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Insider: Shelf Heroes

Posted by Stine Fantoft Berg on Monday, December 21 2015

Cabaret, Chinatown, Clerks, Casablanca – founder and editor Ben Smith on the making of Shelf Heroes issue C

Celebrating cinema one letter at a time, Shelf Heroes is a completely fresh take on movie publishing. Starting from a simple brief (“Go create something”) each issue is filled to the brim with personal writing and colourful artwork inspired by films starting with the letter of the issue.

The C issue has just hit the shelves, so we asked founder Ben Smith to talk us through the ingredients that went into creating its pages.

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In the making of this issue I…

Watched
I try to watch every film featured in the mag, so I’m always discovering new and unusual stuff. Some good (Christine), some bad (CB4), some just plain weird (Cool World). Other than that, just the beach ball spinning endlessly on my 10-year-old MacBook while saving InDesign files.

Used
Email. Email. Email. Producing an independent magazine seems to mainly involve emailing everyone endlessly.

Got sidetracked by
My actual paying day job as a designer eats away at time on Shelf Heroes, as did renovating our new flat. And hours, and hours of crap on Netflix.

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Worked from
The aforementioned semi-finished flat in Kilburn, North London. And the corner of the studio while on lunch breaks.

Sacrificed
I’m frustratingly behind on all of this year’s new cinema releases. I mean, I haven’t even caught Keanu Reeves’ John Wick yet. (Film of the year is obviously Mad Max: Fury Road, or Carol, or 45 Years).

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Realised that
With each issue, the purpose of the magazine evolves and becomes more refined. This time I discovered that it’s less about the films themselves, and more about the contributors’ personal responses to them. You can get your sober, well reasoned movie content elsewhere – I want Shelf Heroes to be instinctive, anarchic and personal. Akin to browsing through a over-stuffed video library, and seeing what catches your attention.

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Was excited about
Every submission that dropped into my inbox. Especially Marina Esmeraldo’s illustration for Cabaret. I never plan the layout or cover in advance – I prefer to let the content lead itself into a structure. When that particular piece arrived, I just knew immediately what needed to feature front and centre.

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Wish that I had
Featured some Carry On movies! That’s one of the heartbreaking things about the format, once a letter is passed those films will never crop up again. There was no Citizen Kane, Carrie or countless other classics. But it’s kind of what I love about it too – everything featured actually means something to the artist.

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Was most pleased by
The continual enthusiasm for the magazine, and films in general shown by the contributors. It’s hard work, but they all make it a pleasure. Shelf Heroes started 12-months ago as a vague idea in the back of my mind, and I’m still overwhelmed that people believe in the concept and are willing to give up their creativity for it.

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And everyone should buy a copy because
Everyone loves films. Everyone loves illustration. Everyone loves bizarre, gory Conan the Barbarian fan fiction. There’s something for everyone.

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