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Filmmaker and movie poster designer Caspar Newbolt on Berlin’s cinematic landscape

Over his 20-odd year career, award-winning graphic designer and filmmaker Caspar Newbolt has created some of the most iconic movie posters out there.

This poster, designed by Newbolt for Jane Schoenbrun’s 2021 feature We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, was named one of the year’s best movie posters by MUBI. Photo: Caspar Newbolt / Version Industries

Caspar Newbolt is an award-winning graphic designer, filmmaker and photographer based in Berlin. Newbolt co-founded Version Industries, which for 20 years has produced art and design work for A24, Apple, Daft Punk, J.J. Abrams, NEON, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers and Disney, among others. His film posters have been included in the permanent collections of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and in the recent Berlin exhibition The Big Screen: Film Posters of All Time at Kulturforum. His critical writings on film and design have been published by Filmmaker magazine, Sight and Sound, The Criterion Collection, MUBI and Ecstatic Static.

Tell us a bit about yourself; what’s your relationship to cinema?

I was born in London to two English artists, and grew up in a household where making beautiful things was the most important thing. I always wanted to make films, largely because my father took them so seriously. However, we had very little money, so while I was always writing film scripts, my only real outlet for making images of any kind was with computers handed down to me by friends or family. The moment I could get one of those computers on the internet, I did. It was then I discovered I had a knack for website design and decided to start a company.

I always wanted to make films, largely because my father took them so seriously.

How does Version Industries fit in the film landscape?

I co-founded the graphic design company Version Industries in 2003 in London. I moved to New York City in 2005 and opened a studio there. Whilst most of the paid work came from real estate brokers and the like, I was always offering our services to filmmakers and musicians whenever I could. Ten years or so later, we were making film posters and film title sequences for filmmakers such as Chloé Zhao, Tim Sutton, Jane Schoenbrun, Trey Edward Shults, Jonas Carpignano, Adam Pendleton, Cathy Yan and so on. In 2017 we also won a pitch to re-design Filmmaker magazine. I then continued to co-design every issue from cover to cover until 2021. During this time, certain filmmakers realized it was to their advantage to have me on set as a photographer, and it was there that I learned how to make films properly myself. In 2016, after co-directing several music videos and short films with a friend, I finally wrote and directed my own short film. The 25-minute, black-and-white short, Leaving Hope, was shot by Shabier Kirchner (Small Axe, Past Lives) and produced by Rathaus Films. It came out in 2019. That same year I moved to Berlin.

What made you choose to relocate to Berlin?

I had been staying with friends here since 2016, and in doing so it became clear that Berlin is still affordable enough that a significant proportion of the artistic community can and do still live here. I realized that if I was going to stay in New York I’d have to work on more commercial projects or find a different job in order to be able to afford my rent, and that was out of the question.

Photo: Caspar Newbolt / Version Industries

What do you find unique about Berlin when it comes to cinema?

Thanks to festivals like the Berlinale and Unknown Pleasures and the city’s central position in Europe, Berlin remains an important hub for art filmmakers. Combine this with the German government’s interest in funding film projects – a concept that doesn’t exist where I come from – it makes for a fertile cinematic landscape.

Berlin remains an important hub for art filmmakers.

Congratulations on being recently included in the big film poster retrospective exhibition here in Berlin. Looking at the archive, would you say that Berlin has a specific influence on the art of film poster design?

Thank you. My involvement notwithstanding, there really hasn’t been an exhibition of film posters of that stature before, and to that extent Berlin will, I’m sure, be seen as having a great influence on the making of film posters. I don’t think the city itself has had a particularly great influence on how film posters look aesthetically, but Germany as a country certainly has. Beyond the striking graphic qualities of German art movements such as Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter or the work coming out of the Bauhaus, the film poster-maker Hans Hillmann is arguably the greatest there has been to date. I look at his work regularly, and I say that as someone who rarely looks at film posters during their working process.

Lastly, what are you looking forward to in cinema this year? And what’s your favorite cinema here in Berlin?

Right now I’m looking forward to seeing Jane Schoenbrun’s new film, I Saw the TV Glow, Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, Bong Joon-ho’s Mickey 17, Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Harvest and Alex Garland’s Civil War. My favorite Kino in Berlin changes quite a lot. I keep discovering new and wonderful ones I’d never been to before. However, top of my mind right now is Kant Kino in Charlottenburg, where I just saw screenings of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, both of which were amazing experiences.