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Designs behind "Volumes of Blood"

While photography is what I have been focusing on the most over the last 2 years, I am and will always consider myself an artist first. After being recruited to be a behind the scenes photographer for the horror anthology "Volumes of Blood", available now on DVD & BluRay at Legless Corpse Films, I also offered my services as a graphic designer if needed. That 4 year degree got a little bit of a workout on this project.

The first design job that I was tasked with was two book covers for the short "Ghastly", directed by P.J. Starks, with the "GHOSTS" book cover popping up repeatedly. The front cover art was supplied by artist Brett Gray. Actor Jim O'Rear, who portrays the book's author, kindly provided me with the portrait for the back cover. The small text on the cover and inside flaps was improvised as I worked on the layout. For all the designs I created on this film, I attempted to slip in a little bit of humor and a few inside jokes since most of the small text wouldn't be seen in the film anyway. Filling in all that blank space was necessary though to make them more believable, even if it can't be read on camera.

The Indie Filmmaking book was displayed with the GHOSTS book briefly. I used a bit of real biographical info about P.J. for that one. He not only provided me with the book title, but the photos for the front and back cover as well. All the scan-able codes on the back of all these designs will actually take you to the film's Facebook page.

This next design took the most time to create. The name of the energy drink, "Ka-Pow" and the tag line "It Will Blow Your Mind" was already set in the script. Eric Huskisson suggested the idea of incorporating the image of the top of a person's head exploding. With those 3 parameters to work with, I decided to have fun with it. Adobe Illustrator got used a lot with this design.

I decided to use a photo of P.J. Starks as the basis for the illustration. I had a 3/4 profile photo of him that I cut in half, mirror imaged one side, squeezed both halves together, and enlarged the eyes. I then reduced the number of colors and used that as a basis for the digital drawing. Having chosen a yellow & red color scheme to make the drink stand out, I adjusted the tones of the drawing to better match the text. The mushroom cloud as well as the fire coming out of the ears were taken from elements of some of my own severe weather photography, namely two supercell thundersotrms. A small storm in its early stages was used for the fire coming out the ears and a giant supercell as seen from 50 miles away was used for the mushroom cloud coming out of the top of the head. As with the head itself, I used one half of the large storm image, mirror imaged it to make it more symmetrical, and stretched it out a bit vertically. This was one of the few designs for this film that I submitted in which no alterations were needed or requested. They liked the first draft.

A cigarette carton was also designed to accompany the energy drink. The director of this segment, John Kenneth Muir, wanted to use the name "Morley" to pay homage to the brand used in Kevin Smith's films. The cigarettes in those films used a very recognizable carton design. To be safe and not anger big tobacco, I decided to do a complete redesign. The coat of arms in the "O" was a design I created a couple of years prior and thought it would work nicely with just a few alterations.

The brain surgery book was another fun design. Wesley Johnson came up with the book title. With only that to go on, I went to work. I used a profile photo of Eric Huskisson, minus the hair, to outline the brain. For the book title itself, I used a font that sort of resembled the wrinkles in the brain, enhanced by a few glow & shadow effects. My favorite part of this design is actually the back cover, where you can see that this is but one in a series of do-it-yourself medical books. Using my name as the author of the book was not my idea by the way.

I was next tasked with making a few newspaper clippings to be cut out and hung in a kill room. That was simple enough, but I was also asked to create a complete front page of a newspaper. While Owensboro already has a newspaper, I decided to create a completely fake one, again for copyright reasons. This first meant coming up with a name and logo. Since "news" can be spelled using all 4 points on a compass, even though that is not the actual origin of the word, I came up with the "Owensboro Navigator" and incorporated an actual compass into the design. I was only given the headlines of the articles. I had to make up the filler myself. All the photos on the front page are mine. The stories, especially the names in them, all mean least to me. I felt like a tabloid reporter for a day while making up all that filler.

This final design was by far the most challenging, not because of technical difficulty, but because of time. I was packing up and leaving the house to run an errand before shooting on set that evening when I get an urgent message needing not only a whiskey bottle, but a fake label. It was less than 4 hours before shooting and it takes me a half hour to get on set. I had to take photos of the original label, measure the labels, import them into Photoshop, make alterations, then email a print file. I got the label done in less than 2 hours. I'm not 100% happy with it, but they seemed pleased. Thankfully they already had a brand name in mind. Coming up with a name on your own takes up a lot of time just brainstorming ideas...time I didn't have on this one.

We are now shooting on the sequel to "Volumes of Blood", aptly titled "Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories". The poster below is one of the teasers designed by P.J. using my photography from the set of the first segment we shot, "Fear, For Sinners Here", directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner. This was the 3rd project with Nathan at the helm that I've had the pleasure to shoot stills on. Milliner directed the segment "Encyclopedia Satanica" in the first Volumes of Blood. He was also the writer & director of the fan film "The Confession of Fred Krueger".

I will most likely be doing a bit of designing on VOB:HS as well but probably not as much as the last film. I'll prepare a blog on shooting behind the scenes on various segments over the next few weeks. I'll leave you with a few behind the scenes photos of some of my designs on the set of the first film.

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