Interview: Hollywood is Dead’s Matt Busch

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Zombifying classic movie posters

Matt Busch is well known in the art world for his beautiful Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Lord of the Rings paintings. He’s also known in the rock world for his paintings of Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, and Poison. But a couple of years ago Busch started a series of paintings that caught the attention of both zombie fans and movie poster fans alike. He created the “Hollywood Is Dead” series which featured zombie parodies of some of the world’s most recognizable movie posters. The posters which show everything from simplified Back to the Future characters to E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial have received national attention.

STYD caught up with Matt Busch to find out more about his zombieriffic parodies.

Shock Till You Drop: How did the idea for the Hollywood Is Dead series start?

Matt Busch: It actually began back in 2009. I had already done a slew zombie themed comic book covers for Night of the Living Dead (Avatar Press), Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors (IDW) and Afterburn (Red 5). Lucasfilm contacted me about creating an image that infused “Star Wars” and zombies to do viral marketing for their new novel Deathtroopers. I came up with the idea to recreate all 6 of the classic “Star Wars” movie posters, which Lucasfilm loved. At first. Within a week of the images running on StarWars.com, they were taken down. Of course, at that point, the images were all over facebook and fan sites. Everyone seemed to love them and the hype spread like wildfire. There were even nods on G4TV and Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel. Right away, I started getting emails asking when they were going to see zombie Indiana Jones and zombie E.T.. I knew I was on to something so I developed the whole thing as a project and started Hollywood-is-Dead.com. I’ve been running with the undead ever since!

Shock: How do you decide which movie posters you want to parody?

Busch: It’s absolutely fun yet tricky process. For the most part, I jump on the most iconic movie posters I grew up with and still love to this day. Aside from the zombie gore, it gives me a chance to really study the master artists I admire, cats like Drew Struzan, John Alvin, Bob Peak, Richard Amsel and others. I’ve learned way more out of this than I ever thought I would. However, there are also the movies where I may not dig the poster as much, but if I like the movie and I feel I have a good idea for the parody, then I feel it’s worth the time to do the art. There also a few movies I’m not really a fan of, but if they are big Hollywood entities and I think my idea is funny, then I’ll do that, too.

There are actually tons of movies that I would love to parody, but just can’t find the right twist on the title or the parody.

Shock: What’s the process for making one of the paintings?

Busch: Most of the posters that I’m parodying are illustrations, so I’m really trying my best to use the same mediums and match what the masters did by hand. Usually, these poster artists used acrylics and color pencils, which is what I normally use anyway. I begin with a sketch on illustration board, and I do do my best to keep the composition and colors similar to the original. The idea is to have the parody posters look just like the original from afar, then you get the gag upon second look. There are a few posters in the series that are based on photographic posters, but in an effort to unify the look of them all, I still hand paint them. However, like most movie posters, the fonts and typography have a digital treatment, so I do all of that , as well, to keep them looking like the original. At times I’ve had help from designers Paul Michael Kane or Lin Zy with creating more complex logos, like Zombie Wars or Indiana Bones.

Shock: Have any of the creators of the original posters or people from the movies you parody given you feedback on your creations?

Busch: I haven’t been in contact with any of the original artists, but so far all the studios have shown nothing but support. As a funny example, people in the industry always told me to stay away from doing a “Harry Potter” parody, and when I made the Scary Rotter and the Living Dead poster, I was playing with fire. Instead, the producers of the latest movies purchased about 30 of them to give to cast and crew as a joke that it was the new poster! I’ve only had two negative reactions, both from artists who work in comic books. They feel that I’m being disrespectful to the original poster artists, but to the contrary, I’m a huge movie poster buff, and my love and admiration for the originals runs deep. The project itself really is just a way for me to immerse myself into the magic they’ve inspired me with all these years.

Shock: Do you have any particular favorites among the series?

Busch: Oh yeah, there’s the biggies that everyone loves, including me. The Zombie Wars one I did for The Living Dead Strike Back seems to strike fans pretty big, what with the blood vomit into Leia’s face and all. Breakfast Is Tiffany wins the ladies over pretty good. Indiana Bones and the Last Cadaver is one I’m proud of that people seem to really dig, too. But some of the less iconic ones speak to me for the nostalgia. For example, I remember staring at the Romancing the Stone movie poster for hours as a kid, so spending all that time repainting the endless jungle chasm for Necromancing the Stone really brought a lot of that back. The “Hook” poster is also my favorite Drew Struzan piece, so attempting to recreate that gave me even more appreciation for his masterpiece than I had before. “King Kong” was wild, too, because the original artist, Gary Meyer, was one of my professors at Art Center.

Shock: What’s next for Hollywood Is Dead?

Busch: For now, I plan to continue releasing them in series. A lot of the big guns are out there, so now I’m going with themes to cover the bases. Recently I did 9 romantic or date movies leading up to Valentine’s day. I’ll probably have a blockbuster theme for Summer. An 80’s theme in October. Hollywood classics in time for Christmas. Maybe an entire series of animated movies. Eventually, I plan to release all of them in a nice coffee table collection. The book will be nice because I think it’ll be a great conversation piece. And I’ll include some exclusive pieces that you can’t buy as a poster or even see online.

There are other plans to expand the parody franchise- but I don’t wanna give too much away this early on.

Shock: Do you have any favorite zombie movies or TV shows?

Busch: I like the usual bunch. I know some people don’t consider the “Evil Dead” trilogy to be zombie movies, but I do, and would have to place them at the top of my list. Being a parody guy, I also love the good ones like “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead”. As for TV, of course I think “The Walking Dead” is fantastic, and I was a big fan of the graphic novels prior. I think that TV and comics are a great medium to tell zombie survival stories. You have more time and pacing to really get into the characters.

Shock: So what do you think the appeal is behind the zombie genre?

Busch: I think Zombies do a great job of creeping us out, while keeping us in the ‘safe zone.’ I think that’s why we love the horror genre, in general. We enjoy being scared, but we also like to be taken away on a dark fantasy, only to wake up from the terror and realize that real life isn’t so bad. In terms of why we enjoy these alternate parodies, like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” or even my Hollywood-is-Dead images, I think we all have a morbid curiosity to see what our favorite things look like undead. We all like to ask “what if” questions.

Shock: How can fans pick up prints or original paintings?

Busch: The best place to see the latest is www.Hollywood-is-Dead.com, where you can also purchase the posters, T-Shirts, and anything else that will be available on the horizon.

Right now the original paintings are represented exclusively through the ArtInsights Animation and Film Art Gallery. You can see and purchase the art at ArtinSights.com.

Source: Scott Chitwood