Colorists at Company 3 contributed to seven films exhibiting in the 2018 Sundance Film Festival®. In addition to coloring a significant share of the major studio releases every year – recent features including Wonder Woman, It and All the Money in the World – it always been part of Co3’s essential mission to work with talented indie filmmakers.
Actor Andrew Heckler’s directorial debut, Burden (U.S. Dramatic Competition), colored by Stephen Nakamura, is based on the emotionally powerful true story of the journey of devoted Klansman, Mike Burden and the stranger-than-fiction course of events that led to his rescue from financial destitution by African American preacher, Reverend Kennedy (Forest Whitaker). Tom Wilkinson and Usher Raymond co-star.
“I think this is going to be a standout at the festival,” says Nakamura. “It’s so well-done. The cinematographer, Jeremy Rouse, did excellent work. You’d never know this was Andrew’s first film as a director. He was very clear about what he wanted the movie to feel like.”
Heckler credits Company 3 and Nakamura for helping him feel comfortable in the post process. “I had no idea what DI was,” he says. “People at Company 3 gave me a tutorial before I started work and then Stephen sat down with me and over coffee we talked about all kinds of things, not just the film. He completely grasped the feelings I descried and when we sat down in his theater, he had done some pre-work that showed he’d completely gotten what I wanted. He translated what I’d said into the idea of deeper blacks and an almost ‘grainy’ look that was beautiful and he explained exactly why he did it in terms of the story. When I said I’d thought of a very slight sepia feel, he immediately showed me something that incorporated that idea into the look. He has all the experience in the world and I’m a first-time director but he made the experience collaborative and enjoyable. I think the film benefitted enormously from working with Stephen and Company 3.”
Tim Stipan applied his talents to the stark contemporary drama Leave No Trace, the anticipated follow-up to director Debra Granik’s widely lauded Winter’s Bone. This intimate story concerns a veteran and PTSD-sufferer (Ben Foster) who lives completely off the grid with his 13-year-old daughter totally within the confines of a Portland, Oregon park. The drama takes off when events send their lives in an unexpected direction.
Shot by Michael McDonough (Winter’s Bone), the material is set in the woods shot with natural light. “We worked to help enhance the feel,” says Stipan, who was delighted to re-team with the creators of that previous film, which he also colored. “This called for a really bold look at times but also a bit of grittiness.
Before the filmmakers started principal photography Stipan worked with McDonough and Granik to build a film emulation LUT, which was inspired by the ways some Fujifilm stocks had “with the strong yellows and greens. There’s so much vegetation everywhere, so much green, and then a lot of earth tones,” he says. “The LUTs allowed everyone on set and in picture editorial to see the material with a look similar to the one the final film would have. It is generally a very good idea to work with your colorist before shooting commences because it’s helpful for the DP, director, department heads and everyone involved to have at least a rough version of a final look as a reference throughout the shooting and editing phases filmmaking.”
Tom Poole at Company 3 in New York handled color grading for two amazing features in the US Dramatic Competition. First, director/DP Reed Morano, fresh off her triumph directing the first three episodes of Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale, shot and directed I Think We’re Alone Now featuring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning as the last two people on earth. Poole also colored Monster, the feature debut renowned music video artists, director Anthony Mandler and cinematographer David Devlin. The drama looks at a young honors student (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) who finds himself caught up in the legal system. Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Jenifer Ehle and Tim Blake Nelson round out the ensemble cast.
Filmmaker Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap (US Documentary Competition) started out as a compilation of his and his friends’ skateboarding adventures over some 15 years of the 24-year-old’s life and turned into something much more personal and dark. Colored by Chicago-based colorist Tyler Roth, the film shows a group of kids growing up before the viewers’ eyes in economically troubled Rockford, Illinois and it delves into deeply personal territory about the skateboarding friends and their family issues.
Roth worked with Liu in the process of setting a look for the film overall and for the large amount of home movie material shot on more than ten camera formats spanning nearly 15 years. Roth created some customized looks to get the most out of this imagery and then added an overarching “timeless Americana look,” Roth describes. “Not ‘vintage,’ but timeless. And then within that, tone of the color grading follows what’s happening to the people in the film, with some portions reflecting warmer, lighter happier moments and a cooler type of feel for the emotionally darker portions.”
Short films have always been an excellent way for filmmakers to break into the industry or tell stories that might not be appropriate for a feature. The short Blue Christmas, from director Charlotte Wells and cinematographer Robbie Ryan, is set at a Scottish coastal town in 1968. Colored by Kath Raisch of Company 3, the story concerns a debt collector who goes to work on Christmas Eve rather than face his wife’s declining mental state.
The new Indie Episodic category offers another way for creative independent filmmakers to demonstrate their ability to create this type of work, sell projects as short form web content and/or to use as a proof-of-concept for a longer-format series. Paint (Indie Episodic), directed by Michael Walker and shot by Sam Chase, was colored in New York by Tim Masick. This short series, which will run as a 36-minute film, looks at a group of young people who have moved to New York to try to break into the competitive art world. Masick had worked with Chase on commercials but this type of project is new to most of the people doing it. Paint was shot on locations throughout New York and Westchester County. “Sam brought a naturalistic feel to help focus our attention on the characters,” says Masick, “and that informed the color work.”
SusaneLand, three short-form vignettes of roughly four minutes each, is the brainchild of lead Susane Lee and director Andrew Olsen. Colored at Company 3 by Bryan Smaller and shot by Alex O. Gaynor, the very short episodes present the creators unique, surreal take on existence in today’s strange times. “We graded the episodes as though they are artistic dramas,” Smaller says, “and that plays against how strange and funny the things are that actually happen. It’s an interesting approach, really playing against expectations.”