Andrzej Pągowski in 1984

A short interview with designer Andrzej Pągowski from 1984 on film posters in Poland:

Mariusz Miodek: What are the principles of the annual competition organized by ‘The Hollywood Reporter’?

Andrzej Pągowski: The posters which are received by the organizers are divided into serval categories: European, American, Asian, film festival posters and typically commercial posters. In each of these categories there are three main prizes. The jury is numerous and comprises film critics, artists, directors of museums. In Poland two institutions – ‘Film Polski’ and ‘Polfilm’ jointly choose 10 posters, which then find their way to Hollywood.

Is it possible to categorize national schools of film posters?

Pągowski: The division into national schools belongs to history. It existed when information transfer was minimal. Artists with different ways of thinking who had created their own symbolism would close themselves off from the world in their own countries not being quite in touch with what was happening in the rest of the world. Together with the faster flow of informational there came new fashions, artistic inclinations and the disappearance of barriers. Today artistic work is highly individualized. Each artist is, of course, influenced by some artistic stimuli, and that is why some refer to classical paintings, others, for example, to computer graphics, but schools of posters can only be differentiated in reference to printing techniques. For example, the Japanese have created an individual style thanks to their print technology.

Is there a decided division into artistic and commercial posters?

Pągowski: We do not have any such thing as a commercial poster because in order to create such a poster you need greater resources such as people, stills, etc. When all this is missing what remains is the imagination of the artist and the images that it creates. 

Things are not the same in the West. A graphic designer is one of the members of a team preparing an advertising campaign for the film. The team is an institution providing a service and remains under the strong influence of the producer; in our country a graphic designer is above all an artist. 

And what does the situation look like in other socialist countries?

Pągowski: I am not sure how it happened but we are an exception – I am thinking of the large group of artists designing film posters in Poland. One should mention Hungary, though they do not create as many posters as we do. Although printing technology is at a higher level in Czechoslovakia and in DDR than here, one hears about them less.

And in Poland?

Pągowski: We are not well organized and the graphic designer often has too little time to work on a poster. Faulty printing reduces the quality of at least 80% of the posters. It stills happens that some posters are not printed in time, i.e. in time for a premiere. And unfortunately, we still do not have a place where we can exhibit the posters. The traditional round advertising pillar was put out of use, and has not been substituted by something equally good and well thought-out. There does not seem to have appeared any new group of prominent talented artists and the posters are still signed by names known for years. There now exist in Poland about 20 renowned creators of film posters. Yet the enthusiasm that existed several years ago has clearly waned. Perhaps due to the diminished effects of our work.

How would you define the film poster and its function?

Pągowski: A poster is the shortest review of a film. It should be an extension of the atmosphere of the film, should have a similar message and should expose its most irritating elements. A poster can make use of ugliness or beauty, but it must be noticed. If not, it dies.

— (via Film #4 (1984) / Pągowski: Illustrating Films)