Little Shops of Horror: Phantom City Creative

Little Shops of Horror: Phantom City Creative

Some of you may remember my last rant about the lost art of the movie posters. Well, I’m back at it only this time I’m joined by the diabolical duo of designer/illustrator Justin Erickson and visual fx specialist Paige Reynolds who make up Phantom City Creative, a new arts studio “focused on entertainment marketing design for film, television and music” with a particular penchant for horror. Not only were they nice enough to answer a few questions about their latest venture, but Justin and Paige were also willing to give a special discount to Bloodsprayer readers!

For a limited time you can get 15% off your next purchase by entering the discount code SPLATTER.

Phantom City Creative is a relatively new studio. What made this the right time to start your own business?

We had both been exploring ideas of how we could collaborate artistically for some time. We both love film, music, television and art so we thought it would be
great to combine our talents (graphic design + motion graphics) to create marketing design materials for entertainment. The idea struck to create a studio like Phantom City Creative. It combined all the kinds of work we love to do the most and our individual strengths and we were both ready mentally to invest the time needed to start a company.

You launched back in August with a series dedicated to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. What made you choose those 5 films in particular?

With our Toronto After Dark series, it made sense to choose a top film of each year of the festival. TADFF founder/programmer Adam Lopez and Justin went back and forth on a list of movies from each year and whittled the list down to five. They represent some of the best genre films of recent memory (and each happened to be a personal favourite) so it was a joy to take something beautiful and subtle like Let The Right One In and in the same series contrast it with another film so violent and crazy like Dead Snow. We wanted a collection of films that we both liked and that would be a diverse representation of the films that have come out of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Can you describe your typical process for creating a poster?

Our process to create a poster always starts with research into the movie. What I love most about film posters is that you’re condensing an entire movie – the characters, plot, themes, everything – into one image that should communicate to the viewer what the movie is all about and get them excited about it. If we’re creating a movie poster, we like to watch the film again even if we’ve seen it 100 times. Watching the film right before creating the poster and having everything fresh in your mind is great for brainstorming ideas. We’ll watch the movie a few times, making notes, sketches and recording time codes of particular scenes that spark inspiration. Once everything has soaked in Justin starts sketching concept thumbnails to hammer out an idea that we like. This stage is crucial because if the concept isn’t solid, the entire poster will suffer and be ineffective. Sometimes we’ll go through a dozen different ideas until one sticks. For instance the Let The Right One In poster was our first and favourite concept, while the Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon was more difficult and took more time. Once we come up with a concept that we’re confident about, Justin starts the final poster.

How do you market yourselves? What tool(s) have you found to be most successful?

Our Facebook fan page and Twitter are great ways to get the word out to people and keep them updated, and we’ve just launched our newsletter (join them all!). We’ve also been contacting key blogs when we have new work and they’ve been really great in posting about us and getting the word out! Paige handles most of the social media and marketing duties of Phantom City Creative. Another way to get your name out there? Positive word of mouth. We make sure that everyone we deal with walks away with nothing but a great experience.

Who manages the business side of things, is it a 50/50 split in terms of office work?

One of the reasons we started this business in the first place – other than enjoying working with each other – was that we both have different strengths that we play off. One of Paige’s strengths is that she’s ridiculously organized and likes doing the office work, promoting, networking, keeping track of finances and responding back to clients etc. We both come up with the business plans and try to split everything up so one person is not bogged down with the business end, but it’s usually Paige who knows what’s priority and keeps the workflow going while Justin is free to be creative 100% of the time.

What are some other studios that you admire?

Some of the studios that we admire and find inspiration in are: Invisible Creature, Kellerhouse Inc, All City Media, Mondo Tees, Aesthetic Apparatus, Ignition Print, Imaginary Forces, Blur Studio, and many more.

What advice can you give someone who has considered starting their own art studio?

It’s not easy to create your own studio, but it can be incredibly fulfilling. Play to your strengths and have a solid idea. Owning your own studio means you have to wear multiple hats at once – juggling both the creative and business sides of everything. If you’re not good at the business side of things either partner with someone who is, or head to the local bookstore to pick up a few books to educate yourself. It’s fun to be creative, but if you can’t make the business profitable it won’t be much more then a hobby. Start off slow and think things over. It takes a while to really build up a successful company or studio so be patient and don’t expect things to happen right away. Start small, slow and most importantly smart but don’t be afraid to take risks. Be sure to stay informed on the industry you’re looking to get into, attend industry events, and networking is very important. Research the field and your impending competition. Do you have something that they don’t have? What makes you and your studio unique? Define your goals and what you want to get out of your new studio. And don’t forget to have FUN! If you’re not having fun then what’s the point? Just remember that if you have a dream and you’re really passionate about it and work hard, it’ll happen!

So what’s in the pipeline for 2011?

2011 is shaping up to be a very exciting and VERY busy year for Phantom City Creative! We’re currently working with a few companies on projects that we’ll be announcing early in the year. We’ll be doing some marketing design packages for a few upcoming films which includes poster design, dvd packaging, motion graphic intro titles, logos, and more. We’re also going to continue the film inspired art posters (not just horror, we love all genres of film), make them a monthly event and bring in some of our favourite artists out there to contribute. Our complete website will be launching very soon and as soon as that happens we’ll be promoting ourselves to expand the Phantom City body of work. We’re really excited about Phantom City Creative and what is to come!

All Artwork © Copyright Phantom City Creative

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Rondal is a full-fledged horror fan and die hard "strange kid" who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced vigor with a side of unadulterated violence. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Strange Kids Club, a virtual clubhouse of adolescent enthusiasm in addition to being Co-Editor of Fuel Your Illustration and an occasional contributor to the video game blog, StartFrag.


  1. […] month, I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing the co-founders of Phantom City Creative, Justin Erickson and Paige Reynolds, for the fine folks […]

  2. […] might remember Phantom City Creative from our awesome interview with them back in December (if not, definitely check it out). Since then Erickson and Reynolds have […]

  3. […] we met with illustrator/graphic designer Justin Erickson (read the interview) he and his co-conspirer, Paige Reynolds, had just launched Phantom City Creative. Since then, the […]

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