Kyle Cooper has directed and produced more than 150 film title sequences, Details magazine credited him with almost single-handedly revitalizing the main title sequence as an art form. He is the founder of two internationally recognized design and production companies, Prologue Films, launched in 2003, and Imaginary Forces in 1996.
Prior to that he was creative director at R/Greenberg Associates in New York and then Los Angeles. Creativity magazine named Cooper one of the top 50 biggest and best thinkers and doers from the last 20 years of advertising and consumer culture. The New York Times Magazine called the title sequence he created for Se7en one of the most important design innovations of the 1990s.
He holds the honorary title of Royal Designer for Industry from the Royal Society of Arts in London and is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale. Cooper earned a M.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Yale School of Art, where he studied independently with Paul Rand.
His work in the credits field is often compared to Saul Bass, of whom replaced his role as title designer for Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film Goodfellas.
He has also directed a film, New Port South (2001).
THUNDER CHUNKY:Talking title sequences with the master… KYLE COOPER
Kyle Cooper specializes in title sequences. Not just bog-standard ones though. His are like mini-movies in their own right and they revolutionised the way we all look at film credits. His work on the intro sequence of Seven won universal acclaim and established him as a big player in the movie industry. You’ll recognise a lot of his work: Spiderman, Spiderman 2, Mission: Impossible, The Mummy, Braveheart… the list goes on and on. He’s now even ventured into video games and commercials. So what makes a successful title sequence designer? We spoke to him to find out…
How can you sum up your career for the readers?
I have been designing and producing opening credit sequences for fifteen years. First at R/Greenberg Associates NY and then R/Greenberg Associates LA. Then I founded Imaginary Forces and after that I founded Prologue Films.
I direct commercials and design.
You will always be remembered for the titles for Se7en. How do you feel about those titles now?
I still like them. There is nothing about them I would change. I was glad that they were so well received and I am flattered that so many people claim responsibility for them or are inspired by them.
Which of your projects are you most proud of?
“Seven” title sequence
The good book says ‘everything your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.’ I try to do that. All of the planets were alighned or something when I worked on Seven – it was the right time. It was the beginning of the democratization of motion graphics (Although I directed the live action shoot as well). All of the right people came together to make that piece possible. That perfect world situation will perhaps never happen again but I still try to the best of my ability each time to do something that I like. I like Dawn of the Dead which I did recently and I was very happy with Donnie Brasco at the time. I even like Wimbeldon because it is a simple idea. I like many of them for different reasons.
Each film is a different problem to solve so each solution is different. I am actually very proud of the end credit sequence I did for Quiz Show. A lot of the time it is about the situation or stories surrounding the title sequence. I had just come to LA and was thrust into the Quiz Show project. R/Greenberg LA was going to get fired by Robert Redford and I stayed up for two nights and did the end credit sequence and then went to show it to Robert Redford at Skywalker Sound and he was very happy. That is a great feeling. That project was like a burning stick snatched from the fire. It is the stories that make me proud. For Mission Impossible Tom Cruise did not like what we did at first because he did not want it to look like a movie trailer but I changed some things based on his commenets and he was happy. I am proud when the director is pleased with my work.
It is extremely validating to have someone you admire look to you for creative support. People applauded when the titles were over at the premiere of Seven and I saw David after the screening. We looked at each and he shook my hand and I knew he was thrilled and we both knew that we nailed it. These stories help me measure my time here in LA. It is a place without seasons, at least none to speak of compared to Massachusetss where I grew up. I keep track of time by the films that I work on. I am also very proud when people I have brought into the main title business do good titles. I think we have had an impact. I think we have raised the bar and I am proud of that. There are so many ways for a job to go south so if you can get a good one through you should be very proud.
You have been cited as the most influential film credit designer since Saul Bass. Was his work an inspiration to you?
Not as much as people who have written about me have suggested. I love Walk On The Wild Side and Man With The Golden Arm but I actually have gotten much more familiar with his work after I started doing this. Paul Rand was my mentor and he and Saul Bass were often compared to each other. There is no question that Saul Bass is the father of film titles but Paul Rand was the father of American graphic design. Mr. Rand and my teachers at Yale did not hold up Saul Bass as a great designer. I think Saul Bass’s contribution is obvious and I love the later work he did with Martin Scorcese but by Rand’s standards Bass was not a typographer. I prefer the Westinghouse logo to the Minolta logo. The thing with Rand also was that he did everything with his own hand and I do not think as far as the logos go that was the case with Saul Bass. But again I do not consider myself worthy to be compared with either of these men but I will press on and hopefully get better.
What makes a good title sequence?
It makes you thrilled to be in this theatre at this moment, getting ready to see this movie. It makes you glad that you are nowhere else in the world except where you are, getting ready to see something amazing.
Were there any directors that you have worked with, that wanted to be heavily involved in the title sequence process? If so, who?
They all do some more than others some make it better some make me compromise. I am not naming names.
At what stage of a film do the titles start to be put together?
The majority of the work we do on titles comes at the post-production phase of the film. Sometimes the creative process will begin before this point, but the onset of our production is usually in its final stages of the movie.
Some films almost totally neglect their titles. Why do you think they are so important?
It depends on the movie. They can make no difference whatsoever or they can make the film better. Some films are good enough without them. Some films need a first scene and the best titles become the first scene of the movie.
What projects will you be working on in 2005?
Prologue splits it’s time between commercials and feature films. You can see our work in several national campaigns like Hewlett Packard and American Express. Titles you will see for films like Bewitched, Zathura, the New World are all products of Prologue.
What is the one thing that everyone should do today?
Take a moment to look at your life, at the things you take for granted, and thank God for these gifts. Things like family, friends, your health… we too often neglect to be thankful for things like these until we no longer have them.
Kyle Cooper/Imaginary Forces documentary Part 1
Kyle Cooper and Garrick Hamm: Part 1
Kyle Cooper and Garrick Hamm: Part 2
Contemporary Perspectives Lecture Series: Kyle Cooper