone started the same for consistency – the titles were center-aligned in the same font. We then used letterpress, embroidery, or an old iMac G3 (Photoshop v5 was an experience!) To add texture and unique interest to these pages. This is then carried over to the drop caps at the beginning of each chapter, ”says Nash.
“Then there are a few small additional details, such as the different inventory that is used for the interview section. This section is completely monochrome and the structure is much more factual. All of these are choices that help create a visual break from the vibrancy that surrounds them. "
What makes Masterworks so rich is the abundance of illustrations that fill many of its pages. According to Festo, there are two types of illustration. The first consists of eight infographics created with Baltimore-based illustrator George Wylesol that focus on a specific aspect of each film. Examples are the infamous milkshake scene in There Will Be Blood and the camera movements in the opening scene of Boogie Nights. The second set of illustrations features eight different artists, including Laura Callaghan, Shyama Golden, Tim McDonagh, and Alice Tye.
“We worked with them to create works of art that are inspired by any film and that could exist in its world. They are not “fan art” or a reinterpretation of what you see in every film, but are intended to expand the world, ”explains Festo. “For example, for Inherent Vice we did a two-page comic with artist Tavan Maneetapho, who was inspired by the Fabulous Freak Brothers, which was a huge inspiration for the film.
“With Jaxon Northon we created an oil painting of the famous 'hungry boys breakfast' in Phantom Thread, which is actually never shown in the film. My personal favorite is that of Magnolia, in which Tertia and Alice Tye created an absurdly accurate scene featuring a billboard mentioning William H. Macy on a disposable line in Magnolia. "
The attention to detail in this book adds to it, although because of this meticulous approach the team had to ensure that the book is a cohesive unit. “When choosing which photos to take, it was important to balance the needs of the text, the visual representation of the book, and also Anderson's vision in each film – and that was probably one of the biggest challenges in getting it right to do, ”he tells Nash.
In addition, the film stills are all sized to the correct aspect ratio. This was a caveat the team set out to accurately show Anderson's footage. “Our goal was to create a natural rhythm and avoid repetition,” explains Nash. "But since all the images are in the same ratio, a challenge arose which was solved by using scaling and physical folding of the book to increase the tension between the selected elements."
The Little White Lies team shows how a monograph can be an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in a creative's world and imagination. "Monographs are a deep dive into a subject, and there's a lot to discover with a filmmaker as ambitious as Paul Thomas Anderson," says Nash. “Ideally, the design functions as a gateway to his world, which would otherwise be quite imposing (this book is around 75,000 words). When you use it to set the tone, visualize nuanced details and add brilliant illustrations, you can provide the reader with an accessible and immersive experience. "
Festo hopes that the book will be a visual delight for both long-term fans of the director and newcomers. "My greatest hope is that as hardcore PTA fans, you will find out something about your favorite director that you have not read or seen before. And if you are not a fan, at least you will see why many people consider him one of the greatest living directors, ”he says.
“Either way, we hope that this is a book that will get revisited and that readers will feel the urge to watch or re-watch PTA films and that their passion for cinema as a medium will only deepen a tiny bit . "
Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks is published by Abrams; lwlies.com; abramsandchronicle.co.uk