Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Main Titles)

The main title sequence for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am was truly a collaborative effort. Acclaimed artist Mickalene Thomas came on board to create a custom collage portrait of Toni Morrison, from portraits shot by director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

Ms. Thomas shot video of her hands assembling the collage, which was in turn assembled into a sequence by editor (and co-producer) Johanna Giebelhaus.

The title is a quote from Morrison’s Beloved: “The pieces I am. She gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” Morrison reads this text as the pieces of the collage assemble to form her portrait.

For the text we knew early on that we wanted a handwritten aesthetic, which would capture Toni’s humanity and warmth, as well as her commitment to craft in her writing. In our minds was the image of the single mother, rising before her children, to compose her novels by hand on legal pads. We knew the selection of a font would be tricky; the letterforms would need to convey strength and commitment, feel fluid yet determined and authentic… and of course be readily legible. We considered several options, including custom hand-lettering, but we found Youssef Habchi’s Antro Vectra typeface was exactly what we needed for the main title. It was paired with a timeless classic, Gill Sans Light, to complete the opening titles.

We were honored when Art of the Title selected the sequence as one of the 10 best of 2019.

Film Direction and Portraits: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Collage Video: Mickalene Thomas
Editing: Johanna Giebelhaus
Title Design: Declan Zimmermann