Since its inception, Company 3 has always handled color work for exciting projects by promising new talent prior to major film festivals and this year is no exception. Company 3 colorists finished several powerful and memorable films that screened (virtually, in most cases) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Sam Daley, who colored three very different types of films for their Sundance premieres, says of the chilling John and the Hole that it is “something of a fable but it’s rooted in reality.” Directed by Pascual Sisto, shot by Paul Özgür and edited by Sara Shaw, the film stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Charlie Shotwell (Captain Fantastic) and is based on a short story by Argentine novelist and Birdman screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone and concerns a very odd young man, John (Shotwell) who holds his entire family captive.
IndieWire refers to the movie as a “constant visual wonder, with cinematographer Paul Özgür’s 4:3 aspect ratio tapping into the paranoia lingering over each scene, and the stellar production design by Jacqueline Abraham (whose credits range from The Lobster to Lady Macbeth) endows each room of the [family’s] home with an expansive quality that adds to the impression of a self-contained universe defined by John’s curiosity.”
“It is ultimately a very interesting character piece,” says Daley, “and it is also a strong commentary on isolation that I think is very relevant today.”
We’re all going to the World’s Fair (Daley) was directed and edited by Jane Schoenbrun and shot by Daniel Patrick Carbone. The unusual story centers on a young woman, Casey (Anna Cobb) “who gets involved with an online movement that has a darker side to it,” says the colorist. “None of the characters interact in the same room as one another. Everyone communicates through screens.”
While Casey was shot quite cleanly by ARRI Alexa cameras, the other characters were all covered by low-end consumer format cameras. The Hollywood Reporter‘s very positive review says, “We get to know Casey by what she watches, but more importantly, how the camera watches her. We are often positioned as the screen she’s looking at, functioning as some of the few witnesses to her self-expression. The use of dark and glowing lights in the film illuminates the loneliness of her journey.”
Daley found the approach compelling. “It has a modern feel to it,” Daley notes, also observing that while the film was shot prior to the onset of the pandemic, “it’s even more relatable now because this is how we’ve all been interacting for ten months straight.”
On the Count of Three (Daley), made it to USA Today‘s well-read “All the Best Movies We Saw at Sundance” list. It is the film directorial debut of stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael and it was shot by Marshall Adams and edited by Tom Eagles and Ernie Gilbert. Carmichael stars, Henry Winkler and J.B. Smoove co-star and Tiffany Haddish, who’d appeared on Carmichael’s eponymous The Carmichael Show on NBC, also appears in the film. For Daley, the style was reminiscent of much of the independent films of the 1990s, many of which have become classics, and many of which he color timed during his days at New York film lab DuArt, a Mecca of indie cinema at the time. It wasn’t the story that suggested that comparison, Daly notes, “but the story and the look gave me that vibe. Even though it’s a contemporary story, it feels sort of timeless so we used the grade to give the film a sense of style that plays into those qualities.”
Daley used Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve to bring specifically filmic qualities to the imagery, combining the look both of film print emulation with a hint of the old two-strip dye transfer color process used primarily in the 1920s and ’30s. “A lot of the grading was about bringing out skin tones and then using these techniques to make the blues a little cyan and push the reds in the yellow direction like you see in those 2-strip films. We kept the look as far away from primary colors as much as possible.”
The Blazing World (Tim Stipan), which IndieWire calls “visually dazzling” is very much about color, with a number of surreal portions filled with strong, powerful and unusual colors in the cinematography and production design. Directed by Carlson Young, shot by Shane F. Kelly and edited by James K. Crouch, the film stars Young, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw and Udo Kier.
Stipan enjoyed working with the filmmakers who began the color grading process already very prepared. “They gave me a look book,” says Stipan, “which was very helpful and inspiring. There are a lot of strong colors like pinks and yellows and purples and greens in very interesting combinations and it all turned out to be really beautiful.”
Marvelous and the Black Hole (Andre Rivas), the feature directing debut of Kate Tsang, was shot by Nanu Segal and edited by Cyndi Trissel and Ryan Denmark. The film was brought to Company 3 (then called EFilm) as part of the company’s work with Film Independent’s Project Involve program designed to help filmmakers from underrepresented communities tell their story. It concerns 13-year-old girl, Sammy (Miya Cech), who, in addition to facing the normal angst of teen life, is also dealing emotional fallout from her mother’s death and the awkwardness of a dad trying to start dating again. Things start to change for Sammy when she meets a rather eccentric parlor magician (Rhea Perelman) who mentors her in magic and ultimately affects her life in more important ways.
One particularly interesting aspect of coloring the film for Rivas was related to portions that needed to resemble 1950s era Chinese fantasy films of the type Tsang had watched as a child.
The filmmakers, Rivas says, “shot everything with ARRI Alexas, but the scenes that were meant to evoke the old-style Chinese film are in 1.77:1 aspect ratio and we also added film grain and vignettes and some flickery elements to the images to help give them the kind of look the director was after. We also gave the whites a bit of a blown-out, glowy halo quality. That was an interesting process and I think it came out well.”
RogerEbert.com refers to the inventive coming-of-age film as “a wholly sincere crowd-pleaser”.
Judas and the Black Messiah (Tom Poole, with visual effects work created at sister company Powerhouse VFX) takes a powerful look at the Black Panthers of the late 1960s and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive desire to destroy what he saw as an existential threat to his view of America. Directed by Shaka King, shot by Sean Bobbitt and edited by Kristan Sprague, the film screened out of competition at the festival and received excellent reviews. The Hollywood Reporter declared it “boldly assured issues-based filmmaking with real heart, and above all with a saddened sense of how the past maintains its hold on the present.”
Poole, who has collaborated with Bobbitt on many of the cinematographer’s most highly-regarded films, including 12 Years a Slave and Widows (both directed by Oscar-winner Steve McQueen) helped finetune the film’s period feel.
The Reporter review goes on to say, “Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt gives the film a textured neo-retro look in which colors pop against the generally more muted tones of Sam Lisenco’s production design and Charlese Antoinette Jones’ period costumes, which add to the ambience without ever drawing attention to themselves.”