An interview with Sam Smith, AKA Sam’s Myth


Nashville-based Sam Smith, who works under the moniker Sam’s Myth, is an acclaimed graphic designer and artist who has worked with multiple independent film distributors on official posters for films as diverse as the brilliant 1977 Japanese cult oddity House (for a 2010 re-release) and the sprawling biopic Carlos. In addition, Sam has designed and illustrated screen prints and unofficial posters for film screenings at the likes of Nashville’s celebrated Belcourt Theatre and San Francisco’s famous Castro Theatre.

A true cineaste, Sam’s portfolio overtly reflects his taste in movies since he’ll often elect to work on a poster for a cult, independent or little-seen film of his own choosing, plus he regularly works on packaging and disc menus for the much-loved video label Criterion. On top of this, Sam is an accomplished musician who has drummed for the likes of Ben Folds, Tristen and My So Called Band, and when not working on design projects he can be found on the road with one of these bands. Work on record covers, gig posters and other music-related projects also feature in Sam’s folio.

I first became aware of Sam when I purchased the superb re-release one sheets for House (see below) and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s sci-fi epic World on a Wire in 2011, and I’ve been following his work ever since then. I wanted to interview Sam for the site at the same time as adding those two posters to my site and the resultant article is below.

The designer, artist and musician Sam Smith, June 2013

The designer, artist and musician Sam Smith, June 2013

House one sheet

The US one sheet for the 2010 re-release of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House, designed by Sam’s Myth


I’ve split the interview up into six parts and you can use the links below to jump directly to a section, should you wish.

Part 1 – Origins and starting out
Part 2 – Film and music
Part 3 – 
Working methods
Part 4 – Criterion
Part 5 – Posters in detail
Part 6 – Influences, advice and future plans

Part 1 – Origins and starting out

I’d like to start with your origins, if I may? When and where were you born?
I was born in 1981 in Nashville, TN. I’ve lived in Nashville for the bulk of my life, aside from going to school in New York City and touring around the world off and on for the several years after that.

I understand your father is also a designer? Can you talk about his work?
He was and still is an artist who has worked in different mediums, never as a designer per se, but a painter and woodworker and found object artist… All kinds of things. For a period in the 80’s he worked with airbrush creating large, colorful abstract landscapes, patterns and conceptual imagery. His drawing and illustration style has always had an enormous influence on my art. He fostered my obsession with all things visual. Now he lives in the country and makes furniture and things out of reclaimed wood, writes novels and short stories, and draws from time to time.

Before Sunrise and Sunset by Sam's Myth

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset screen prints by Sam’s Myth – Available to purchase here.

How did you start out designing? Did you study it at university?
I’ve always just made art on my own, due in large part most likely to my dad and I working on creative projects all the time when I was a child. I would draw all of the characters and things I was obsessed with– Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Dick Tracy, Roger Rabbit… By the time The Simpsons hit, I had been cartooning and drawing my own comics for several years. In high school, my love for posters began I guess, as I would draw and paste-up posters and flyers for all of my bands’ shows as well as all major school events. I “designed” the album art for my band’s releases, combining art I made, found images and photographs with type, and I found this very enjoyable. I went to New York University for the Cinema Studies program, went on tour after that, and literally stopped making visual art for several years.

What was your first real break into the world of professional design? Was there a first major client?
My first real break was the House poster. After touring for about four years, I had a long break and decided to do something about the fact that I had let my art skills atrophy so severely from not drawing or designing anything for years while I focused on other things. My mom had just built a small art studio in the back yard of the house I grew up in, and I holed up for a week there and forced myself to just crank out some posters. My love for film had grown so much at college, where I earned a degree in writing about film from an academic perspective.

My Neighbor Totoro screen print by Sam's Myth for the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville. 2009

My Neighbor Totoro screen print by Sam’s Myth for the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville. 2009

While touring my writing also declined and I didn’t have a lot of interest in being a film critic. So I figured that making film posters would be a great way to channel my love for films (and for reading and interpreting films) into a visual art project. I made eight to ten designs during those several days that are still some of my favorite things I’ve done. I took them to my friends at the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville’s historic art-house, and showed them what Mondo was doing with collectible movie screen prints in Austin, thinking we could try something similar.

Testing the waters, they agreed to print up some posters for a couple upcoming films– I made screen prints for My Neighbor Totoro and The Human Condition, which was being re-released by Janus Films. Janus also had a digital version of House booked at the Belcourt as a midnight movie and I made a poster. I knew that Janus was supportive of what we were doing at the Belcourt and I’d always dreamed of working with them and with Criterion, their home video wing. My initial goal was to create 25 different posters for HOUSE just to increase my odds of landing on something great that might catch Janus’ attention, but I only made it through a few ideas, and the cat poster was the best. People really responded to it, and the midnight screenings at the Belcourt were a smashing success, so much so that Janus went ahead and planned to strike a new 35mm print and give HOUSE the full run in other theaters.

Janus asked if they could use my poster design as their official one-sheet. That led naturally to a relationship working with Criterion and Janus on an ongoing basis. So I feel I owe everything to the Belcourt and to Janus for giving me that opportunity to see myself as a professional designer of posters.

Have you always been freelance or have you worked in an agency?
I’ve always been freelance. I enjoy the challenge of maintaining a steady stream of professional work but doing so on my own schedule. I do fantasise sometimes about combining powers with other artist friends and forming a sort of collective, all working out of the same studio and sharing gear and tools, helping each other out and, most importantly, playing ping pong. I’ve never really considered working for an agency but wouldn’t rule it out, particularly if it were a movie poster agency which would have its own interesting challenges.

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Tyler Stout on the making of his Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan screen print


When Mondo, the incomparable limited-edition screen print outfit, announced they were opening a gallery in their hometown of Austin, anticipation quickly reached fever pitch, with fans desperate to see what artwork would be on the walls when the doors opened for the first time. The answer was kept secret until the evening of March the 10th, 2012 when the opening night was held and the theme of their first show was revealed to be that of classic sci-fi. Most of Mondo’s premier artists turned in some incredible pieces for the show, as can be seen on this recap blog post on their website and on this SlashFilm post.

One of the highlights of the show was fan-favourite artist Tyler Stout’s print for arguably the best Star Trek film of all time, 1982’s The Wrath of Khan. A brilliantly composed image featuring ‘s unforgettable, titular bad guy, the poster was printed in two flavours; a red and gold regular and a silver and gold variant. Whilst adding the regular version to the Film on Paper collection I wanted to interview the man himself about the creation of the poster.

Tyler Stout's screen print for Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982). This is the regular version.

Tyler Stout’s screen print for Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982). This is the regular version.

Tyler, thanks for agreeing to talk about the creation of this fantastic print. Firstly, I wanted to ask if you were you given free rein to choose the film you wanted to work on for Mondo’s gallery opening show?
I’d actually had Wrath of Khan on my schedule for a while and it just takes me forever to do things sometimes. It ended up getting done around the time of that show I think. I could be completely mis-remembering it.

Is The Wrath of Khan your favourite Star Trek film?
I like many of them, including The Voyage Home with the whales and I really liked The Undiscovered Country with Christopher Plummer as a Klingon. I also enjoyed First Contact since I’m a big Next Generation fan.

Can you talk about your initial design ideas for the poster? Did you always intend to have Khan as the most prominent figure?
For me, and probably most people, Ricardo Montalban’s the standout of the film. I believe I started with him and then kinda designed the poster around his portrait.

A close-up view of Tyler Stout's portrait of Ricardo Montalban's bad guy Khan.

A close-up view of Tyler Stout’s portrait of Ricardo Montalban’s bad guy Khan.

Was the composition something you arrived at quickly? Were there certain elements or characters you knew had to sit next to each other?
It went through a couple versions, mainly the smaller side figure versions, but the overall look stayed pretty consistent.

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An interview with Tom Beauvais


British designer and artist Tom Beauvais is the man behind several classic British posters, including the quads for Fantastic Voyage (1966), Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) and the cult horror film Zombie Flesh Eaters (pictured below). In a career that lasted over forty years, and continued for twenty more after his ‘retirement’, Tom applied his considerable talents to working on marketing for many of the biggest film studios and collaborated directly with filmmakers such as the late, great Stanley Kubrick. In addition, Tom is also a highly skilled architectural illustrator and it’s this area of work that he concentrated on since leaving the design studio that bore his name, Chapman Beauvais Ltd, in 1992.

Last year I was lucky enough to be able to meet and interview the man himself about his life and career and this article is the result. It contains many exclusive images of Tom and his work, including a handful of never-before-seen concept designs for films such as Star Wars and Blade Runner. I have also included images of his detailed architectural illustrations and other relevant photos which I hope the reader will enjoy.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters, which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

Tom Beauvais stands with the quad poster for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA Zombie), which he both designed and painted in 1979. Photo taken in 2012.

Mad Max - UK one sheet

The UK one sheet for Mad Max, designed and illustrated by Tom Beauvais, 1979

I’ve split the interview up into seven parts and you can use the links below to jump directly to each part, should you wish.

Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists
Part 2 – The art of film marketing
Part 3 – Time for Change: Chapman Beauvais Ltd.
Part 4 – Working with Stanley Kubrick
Part 5 – Architectural illustration and the genetics of artistry
Part 6 – Iconic posters and unused concepts
Part 7 – A kind of retirement


Part 1 – Origins and starting out at Bateman Artists

To begin, you were born in 1932 in Belsize Park, North London?
Yes, that’s correct. In 1939 I was evacuated with my sister and we went with our school to Hertfordshire for a couple of years to avoid the blitz. After that our family moved to Egham in Surrey, so I came back from the evacuation to join them and that’s where I had my schooling. I was only about 10 at the time and, well, I failed the exam for the secondary school. I blame the war because I’d missed several years of education.

I ended up going to Kingston Technical School and I did an engineering course for a couple of years there, which was not a great help for an artist but it did give me a really good grounding, and I enjoyed a lot of the practical side of it, which included woodwork, metalwork and that sort of thing. I did reasonably well there and when I left I imagined that I’d become a draughtsman.

Is that what you’d hoped to become when you first chose the course?
Yes, well drawing was always my strongest subject but when I left the college my father, who was a commercial artist himself, told me that there was a potential job going in London. Somebody he knew was on the look out for a junior to join a studio called Bateman Artists that was part of the Allardyce Palmer advertising agency. I remember going along there with specimens of my work and meeting the boss, Bill Bateman. I recall him saying that I shouldn’t worry about drawing and illustration as they had ‘plenty of people who can do that.’ He told me I should learn to do lettering, how to work with typography and practice designing layouts for adverts and posters. ‘With those skills…’ he told me ‘you’ll never be without a job,’

The Allardyce Palmer studio, circa 1955

Tom Beauvais (front) working at his desk in the Bateman Artists studio, circa 1955. Behind him sits Tom Chantrell (left), Sid Townsend (right) and Les Coggins in the far back.

I started the job as an apprentice and in the beginning I was making cups of tea and buying cigarettes, as well as running studio errands all over London. After a while I was given jobs like trimming out bits of artwork and I was learning all the time about the business of creating graphic art. I recall there were about twelve artists working there and before I had started my father had told me that they were a clever crowd. True enough, you’d look over the shoulder of one of them working, perhaps doing some lettering or retouching a photograph, and it’s amazing how quickly you could learn just by following their example.

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An Interview with Brian Bysouth


British designer and artist Brian Bysouth is responsible for some of the most iconic film posters ever printed. In a career lasting over forty years he lent his considerable talents to a wide range of design projects, including product and service adverts, editorial, TV storyboards, VHS and DVD covers and hundreds of fantastic film posters. Over the past year I’ve been lucky to get to spend time with Brian discussing his work and career and I’m very proud to present the following interview article that details his life from his beginnings as a fledgling artist through to his retirement in 2002. It features many images of his brilliant work, including early sketches and the original artwork for several posters. There are also a handful of unused designs and concepts, many of which have never been seen before online.

Brian Bysouth with the original sketch for The Living Daylights poster, 2012

Brian Bysouth with the original coloured rough (sketch) for The Living Daylights poster (1987), photograph taken in 2012

The British quad for Big Trouble in Little China, designed and painted by Brian Bysouth, 1986

The British quad for Big Trouble in Little China, designed and painted by Brian Bysouth, 1986

I’ve split the interview into seven parts and you can use the links below to jump quickly to each section if you wish.

Part 1 – Origins
Part 2 – Starting out – Downtons
Part 3 – Rapier Arts and then a return to Downtons
Part 4 – Going freelance
Part 5 – Bysouth and Hayer Associates
Part 6 – FEREF
Part 7 – The end at FEREF and retirement

Part 1 – Origins

I’d like to start with your origins and I understand you were born in October 1936 in London. Your mother was a fashion artist?
Yes, I remember when I was very young seeing some of her work and, looking back, I think it was pretty good. She worked for a firm just off Oxford Street in London, which was the capital of the rag trade then. This would have been whilst my father was away during the war. She always encouraged me to draw and often gave me paints and paper. Most of my time was spent sketching or drawing something.

I had an old watercolour box that a relative had given me and sometimes at the weekends I would fetch some paper and sit up in bed to draw and paint instead of getting up. I really enjoyed it and it absorbed most of my time.

Incidentally, when my mother died a couple of years ago we were clearing out her things and we found one of my old paintings that she had kept. When I was about seven she took me to see the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and afterwards I painted a picture of the dwarves’ mine. It was studded with great gobs of paint, which were meant to represent the jewels.

You’d spend every moment you could sketching and painting when you weren’t at school?
I suppose I did, but I was out with my friends playing cricket and football and later on getting into mischief. I think painting in my spare time subsided a bit in my early teens, but I was encouraged at school by our art teacher, a Mr. Thompson, who was a very nice man. He’d been in the RAF during the war and had a huge military moustache. I think he liked some of the lads in the class that he judged to be talented. He would sometimes pick out our work and say to the class, ‘this is how you should do it.’

Eventually the Eleven-plus came around and I didn’t do very well. I suppose I was reasonably good academically until about the age of nine or ten, but I remember when my father came back from serving in the war it was quite a traumatic time. He’d gone away in 1939 when I was three, and had been involved at Dunkirk. When he came back my mother persuaded him to apply for a commission and he was posted to India, then to West Africa and I didn’t see him until the end of the war. By that time I didn’t really know him and he didn’t know me. After he came home my two sisters were born and my parents were so occupied with them I was allowed freedom to neglect my schoolwork.

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Graham Humphreys on the making of The Monster Club quad


After adding the British quad for The Monster Club to the site, I wanted to speak to its designer and illustrator Graham Humphreys about its creation. The poster wasn’t one that we discussed during our 2011 interview and I felt it deserved this ‘making of’ article.

The British quad for The Monster Club, designed and painted by Graham Humphreys

Hi Graham, thanks for agreeing to talk about the poster. First of all, is it true this was the first film poster you ever worked on?
Yes, although in retrospect it was perhaps a bit bit of a false start!

How did you get involved with it?
The client was another random name on a list of people I went to see whilst I was starting out (film distributors, etc) and within two weeks of showing them my folio (my college folder, one of those basic cardboard versions tied by string!), this project turned up. I can’t remember who the company was – though they were one of the big distributors and it was at a time when everything was ‘in house’, ie. they had their own design studio.

What kind of brief were you initially given?
They called me in for a meeting and showed me a series of 35mm transparencies (pre-digital of course) and a drawing of the layout required, which specifically featured a title treatment that had to be copied. So my illustration was merely to flesh out the sketch to full artwork. I was offered the pick of transparencies which were then made into photographic prints that I could use as direct refrence. I had about a week and a half in which to deliver the painting.

The original artwork for The Monster Club by Graham Humpheys

I understand that the first version of the poster was rejected – what did it look like compared to the final printed version?
My original version had blue hues to give it a midnight feel. I spent time carefully making the Vincent Price portrait as true as possible. I took a full week to complete the painting working exclusively on the project. A few days after delivery I had a phone call informing me that it had been rejected and would I come in for a meeting. Apparently it was considered to ‘adult’ and ‘scary’. It had been hoped that kids would see the film as well, but the marketing people thought I had produced a ‘horror’ poster. It would have been futile to argue that a film called ‘The Monster Club’ starring Vincent Price and John Carradine, produced by Milton Subotsky, might already have appeared ‘genre’! However, the client, ‘being right’, were happy to let me repaint the illustration as ‘happier’ more colourful, daytime and ‘not scary’, but I had two days.

So I worked two days and two nights (including a visit from the client mid-way to check on progress) until I was a sleep deprived, hallucinating wreck. The painting was rushed and needed another two days, but the deadline was set. The job was delivered, approved and I got paid extra money and slept for a full 24 hours after.

What happened to the artwork for the first version of the poster?
I’ve been racking my brains and I can only conclude that I gave the original version to a friend who has since passed away and thus I will never see the painting again. We lost touch and apparently he became alcoholic and died penniless – I had no idea until recently but it’s a sad tale.

Close up detail of The Monster Club quad artwork by Graham Humphreys

Did you have fun painting the various creatures?
No, I had been shown images from the film and clearly most of the club members are wearing hastily prepared rubber masks, there was no license to be creative with the heads.

They must have liked the poster as the painting was used on a number of international posters as well as multiple VHS covers?
I suspect that this was more to do with budget. Clearly the film was intended to be supplied with a full supporting poster campaign as a package. This is why the marketing department were being so particular. This was an international poster, not domestic. The photo of the original painting shows that the main image descends further in order to facillitate the international format. Only the UK would have got the full width quad version.

Were you happy with the final result?
Absolutely not!

‘Elvira presents…’ – a VHS cover for the film released by Thriller Video – image taken from

Did this poster help you secure your next job?
Whilst working on ‘The Monster Club’, the same distributor offered me ‘The Funhouse’ and, after supplying initial sketches, the job suddenly changed and was then a double bill with ‘My Bloody Valentine’. So all my ideas for a quad format poster had to adapt to a tall verticle format. Still smarting from the first poster, I was cautious with the imagery and in retrospect should have taken it much further.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me about the poster, it’s much appreciated.

– Graham’s official website can be viewed here.
– This site’s 2011 interview with Graham is available here.
– The other posters I’ve collected that were designed and painted by Graham can be viewed by clicking here.