How the Licorice Pizza Poster Came to Life

It’s hard these days not to feel as though the golden years of movie theater-going are far behind us, so when Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-awaited Licorice Pizza came with its now rare “In theaters only” claim (a boast only heavyweights like PTA can pull off anymore)—and shot solely on film, no less (unicorn!)—it suddenly felt like old times. Bustling to the theater on opening weekend; popcorn and soda in hand, then running out to dissect it frame by frame with your movie nerd friends. Adding to that sense of nostalgia, is one of the greatest film posters to come out in years. The kind you used to hang on your bedroom wall after begging your local video store to let you have it. To see its ’70s glow plastered over marquees (remember marquees??) around the country and beyond, it did feel like the moment movie lovers had been needing—badly. 

Leading up to the 94th Oscars, we spoke with the artist behind the poster. Peruvian-American Kat Reeder’s work is characterized by a throwback feeling mixed with pop art, animation, art nouveau, and Latin American art influences. Before PTA came calling, Reeder had worked on album covers for the likes of Ozomatli; a special commission for Louis Vuitton Hawaii; Vans, Sony, and even fashion collabs. Below, the Hawaii-based illustrator talks getting discovered on Instagram, how the film’s soundtrack influenced her work, and the awesome pinball machine version of the poster.

How did this collaboration between you and Paul Thomas Anderson come about for the movie? What was the process of working together?

Paul’s creative team reached out to me on Instagram, and asked if I’d want to submit some sketches for consideration. At first, I was one of a number of designers vying for the job. Eventually, it was my design that got chosen. It was such a great experience working with Paul and the creative team. Paul was involved in all aspects of the design and gave me freedom to add my own style to the final illustration.

The poster has such a unique feeling to it. What was your main inspiration for the look and vibe?

I draw a lot of my inspiration from music, and this project was no different. Although I wasn’t able to see an advance screening of the film, I was able get the soundtrack in advance. So I listened to a whole lot of ’70s music while working on the sketches, and the coloring phase. I think a lot of that rhythm and musicality often comes through in the flowing lines I try to create.

Any easter eggs?

There’s a version two of the poster that was in the running. That version was actually produced on the play field of one of the promotional pinball machines for the film. You might be able to see it, if you can track the pinball machine down.

What is your process when creating something like this?

I used to hand sketch everything, then scan it into the computer for textures and colors. Now I actually sketch it using Procreate on the iPad. I then transfer the base linework over to the computer and use a few different programs to add multiple layers and colors. It’s an ever-changing process, but I’ve refined it quite a bit over the past few years.

What other kind of work can people hire you to do? Do you have a favorite?

A lot of my work lately has been in custom portraits. Capturing someone’s likeness takes a special attention to detail, and I’ve honed that technique in the past few years. My heart, however, pulls me towards the arts in entertainment, especially film, television, and music.