Picture Mill Lifts Off for “The Astronaut Farmer” Titles

Entertainment design and branding studio Picture Mill has completed the opening and closing titles for Warner Bros. The Astronaut Farmer, co-written by the Polish brothers, Michael and Mark, and directed by Michael Polish (Northfork, Jackpot). The Astronaut Farmer is the story of onetime NASA astronaut trainee Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), a man who builds his own rocket in his rural Texas barn to fulfill his lifelong dream of space travel. The project came to Picture Mill through the Polish brothers and the movie picture editor, James Haygood.

The movie opens on Farmer, at first seen only in the distance as a lone figure on horseback, as he rides across a lunar-like Texas landscape dressed in his NASA suit to rescue a runaway calf. ‘The main title is divided into a series of these strong images, and we wanted that to be a part of the design. Our goal was to exploit that dreamlike cinemascope imagery that opens the movie,’ says Picture Mill Creative Director William Lebeda, who worked with Art Director Elaine Alderette to create the sequence.

‘Originally, we wanted to use black type that ran vertically up the screen, which we felt was evocative of a booster lift-off,’ Lebeda explains. ‘It was tremendously cool but also impossible to read. Instead, we created a low, wide typography style that hangs on the horizon as Billy Bob Charlie Farmer character rides through the countryside in his spacesuit, with the type appearing to be made from the same polished steel and aluminum as the rocket. We were able to combine these disparate things into something that felt interesting and evocative.’

The end titles, designed by Picture Mill Art director Brad Berling, is a fully integrated blend of stills and live action that opens with an overlapping and layered collage of made-up news and entertainment magazine covers, Polaroid snapshots, and a sequence of a homecoming parade, shot in a news B-roll style, that was eliminated from the final cut of the film. Also not making the cut but appearing in the end title is a staged Jay Leno interview with the hometown hero.

‘The filmmakers wanted us to keep the story going right to the very end, and it was challenging to work with the range of different material that we had to integrate in the sequence, including the Jay Leno footage, which was shot in HD,’ says Berling. ‘To better fit that interview into the title and make it more filmic, we color-corrected the HD footage, enlarged and repositioned the video, painted in fake backgrounds, and added dark falloff to the edges so that the end title crawl would not be rolling over their faces. We wanted the audience to be able to follow the interview while still keeping the credits legible.’

‘The Astronaut Farmer is an inspirational drama about staying true to one hopes and ideals, no matter what the cost,’ said Lebeda. ‘This was a project that we wanted to be part of in a big way, and it was delightful to work with the Polish Brothers, whom I’sve known since our days together at CalArts.’

The Astronaut Farmer Title Credits

Main Title:
Creative Director- William Lebeda
Art Director- Elaine Alderette
2D Animation: – Josh Novak, Nelson Yu
3D Animation: Jon Block
Producer: Christina Hwang

End Title:
Creative Director: William Lebeda
Senior Art Director: Bradford Berling
Designer: Ken Pelletier
2D Animation: Chad Bonanno
Editor: Charles Jensen
Producer: Justin Greenlee

Client credits: Mark Polish (co-writer), Michael Polish (director, co-writer)
James Haygood, Editor
Studio: Warner Bros.


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