Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut – film poster
I have always wanted to do a film poster, and so I jumped at the chance to make this poster for an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’. Arthur Canning of Giftshop Pictures was the film’s director and the poster’s Art Director as well.
We agreed on the supernatural woods of the story as the primary visual element, with the car (a Mercedes that is central to the story, almost the starring role in fact) as an additional anchoring element. After a series of sketches centered on the car – with a ‘cut-out’ or silhouette approach to symbolize its passing through the woods – we settled on a design that downplayed the car and focused on the road itself (the ‘shortcut’) as a slash through the picture plane.
Mrs. Todd, a passionate driver with an obsession for shortcuts, finds shorter and shorter routes to her destinations until one day she finds Motorway B – a mysterious, sinister shortcut through the backwoods of Maine. Motorway B can take her to Bangor clocking less miles on the odometer than if one could drive there in a straight line. It’s a weird, supernatural road through a living forest populated with freakish creatures and moving plants.
In the story it’s as though the forest opens up just enough to let the car through, and this is what I was going for in the design. The grill of the car is suggested at the bottom of the composition, connected to both the forest and the narrow passage through it. The shortcut exists as a slash through the dense plantlife, narrowing and closing up at one end to suggest its ephemeral nature.
I studied up on various vines, tendrils, and goitered trees to flesh out the forest of Motorway B. I also used the ‘fiddlehead’ ferns I know so well from Nova Scotia and the twisted and trimmed grapevine stumps that populate the Vienna Basin vineyards this time of year. I wanted to combine all these elements into a forest so dense it would become almost like a texture or pattern, reinforcing the dominant design and composition while adding a hypnotic quality with its linework.
Normally, I use an alcohol marker layer along with the ink lines to provide a texture and some variation in tone. But with this high level of detail it was unnecessary: the line work creates its own implied texture, and I felt that any additional tones would only decrease the legibility of the drawing.
Dropping in the multiple shades of green was painstaking, but necessary to maintain enough distinction between the different shapes and to prevent the linework from becoming altogether abstract.