For a long time, the title sequence for Thank You For Smoking Shadowplay (they have since rebranded as Smith & Lee) were one of the most viewed on Watch the Titles! Title designer Gareth Smith talks about how the titles came to be.
“Shadowplay Studio was very small when we created this title sequence. At the time we were working out of Ari’s mother’s living room in West LA. It was very comfortable, in a great neighborhood, and frequently smelled of fresh brownies. And she makes the finest salad dressing this side of the Mississippi. It has something to do with Worcestershire sauce.”
“Anway, Jason Reitman, the film’s director, came to us with the idea of using cigarette package designs for the opening title sequence. He had actually created a rough sample quicktime in which he superimposed basic text titles onto images of cigarette packages that he found on the web. It captured the tone of the title sequence nicely, and gave us a great starting point. We extensively researched cigarette package design and were amazed by its sheer variety. We did start to notice, however, that certain elements were often used: the colors gold and red, bold graphic lines and shapes, and images of heraldry. There were, of course, many exceptions. But if you look broadly at cigarette package design, these elements seem to be what make a cigarette package look like a cigarette package. There’s something very serious and regal about most cigarette package design.”
“Jason really encouraged us to develop package designs that visually represented the characters they listed. For example: Aaron Eckhart got the crown jewel of the title cards. He’s the “King of Spin,” so we gave him the most showy, elaborate looking design we could muster. Robert DuVall‘s character is old-school and in charge. His card is spare, elegant and sophisticated. A single crown drops into frame. Maria Bello is the alcohol/spirits lobbyist and is always seen with a glass of red wine. Naturally, her title card has a red-wine color and features an image of grapes. Rob Lowe‘s character is obsessed with Japanese culture. His design includes a rising sun, and for Cameron Bright we used a child-like color palette of yellows and oranges, a whimisical scripted typeface and an image of a dog.”
“A fun little detail: The “Established 1977” on Reitman‘s first title card is his birthdate.”
Where did you meet Jason Reitman?
“We met him at Sundance 2000 where we both had short films appearing there … Later that year, we kept bumping into him at a bunch of other film festivals. We always wanted to work on something together, and “Thank You For Smoking” turned out to be the perfect opportunity.”
Year of production
About Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee
Gareth Smith and Jenny Lee are two motion designers and directors living and working in L.A. In 2011 they formed Smith&Lee Design, a studio that creates “inventive content for film, television and the web.”
Main title design Shadowplay Studio: Gareth Smith, Ari Sachter-Zeltzer, Jenny Lee
Title song “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!” by Tex Williams
Director (film) Jason Reitman