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Jay Shaw On Creating the Artwork for Criterion’s REPO MAN Release

Jay Shaw is coming to our 35mm REPO MAN screening on April 12.  We caught up with him ahead of time to discuss his incredible REPO MAN Criterion Cover.

Jay Shaw On Creating the Artwork for Criterion’s REPO MAN Release

Alamo Drafthouse Littleton is proud to announce REPO MAN as our first 35mm screening, on April 12 at 7:00pm. It's also our first with the filmmaker in attendance. Director Alex Cox will be live and in person to present the film and host a Q&A afterwards. 

We’re also happy to announce that we’ll have another special guest attending the event, and it’s none other than artist Jay Shaw, who created the electric and arresting cover image for the Criterion Collection’s release of REPO MAN.  Shaw has become a big name in movie artwork thanks to his work with Mondo, Denver’s The Watching Hour, Criterion, and major movie studios. He already created quite a stir with local cinephiles at our ROBOCOP screening, so we’re excited to have him back in the building.

With Cox and Shaw in attendance, we want attendees to have something special to take home, so we’ll be hosting a drawing for copies of Criterion Collection’s REPO MAN.   This really is the definitive version of the film, and with artwork by Shaw and Tyler Stout, it seems specifically designed for Drafthouse fans and cult film aficionados.  We hope to see many of you – and those looking to experience REPO MAN for the first time – in our theatre this Friday. It promises to be something special. Tickets are on sale now, so please don't hesitate in getting yours and joining us for this one-of-a-kind screening.

We caught up with Shaw to discuss his REPO MAN artwork and what it was like collaborating with Criterion and Stout. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to continue the conversation at REPO MAN, as it never fails to be exciting to talk to an fascinating (and local!) artist and cinephile.

When was the first time you saw REPO MAN? What was your reaction?

I first saw REPO MAN on television in 1985 or 1986. I think it might've been a Sunday Night Movie on ABC or something awesome like that. My mom made a big bowl of hot buttered Cheerios (much better than popcorn) and watched it with me. I loved it. I was like ten years old but the movie really worked for me. I remember my mom finally sprung for a copy on VHS and I never let her watch it with me again. I was worried she'd take it away due to the "adult" language in the non-edited-for-tv version.

You've become a really big presence in poster art in the last two years, from Mondo to creating artwork for Criterion's REPO MAN disc.  What has that journey been like?

It's been completely nuts. Before making posters I worked at a bookstore, a bike shop, a record store and once rode a bicycle through traffic for (sort of) a living. I went to art school a million years ago but gave up pursuing a career in the field after a terrible first year in the design industry. I've been collecting and admiring film posters for as long as I can remember so getting to actually create them is a dream job for me. I have no idea how long this thing's going to last but I couldn't be more grateful to the amazing clients I've had the opportunity to work with and the awesome collectors who support my weirdness.

What was your reaction when Criterion reached out to you for REPO MAN? People eagerly await the designs of Criterion discs, did you feel more pressure to create than you do with Mondo or The Watching Hour? What was it like working for them?  How did they take to your designs?

It was the same as my reaction every time Criterion asks if I'd like to work on something. "HOLY SHIT! CRITERION!". Actually, on REPO MAN, the one and only Mr. Rob Jones is responsible for getting me the gig. He was working with Criterion on the project and they needed someone to do the cover. He asked me if I had any ideas and I did. A couple of days later I showed him my cover concept and he thought it was solid so he sent it in for review. Criterion loved it and sent it along to the film's director, Alex Cox and he gave it his blessing. From there Rob and I worked on the disc designs and interior packaging. Rob asked the mighty Tyler Stout if he'd like to contribute something to the package and he created a gorgeous illustration for the outside of the digipack. It was a really fun collaborative effort on this project, my favorite so far.

With Criterion the pressure is all from within. You want to do the best job you can for them because it's a wonderful bit of exposure for an artist and you're going to have something sitting alongside some of the most brilliant pieces of package design ever. The folks at the company are wonderful to work with though. They're artists themselves and completely understand the creative process. The same goes for Mondo. I work primarily with Rob Jones on stuff for them and he understands exactly where I'm coming from and where I need to be to make the best piece of art I can for a film. As for The Watching Hour, Keith Garcia is total a sweetheart and pretty much just let me do my thing.

I don't really feel a lot of pressure until I start working for the large studios. They've got marketing departments and committees of people trying to figure out why they hired some weirdo artist in the first place. Those gigs are tough.

Tell us about your final REPO MAN design.  It's pretty amazing -- it has that "Polish fever dream" quality of so much of your work, but it's also full of recognizable elements from the film. How did you arrive at it?

Hey thanks! For the REPO MAN cover I really wanted to put together a single bold image to represent the film. The movie serves as a brilliant commentary on the omnipresent threat of nuclear war in the 1980s. The punk movement was a direct response to the very dangerous implications of Reagan / Thatcher era politics so the idea of a wayward radioactive punk on the streets of Los Angeles seemed a great fit for the subject. From there it was just a matter of coming up with the right imagery. Luckily the film's opening credit sequence, which features a glowing green roadmap, served as the perfect inspiration for my cover design. 


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