deas for “Buffalo Bushido’s” poster art had been swirling in McGennis’ head dating back to when he first wrote the script. A believer that a good script is an enticing map for others to follow, McGennis wanted to create some simple artwork for the cover of his script to give it a personal touch before sending it out to agents, prospective cast, and casting director candidates. Even at the script stage, McGennis believed that adding cover art would help not only to tell his story but to also allow the script to visually stand out and beg to be read.  How much did the script cover add to the intrigue and to the impulse to read it?  Nobody will ever know.  However, it’s safe to say that McGennis’ artistic touch was further proof of his dedication to the project which is ultimately what landed the film’s talented cast and made it all happen.

he script cover art was pretty straightforward. A man at the edge. McGennis thought it would be cool to marry the bridge to the blade of a katana (the companion of the samurai). Against the background of a cityscape (presumably Buffalo ) the blade of the sword would protrude out with a man standing at the point. Recognizing that this artwork would be going on the cover of a black and white script, McGennis kept the artwork to one color (red) which would be used for the silhouette of the lonely man. McGennis utilized the talent of Jeff Schiel to create the design in Photoshop which would become the finished script cover and the original homepage for the “Buffalo Bushido” website.  This “Buffalo Bushido” artwork holds the title of being the original piece of concept art for the film and a cool reminder of the film’s roots in the early script stage.


nce the filming got underway, McGennis began to amass still photography from the production. “Everyone on set had a camera,” he recalls, “it was a lot of fun.” After production wrapped, McGennis had many images to draw upon for new poster ideas. The first idea was to find a single image to convey the human detachment of the film and to underscore it with the theme of the bushido. In order to keep the artwork minimal, McGennis felt the best way to incorporate bushido into the artwork would be to actually incorporate another form of art itself into the poster. The art of calligraphy. McGennis invited Japanese master calligrapher, Eri Takase, to create “kanji” (Chinese characters) for the title “Buffalo Bushido” as well as for several samurai codes that are shown over picture (like subtitles) throughout the film. Eri was delighted to bring his inspiration to the project and he presented many font styles for his brush calligraphy. The final vertical design for the film title was beautiful and exactly what McGennis was looking for to incorporate into one, if not several, different poster designs. Working with artist and graphic designer, Kristin Brandt, the first “Buffalo Bushido” poster was laid out in Photoshop centering on a still photo that McGennis felt was emblematic of the film. The image shows Davis looking back, and staring through, Sadie on the Peace Bridge . Once again, McGennis leaned to black and white for the poster in order to underscore the minimal feel of the story. The “Buffalo Bushido” kanji would however be shown in red against a black background in order to give it striking emphasis. Brandt’s combined the photograph with the kanji into a compelling image but McGennis felt the image of Davis looked too clean and made the movie poster look too much like a book cover. He consulted with his circle of artists which included Brandt, comic book illustrator Marvin Mariano, and animation artist Jeremy Appelbaum, for some ideas for how to manipulate the image of Davis . In the end, he liked Brandt’s choice for desaturating the image which he felt supported the gritty, desperate, and poetic edge of the film. This artwork would become the first poster for “Buffalo Bushido” and would appear on the DVD jacket for the first film festival submission slated for early 2009.

he organic nature of Buffalo Bushido, one idea leading to the next, never stopped during postproduction. Especially during the stretched out period of time when McGennis was correcting his work-in-progress at Deluxe Labs, he had some time to think about how express the totality of his film in a poster. “Short form is really an art form in itself McGennis testifies, and that's what you're doing in a different medium when you create a poster.” All roads seemed to come back to the layering qualities of the film that collectively set it apart (flashbacks, fantasy, animation, still images, kanji subtitling, contrast/saturation, internal dialogue, etc). While the image of Davis on the bridge captures a powerful moment in the film (almost as if a book cover), McGennis knew he could go further into creating a poster that would communicate the essence of his work. Sticking to his desire to incorporate layering, he turned to other artists for his inspiration.

tarting in his early twenties, McGennis had become interested in modern and contemporary art. He revisited the works of modern mixed media artists who specialized in poster art. Two artists especially had made an impression on McGennis. Mimmo Rotella (Italian, 1918-2006) and Jacques Villegle (French, born 1926) both worked with torn posters on canvas “affiches lacérées sur toile.” Inspired by these masters, McGennis visualized a new poster for “Buffalo Bushido” that would bring out the layers and texture of his film through the kaleidoscopic mind of his character Davis. This was achieved by using the previous bridge photograph as a powerful point of departure (the central poster image) and then tearing it up in intended sections to reveal other characters behind / underneath. Besides using photographs of the other characters, McGennis would show animated stills in the ripped sections to reinforce the duality of worlds (real and fantasy) that defines “Buffalo Bushido”. The ripped-layered effect provided an added dimensional quality placing the other characters like orbiting planets around the central star of Davis. By adding these images, McGennis could showcase his talented, known cast which is often the approach taken by marketing departments for creating the key art for an actor driven film. In the case of Buffalo Bushido, we are given a rare opportunity to see poster art created by the mind of the work (writer, director, producer, and actor). It is very interesting to have this type of artist insight into how McGennis views his own work and how he condenses it into one image (the poster) from a moving image (the film).

his image would become the Festival Poster for Buffalo Bushido. It stands as a strikingly original piece of art on its own and it is a testament to how McGennis continues to bring his influences into his own work.

he poster art for 'Buffalo Bushido" would once again take a new direction after the film was picked up for North American distribution by Cinema Epoch in the spring of 2010. Having experience in what type of cover art has the greatest consumer impact, the marketing department at Cinema Epoch expressed their interest for a single dramatic image for the DVD cover. This was a big departure from the layered festival poster that incorporated the ensemble cast, animation and many other elements. They asked McGennis if he had any production stills of his character dressed in samurai armor preferably holding a sword. Because his character's samurai persona takes form in the film through animation, McGennis did not have any stills of himself in samurai armor other than a few comic stills with Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. However, McGennis did have the authentic, traditional samurai armor that was purchased in Japan for his imaginary Samurai D wrestling persona. Cinema Epoch asked McGennis if he would be up for coordinating a producer photo shoot session for the purpose of finding a strong DVD cover image. McGennis agreed and called up his old friend, Mark Dellas, who is a renowned portrait photographer working in New York and living in the Buffalo area. McGennis had always been of fan of Dellas' portrait work including his magazine Traffic East and his work for the Buffalo Sabres. The two of them always enjoy having a chance to cross paths and work together. McGennis knew Dellas would deliver what Cinema Epoch was looking for. Two days later, McGennis arrived at Dellas' studio in the morning with a heavy box of samurai armor and katana sword in hand and they took some pictures.

lthough McGennis' hair was currently much longer for a new film, his long hair worked for the samurai image and Cinema Epoch made their selection. The use of black and white was a strong choice to emphasize the transparent state-of-mind quality of the film. The use of samurai quotes and the dazzle of light on the katana gave the cover art an edge of intrigue. McGennis was pleased with the new title art for "Buffalo Bushido" that Cinema Epoch created. This image would become the new face of "Buffalo Bushido" in the marketplace and on store shelves as Cinema Epoch announced their release date of June 15, 2010.

he spring of 2010 was very busy for McGennis. Not only was "Buffalo Bushido" still making its theatrical debut both in Buffalo and out in Los Angeles, but McGennis was also in full production with his new Buffalo film "Queen City" starring Vivica A. Fox. Still ideas for developing the poster art for "Buffalo Bushido" continued to churn in his mind. With a little distance from the Cinema Epoch experience, McGennis thought there could be a way to further the Cinema Epoch direction by including his recognized ensemble cast. He admitted to missing his co-stars on the poster art which he felt reflects his collaborative approach to filmmaking. He saw a great deal of marketing value to showcase his cast whether on the shelf at Blockbuster, on cable demand or on-line for downloading. When his old friend and comic book illustrator, Marvin Mariano, sent him an e-mail about his upcoming new comic book release, McGennis sensed an opportunity.

ince their collaboration on "Buffalo Bushido", Mariano had been primarily focusing on getting his own comic book "The Legend of The Steel Breed" off the ground. The first ever issue was planned for a release in May of 2010 and Mariano touched base to ask McGennis how "Buffalo Bushido" was progressing and if he'd like to advertise in the first issue of "Steel Breed". McGennis agreed and Mariano offered to create a new poster / ad for the comic book. McGennis was introduced to Mariano's partner, James Bade, and McGennis was firing ideas and high res images for a new "Buffalo Bushido" poster to blend both the Cinema Epoch DVD cover with elements of his layered festival poster. Facing a deadline at the printer, Mariano and Bade turned out the artwork very quickly and, after some minor tweaks and finishing touches, a new "Buffalo Bushido" poster was born. The new poster showcased McGennis' ensemble cast and imported elements from the previous posters (Japanese title art kanji, tagline, bridge background, dissolved samurai face illustration, etc. McGennis chose the "Buffalo Bushido" title art that was created by Jeremy Appelbaum to close the end credits in the film. McGennis assisted the distribution push by displaying the upcoming DVD release. Cinema Epoch really liked the new poster and, although DVD production was already in motion, the new poster would be utilized to promote the Hollywood screenings planned for early June for the purpose of drumming up PR and getting "Buffalo Bushido" reviewed by Variety and Hollywood Reporter prior to the DVD release. The new "Buffalo Bushido" poster has since become the film's on-line calling card for all marketing and viral awareness. Who knows, perhaps we will see this slick "Buffalo Bushido" image on a limited Blu-ray release someday in the future?