How we got EW’s first-ever digital cover — spiders and all
Go behind the scenes — with live tarantulas — and the Spider-Man: Far From Home stars.
Note: No spoilers here beyond what is revealed in trailers for Spider-Man: Far From Home and past Marvel movies.
I wanted to do something fun, which mostly meant doing something scary. Trying new things. Things that we weren’t sure would work.
It started with Spider-Man. When Tom Holland crashed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s Avengers: Civil War, his first of now five films as Peter Parker, it was as if that neighborhood kid risking his neck at the skate park had just snuck into the Monaco Grand Prix. Holland’s Parker is a geeky teen who’s pretty much overwhelmed by high school, let alone his new side hustle as a Stark Industries intern-slash-superhero.
And yet he managed to hold his own against Iron Man, against Tony Stark — even against Robert Downey Jr., a formidable scene partner. I love the MCU, but as that world only got more gloom-and-doom, stakes higher and deadlier, Peter Parker was a refreshing reminder that we shouldn’t ever become too comfortable with the havoc wreaked by inter-dimensional warfare. In Far From Home, Peter is rocked with grief over Tony’s death, reminded at every turn that Iron Man still looms large. Mostly he wants to go on a summer trip to Europe with his classmates, especially Zendaya’s MJ.
Add to that well-earned teenage angst one healthy dash of dry-witted, confident charm in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio, a new potential mentor as Peter questions what his obligations are in a post-Endgame world. Everything we were hearing or seeing about Far From Home seemed perfectly aligned to help EW launch something new.
For EW’s first-ever digital cover, there were some things I knew I definitely wanted to do: take everything great about an EW print cover and build, from the ground up, an experience for our digital and social audiences.
We wanted bold, bright, saturated colors and a clean, simple background — which is why we went to the photography team JUCO. But I also wanted these images to move, and I really didn’t want that to mean it looked like a GIF or video B-roll. So JUCO shot motion portraits on a RED digital cinema camera, in addition to gorgeous traditional still images, and then EW’s video and design teams sat down to try to figure out what to make with them.
Devan Coggan’s cover story perfectly captures the giggling, bantery tone the two stars brought to the shoot, as does our “Cover Tour” video — a behind-the-scenes compliment battle walk-and-talk. I’m incredibly proud of everyone who helped this ambitious experiment come together and what we’ve pulled off for our first, but far from last, digital EW cover.
We had a lot of fun.
And, oh yeah, there were some spiders involved. At the risk of being too literal, we wanted some of that movement in the portraits to come from a few eight-legged friends. The tarantulas wrangled by Karl Miller, a trainer with Benay’s Bird & Animal Rentals, were bigger than I’d expected, but the more time we spent with them, the more relaxed everyone got.
In this age of deep fakes and constant questions over what images are real or not real — a theme Far From Home also tackles — I’m hoping our audience can enjoy these cover images while also seeing a bit more behind the curtain. For our cover shot of Jake, a tarantula climbed up a thin piece of plexiglass set just a few inches in front of his nose. For shots with Tom, who’s not so fond of his arachnid counterparts, we shot footage of the spiders crawling across the table or up a clear prop and then composited the images together. I promise that nothing about how charming or adorable either of these men are was manipulated in any way whatsoever.
By the end of the shoot, as our cover stars got changed to head off to a late-night TV appearance, the EW crew was ready to try our hand at being brave. “Have a nice, calm energy,” Miller told us as we approached the spiders. “Most people just get so in awe of these complex machines that they kind of forget about their fears and just go with it and have fun.”
— Shana Naomi Krochmal
Digital Director, EW