Celeb Interview: Rodney Smith, Founder of Screeners

Rodney Smith spends his time as a photographer, graphic designer, and stage actor in Asheville, NC. He is also the founder of a DeviantArt group, Screeners. Currently he is running the 2012 Epic Movie Poster Contest, a yearly online art competition for movie lovers. (Disclaimer: SML is acting as a judge for this year’s contest.)

Q. First of all, tell us a little about deviantArt and how your page, Screeners, fits in.

DeviantArt.com  (DA to its friends) is one of the largest online art communities.  Not sure if it’s THE largest, but without a doubt it’s in the top 5. It’s members run the full spectrum: from people who can barely draw a straight line, to some of the top names today in every genre of art.

I have found it a fantastic place to not only find great art, but to network with people of all skill levels in many disciplines.  As a photographer and graphic artist, I have found DA to be unrivaled in resources and inspiration. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have seen someone’s brilliant artwork and asked them; “How did you get that shot?” or “How did you achieve that effect?” and received an answer from someone who was more than happy to share their vast years of experience and knowledge.  Many great artists there will even post tutorials or host online workshops.

Within the community there are groups. This is where Screeners fits in. A group is like a small website within the larger structure of DA. Groups will generally have a theme, and are broken into 4 major categories: Art collection (gallery), Art creation (projects and challenges), News (Mostly art and entertainment related) and Resources (Tutorials, stock art, fonts, brushes, etc.). Many groups have crossover. Screeners does a bit of everything.  The nice thing about being a member of a group is, if you have a certain taste in art – that group will send their new additions directly to your DA inbox. Saves a lot of time in searches.

There are literally thousands of groups on DA, and I can’t imagine a genre or topic of art that you couldn’t find a group for. There are groups for specific levels of skill within an genre, fan groups for just about everything. There is even a group that only showcases art where purple is the primary color. Of course, you will find multiple groups that essentially do the same thing, but it’s not hard to find the “quality” groups.

Q. What sorts of art and information do you cover on your page?

Screeners is one of the largest DA groups (in gallery size and number of active members), with a focus on poster, cover, and wallpaper art for Film, Television, Theater, Books, Games, Music, Comics, Graphic Novels, Concerts, and Events.  By far though… movie posters constitute the largest part of our collection, and are the primary focus of the group.

We provide member generated content like movie reviews, art critiques, and entertainment news. We also maintain a Facebook site, started last year, in an effort to expand the appreciation of this type of art outside the DA-sphere. We have been so very fortunate to attract some incredible artists – a few are even celebrities in the entertainment art world.

Q. Is there a single movie that got you interested in the art of movie posters?

Not really.  First and foremost… I love movies, and have since I was a child (I’m 43 now).  I suppose like many movie lovers, I grew up with posters of movies on my bedroom walls.   Eventually, I came to love the art of the poster as much as the movie.  In some cases, more than the movie.

When I started Screeners just over 3 years ago, it was because I felt poster art, especially movie poster art, was becoming lost to the industry. The amazing movie posters, the ones you wanted to have on your wall because they truly were pieces of art, seemed to be all but gone. When was the last time there was a Taxi Driver, Casablanca, Jaws, classic Hammer horror film, or an original 1977 Star Wars quality poster?

Even the low budget and exploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s had better art than the cookie cutter poster you see today. Some of those films had posters that will remain iconic even though the film itself will be lost to time (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman comes to mind). It seems in the last 20 years or so, movie posters are made to fit an industry standard, and the art is lost in translation. Of course, there are notable exceptions: Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Watchmen, and Cloverfield to name a few. But most are been there…done that.

DeviantArt rekindled my love for the art of the movie poster, because so many members were creating fan art posters that were far superior to anything the industry was putting out. The next Saul Bass or Drew Struzan is somewhere in the world right now, sitting at his/her computer, working in Photoshop, creating a brilliant piece of poster art – just for the love of doing it – and gaining little to no recognition.  Meanwhile, some schmuck in Hollywood is getting paid top dollar to create a poster for the next big superhero film, and when he’s done – it will look exactly like the posters for the last 10 big superhero films.

Sorry… got off on a rant. Um… No. There was not one single movie that got me interested in movie posters. :-)

Q. What has been your favorite movie poster of the last year?

None really stand out as a favorite. But I would give some kudos to Suckerpunch and Hobo With A Shotgun. Ironic, because neither were great films. However, the poster campaigns for both films, in their own ways, paid homage to styles of poster making that you don’t see much anymore.

Now, that said, I’ll refer to my previous point about the fan art community. If I were to include them, then the field opens much too wide to nail down one single fave – there are dozens I would plaster the walls of my home with. Thank God for custom screensavers! I quite literally have hundreds of movie posters in mine.

Q. Give us all the sordid details about the 2012 Epic Movie Poster Contest!

The concept of the contest is pretty straightforward: the staff at Screeners write treatments for 12 fictional films (title, synopsis, and brief character bios), and contest participants make movie posters based solely on those treatments.

Everything about the poster must be fictional. You are not allowed to use images, names or likenesses of any real actors, or any copyrighted names or logos.  We award prizes to the top 5 best posters, as well as prizes for top 3 best series posters. A series is two or more posters that act as an ad campaign for the same film. There are also some special achievement prizes. The contest is open to all members of DeviantArt (membership is free), and any type of art is accepted so long as it follows the rules… and is a movie poster.

We have 13 judges sitting on the panel, and they all bring some relevant expertise to the game. We have writers, graphic designers, traditional and digital artists, filmmakers, and some plain old-fashion movie junkies. Because the contest is open to all mediums of design, each judge scores by a 5 category rubric designed to grade not only how good looking it is, but how well the poster is designed, and how effective it is as an ad campaign for the film. What this means is that someone who does minimalist or typography work can still be on a level playing field as a photo manipulator or 3D digital artist. It also means that an amateur artist with a brilliant concept can compete with a more accomplished artist.

We try hard every year to cover as many genres of film as we can, as to appeal to a large audience. We have some sci-fi, comedies, a psychological thriller, a romance… we even have an anime and a low budget exploitation film this year.  We also ask people to think outside of the box. A movie treatment for a James Bond-style film could become just as effective if imagined as an Austin Powers style satire.

This is our third year running this contest.  The first year it was just a contest for group members, but it grew so quickly in popularity, we opened it up to all of DA. Last year, DA allowed us to make it an official DA contest, which really gave it some exposure. It is an official DA contest again this year.

I saw so many great artists create some great posters with popular material, and I thought: “What would they come up with if they had to envision a look for a movie with nothing to go by but a seed of an idea?”  As a contract graphic designer myself, that’s usually all I have to go by – and half the fun of graphic design is in allowing your creativity to flow without the confines of having to achieve a specific look or feel.  So I got together with my oldest friend and writing partner, and we started to come up with ideas for films.  The following year, my wife and daughter started writing with us.  Writing the films is just as much fun as seeing how people interpret them.  The feedback has been great.  Every year we get at least a few comments from people wishing a film was real.  That’s quite a compliment to us, and the artist who gives the film a visual.

We have been so fortunate to have some great sponsors back us.  For the second year now, www.movieposter.com has given us promotion, and put up gift certificates as prizes. They even give out their own Movieposter.com award, which is one of our contest submissions voted on by their staff. We also have some wonderful original artwork to give away, as well as memberships to DA and loads of other fun stuff.  While the prizes are great, I think most people join in just for the fun of it. This is a labor of love for us, and the more people who can share the love, the better.

The contest runs July 1 through August 31, 2012.  We run it the same dates every year.  You can find everything you need to know to enter the contest here. We also have a Facebook event.

Q. If I knocked on your door with a dead body, where would you say to hide it?

Your place.

Q. What’s the coolest thing about your life and what you do?

I know it sounds corny and contrived, but the coolest thing about my life is being a father and a husband. I have a 13 year-old daughter who is one of the coolest people I know, and my best friend in the world is my wife of 17 years. (That is to say, we have been married 17 years… she’s much older than 17.)

My day job is a database designer/programmer, which has its merits and I do enjoy it, but photography and graphic design work are my passions. I’m hoping to get paid enough working in art that I won’t have time to go to my day job anymore.  When I’m not doing any of those things, I’m working in local theater.

Q. If you were a monster, what monster would you be?

Tough question. “Monster” has become such a subjective word. People these days use that word to describe Godzilla or Hannibal Lecter with the same intensity as they would use it to describe Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. I’ll assume, to avoid an argument in semantics, you mean film or literature monsters.

I suppose I’d have to go with Dracula. He’s a snappy dresser. Plus, I’m a night person and do appreciate the ladies.  Besides, with the invention of Kevlar, wooden stakes shouldn’t be much of a problem, so that’s a bonus. That said, I’m not a big fan of blood, and I hate to fly. I suppose you have to take the good with the bad.

Q. Anything else you want to talk about that I failed to mention?

You should never ask me if there is something else I want to talk about. There is always something else I want to talk about.  But I’ll spare you and your readers my long ramblings and inane brain droppings.

I’ll just leave you with this: Never look at something and call it an obstacle. Call it a choice, then choose to do something about it.

What?!? Too esoteric?


To learn more about Rodney Smith, Screeners, and the Epic Movie Poster Contest for 2012, visit the Screeners website or Facebook page.


Our monster mascots help us with our evil schemes, as well as taking care of chores around the mansion. From writing press releases to collaborating on blog posts, this blog would not exist without them.

Comments are closed.