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Packaging The Nice Guys ’70s Music Vibe

Judging from his new action comedy The Nice Guys (opening May 20), writer-director Shane Black loves the 1970's almost as much as he savors wise-cracking anti-heroes, snappy dialogue and outrageous stunt sequences. Following his 2005 Robert Downey/Val Kilmer buddy romp Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and comeback blockbuster Iron Man 3, Black puts the usually somber Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling through their slapstick paces as goofball private eyes investigating the death of a porn star circa 1977 Los Angeles. 

Black worked with music supervisor Randall Poster (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Grammy-nominated soundtrack album producer Brian McNelis (Napoleon Dynamite) on a 15-song soundtrack aimed at celebrating the era with exuberant tunes by the Bee Gees, Kiss, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire and other vintage hitmakers.

To hammer home the film's slightly naughty Disco-era vibe, Los Angeles-based creative services company iam8bit designed a "Collector's Edition" soundtrack package anchored by a pair of pink vinyl records. Why pink? "We feel like that's a tantalizing color," says co-owner Amanda White. "Bubble gum, roller skates, pony tails – it's suggestive." iam8bit founder Jon M. Gibson adds, "We wanted this to be safe and classy but at the same time very sexy."

Gibson, who started iam8bit in 2005 when he produced an art exhibition devoted to '80s- era video games, explains, "We're very much into taking nostalgia and spinning it to use as a device to tell a story. The Nice Guys was an interesting project for us because there's a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but everybody was very committed to creating something that seemed like it was an artifact from the seventies. We're not really interested in projects that simply use key art and existing assets from some licensed product. For The Nice Guys, we created all these add-ons that evoke the essence of the era."

For starters, the records come wrapped in an old-school XXX porno magazine style "belly band." Gibson says, "It seems kind of scandalous at first, then you open it up and there's 3-D glasses and a fully nude centerfold so in that sense, you're undressing the package in a way that's appropriate to the fiction of the film." White elaborates, "The centerfold hearkens back to the traditional gatefold you'd find in magazines like Playboy. The 3-D glasses go back a little earlier in time but they're still cool and fun."

The package also includes facsimiles of the business cards and pin-up posters briefly glimpsed in the movie itself. "The idea," Gibson says, "Is that these elements draw  from the fictional world of the movie and give you something tactile you can hold in your hand."

For iam8bit, which recently curated an X-Files-themed art show and produced a "Superhero Hardware" exhibit, The Nice Guys extends its ongoing mission to create analog products custom-tailored for the digital age. Gibson says, "So much stuff is digital now that when new game or movie or TV show or music comes out, it lacks any kind of physicality. Part of our attraction to any given project is that we like to take intellectual property and interpret it in some kind of a retro reality. We're always trying to figure out 'What story does the package tell as you interact with it?'"

In the case of The Nice Guys, Gibson says,  "It's about taking the vinyl out of the sleeve and  exploring all the artifacts, watching the records spin, flipping from side one to side two.  Since the music for the movie is culled from the seventies and vinyl is an artifact from that period, vinyl seemed like an appropriate way to pay homage to the film."

"The Nice Guys Collectors Edition Vinyl 2xLP" sells for $40 at and can also be purchased at select record stores including Amoeba Music in Los Angeles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hugh Hart

Hugh Hart has covered movies, television and design for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wired and Fast Company. Formerly a Chicago musician, he now lives in Los Angeles with his dog-rescuing wife Marla and their Afghan Hound.

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