'Sons of Anarchy' Case Study

Whatta summer! I hope everyone is staying cool out there during these blisteringly hot summer months. I bought a fan for my apartment a couple days ago from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Clearly a fan is part of the 'Beyond'. But I needed the fan cause baby was needing some wind up his didey.

I've had some luck working on a few cool projects this summer, one of the most recent ones being for a hit television series called 'Sons of Anarchy.' I was asked to create style frames for their commercial bumpers advertising the new season on FX.

The directive was simple-make some kickass looking shit. Yes, try to include some relatable meaning to the upcoming season's storyline, but overall, make it look awesome.

So, I cracked my knuckles, strapped on some black leather boots, smoked a pack of ciggies, tattooed my forehead, got my motorcycle, and joyrode it into Hell.

In other words, I didn't do any of those things, I just designed some 1920x1080 frames for my client,, located in Hollywood, California.

I was excited to go into their studio, as it was in Hollywood and heading into that place every once in awhile reminds me of how good I have it in Santa Monica. Kidding.

Laundry as a studio was well-designed and spacious, not a massive place, but bigger than a breadbox.

Here's the thing: I've never seen 'Sons of Anarchy' before. Lots of folks love this program, and I bet I would too, if I could ever fully dislodge my head from Breaking Bad's ass long enough to start another series from the beginning.

But I get the gist of the show, I think. Don't we all kinda get the gist of things? I mean, the marketing folks make it pretty darned apparent what something 'IS ABOUT.'

So away I went. Here's my initial direction, done in a day and a half.

I don't know a lot about the show, but I've seen the stuff they've used in the past, and I figured I'd build off of what I've seen. They're not afraid of graphic treatments and I don't think they're glued to 'photo-real' executions. The issue is with these bumpers, is that FX won't pay to re-shoot the actors for a tiny bumper advertisement like this. So, at the end of the day, you've got to work around that stipulation. 

That black and white approach felt bold and stark, and I hope that it coincided with the dissension amongst the gang members as they roll into Season 5 following the younger guy and not the older guy.

With another day and a half or two days to go on my contract with Laundry I needed to give them another direction/option. After talking with the Creative Director there we decided it best to execute a direction with fire at its core. Burning footage, destruction, complete devastation. This then could metaphor the world in which the gang was living, as they split from their old boss and ran with a new one. 

So, I scoured the net for flames, found a bunch of grimey textures, some melted ones, too, and baked up these ones:

In this series, we start out on the image of Jax and Clay getting burned right down the center, which leads us into a sequence of events that continues to burn away as we progress the the title card at the end. I imagine that this spot is fluent and organic, we rest on the image of the biker with the SOA jacket on long enough to recognize what it is we're seeing, and then to lose it as a flame rips apart the emblem.

I always enjoy inverting colors in this type of sequence, so I'd love to see this resolve to a 'papery' texture surface decimated  by fire.

Wellp, there you have it, folks. If you see this on FX any time soon, you'll have known the origins of it, and if not, then you'll still have spent a few minutes reading some guy's ramblings about some artwork.

'Stay cool, c'ya next year!-Justin Harder'
(my generic yearbook message to anyone I didn't really know that well)