For Immediate Release
AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART
to Explore Life & Legacy of celebrated "RAIDERS" Poster Artist
Documentary to Profile Richard Amsel, the Enigmatic Creator Behind
“The Greatest Hand-Drawn Movie Poster of All Time”
(LOS ANGELES – APRIL 7, 2023) A Philadelphia-born artist received his big break in 1969, when motion picture studio 20th Century-Fox selected the 21-year-old’s poster of Barbra Streisand to promote its new movie musical, Hello, Dolly!
The poster -- and many others that followed it -- was emblazoned with the singular word, “AMSEL.” The artist certainly had a very distinct signature…but who was he?
Through an exclusive agreement with the Richard Amsel estate, Cinemalad Productions’ upcoming documentary, AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART answers that question. Chronicling illustrator Richard Amsel’s contributions to popular culture, the first-ever documentary about the University of the Arts graduate will also offer a glimpse into his personal life, which was cut short at age 37 by AIDS complications in 1985.
Through more than 50 interviews with family, friends and colleagues, including comic Bruce Vilanch, Flash Gordon star Sam J. Jones, and the late Jerry Alten of TV Guide, AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART is set to inspire audiences to take a closer look at entertainment art. The duality that the art presents is staggering, so says the documentary’s director, Adam McDaniel. “As with much of illustration, entertainment art often faces a creative double standard: it has to be very good in order for people to take notice, while discerning art critics rarely, if ever, take it seriously,” he lamented.
McDaniel described what early creators of works hand-drawn with pencil faced. “Artistic talent and skill were essential for a working illustrator to survive, much less thrive, but even the best of efforts was often dismissed as kitsch, impersonal – viewed as mere commercial products rather than creative enterprises. And, unlike every other painting or drawing deemed as ‘fine art,’ most illustrators had to work anonymously – denied from even having their signatures visible on their creative work.”
“Nowhere was this more apparent than movie posters,” he revealed.
In addition to a cover illustration of award-winning entertainer Lily Tomlin for TIME that is featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, Amsel’s calling card – the aforementioned “AMSEL” – is seen on 37 TV Guide covers. Album covers and posters for Grammy®-winning actress Bette Midler created by Amsel are often regarded as key elements of her meteoric rise in the 1970s.
Movie posters for Universal Pictures’ Oscar-winning 1973 crime caper The Sting, with Robert Redford and Paul Newman, Paramount Pictures’ 1974 Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway film noir classic, Chinatown, Warner Bros.’ 1971 Warren Beatty and Julie Christie western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, G.W. Films and EMI Films’, Ltd.’s 1974 Agatha Christie thriller, Murder on the Orient Express, Universal Pictures’ 1980 cult sci-fi classic, Flash Gordon, Jim Henson's elaborate 1982 fantasy, The Dark Crystal, Warner Bros.’ 1985 apocalyptic adventure, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and, most famously, Paramount and Lucasfilm Ltd.’s 1981 action-adventure Raiders of the Lost Ark (as well its 1982 re-release) were celebrated the world over.
Richard Amsel is often regarded as one of the most beloved movie poster artists of all time. For example, in 2011, British magazine Total Film named Amsel’s work for Raiders of the Lost Ark, “The Greatest Hand-Drawn Movie Poster of All Time.”
McDaniel agrees, having been a fan of Amsel’s since he was a child. This speaks to his delicate approach to telling Amsel’s story. “When I first imagined filming a documentary about the artist, I naturally planned to focus on his remarkable body of work. Such are the things we all know. Amsel’s movie poster artwork is particularly legendary, iconic – and often exceeded the quality of the very films they showcased, revered in the realm of entertainment art,” he said.
Then, other aspects of Amsel’s life piqued McDaniel’s interest. “The more research I made into Amsel himself, however, the more I shifted my focus into what I learned was a remarkable, personal life story. The art, I found, was just the beginning,” he revealed.
Amsel, who was gay, was relatively introverted and shy about his private life, though close friends provide many accounts of the artist’s wicked sense of humor. McDaniel hopes to strike a balance between some of the more whimsical stories of Amsel’s life, and the tragedy of his early death.
“It’s a challenging project, emotionally and creatively, as it is not my intention to make anything exploitative, nor besmirch anyone in telling his story. My aim has always been to help preserve Richard Amsel’s creative legacy, not to own nor exploit it,” he declared.
AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART also aims to give voice to those in a silent fight, the filmmaker said.
“If we continue to address the circumstances of Richard Amsel’s life, illness and death in the same hushed tones and ashamed whispers as had been done almost 40 years ago, we are not only disrespecting and dishonoring the man’s life and legacy, but also the thousands of people of that time – and the millions of people of our time – who have been forced to die quiet deaths at the hands of AIDS.”
Now within its final editing and post-production stages, McDaniel has partnered with national crowdfunding platform Fractured Atlas to seek funds to complete AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART. He's also seeking to film late-addition interviews with some of the celebrities and filmmakers Amsel worked with.
With an $80,000 fundraising goal, McDaniel hopes to continue to magnify a beacon of light who lost his luster all too soon. “I can never presume to know what Richard Amsel would have thought of my efforts, but I am trying my best, and won’t give up.
“There’s a long journey ahead of me, and I shall make the most of every step.”
For More Information:
For interviews with Adam McDaniel:
Jevaillier Jefferson • Jevaillier Jefferson Public Relations
888-871-5577, X 800 • JevaillierJPR@gmail.com
ABOUT CINEMALAD PRODUCTIONS:
Based in Monrovia, California, Cinemalad Productions is Adam McDaniel’s independent production company. The name was derived from a moniker McDaniel had during his student filmmaking days – with “Mad Cinema Lad” being an anagram of his full name.
ABOUT FRACTURED ATLAS:
AMSEL: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE LOST ART has fiscal sponsorship through FRACTURED ATLAS, a nationally recognized service organization benefiting the needs of arts groups as well as individual artists in all disciplines. Founded in 1998, their fiscal sponsorship will allow the documentary to receive tax-deductible donations through individuals, grants and crowdfunding campaigns. All monetary donations to the project through Fractured Atlas, where no goods or services have been exchanged, are fully tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.