Since the dawn of colour cinema, there has always been a demand for a skilled and sympathetic person to guide colour throughout a production. But, even today, while the director and cinematographer may be household names, the work of the colourist is often not recognised. In 2021, to correct this neglect of a vital talent in the overall creative team, the FilmLight Colour Awards were born.
“We launched the Colour Awards with a goal to ensure that the wonderful efforts of colourists around the world are recognised and celebrated – not just within the narrow circle of the industry, but widely and publicly,” comments Wolfgang Lempp, co-founder and CEO of FilmLight.
The 2023 awards are currently open for entries, closing on 31 July 2023. They are free to enter and open to colourists across the globe, working on any grading platform. There are five categories: theatrical feature; television series/episodic; commercial; music video; and the Spotlight award, for colourists working under the constraints of lower budget projects.
The awards are judged by an independent panel of high-profile creatives, cinematographers and colourists, bringing their understanding of how an image is made, and how its light and shade creates a mood and a dynamic. Winners will be announced at the EnergaCAMERIMAGE festival in Toruń, Poland, in November.
We caught up with a few of this year’s jury members about their relationship with colour and asked them what they’re looking for in this year’s entries.
Greig Fraser, cinematographer ACS, ASC
Greig Fraser, award-winning Australian cinematographer known for his work on Dune and Zero Dark Thirty, describes his relationship with colour as being much deeper and more interesting than it has ever been before.
“My wife is in the textile business and she has taught me a lot on the nuances and subtleties of colour which I’ve been able to bring into my work,” explains Fraser. “Since starting to shoot on digital, I’ve found that colour is particularly important because we now have the opportunity to create really subtle nuances that we may not have been able to find in the past, with old techniques.”
Fraser deeply values the role of the colourist in his work as a cinematographer.
“If you don’t have a colourist that is in tune with the filmmakers and in tune with the story, you could end up with something that’s very incongruous to the final picture. And unfortunately, those films do exist, where the colour is not related directly into the film itself – it becomes an outlier. And I feel like this means you lose the overall success of the visuals.”
“My relationship with the colourist begins from the second I start talking to the director, when I start shooting tests to work out exactly how the film needs to feel. And there’s always a really stressful time at the beginning of a pre-production where the film doesn’t look the way you want it to, it’s not quite there, or you need to make some changes. This is when you need to have a very good visual partner in the colourist, who is able to contribute more than just making the colour at the end.”
In the 2023 Colour Award entries, Fraser is looking for vision and new ideas.
“We live in a space where often films become very ‘the same’ and are based on a trend or previous ideas,” he explains. “I’m looking for original vision.”
Daniela Cajías, cinematographer AEC
Daniela Cajías, an acclaimed Bolivian cinematographer, brings her perspective to the jury as the first woman to win the Goya Award for Best Cinematography (2021).
For Cajías, colour is a process which starts with an idea and evolves through to the finished piece.
“I always go to the colour room with an idea, but it’s only when the film is finished that I know exactly how to complement the film’s narrative through colour,” explains Cajías. “Over the years, the respect and enjoyment I have for this stage of the process of making a film only grows.”
Commenting on becoming the first woman in the 35-year history of the Goya Awards to win the award for best cinematography, for her work on Las Niñas, Cajías said:
“I think it is a fact that speaks for itself about the reality for women in the cinematography in Spain, but I do feel that this is gradually changing.”
When judging the 2023 Colour Award entries, Cajías is “interested in finding new or original proposals that subtly accompany the narrative and complement it”.
Ricky Gausis, senior colourist and creative partner at TRAFIK
Ricky Gausis, senior colourist and creative partner at TRAFIK, is recognised as one of the world’s most influential colourists. He emphasises the importance of restraint and control, pointing out that the best colour doesn’t always mean the most colour.
“I’m very honoured to be involved in this years’ judging of the FilmLight Colour Awards”, comments Gausis. “To me, FilmLight is a name synonymous with high end colour grading and has always stood out as the company that truly cares the most about image crafting and working closely with colourists to give them the best tools to achieve any desired outcome.”
“Personally, I am looking forward to seeing work that shows originality and is executed with control. Historically, many awards shows confuse ‘best’ colour with ‘most’ colour, so I will be scoring restraint shown by the colourist as highly as any other factors.”
Commenting on the Spotlight category, which aims to recognise colourists working under the constraints of lower budgets, Gausis speaks of the extra pressures that this can put on the colourist.
“Whether you’re a colourist at the top of your game or just starting out, you would have dealt with lower budget projects at some point and will know how challenging they can be,” he says. “Often the DP wouldn’t have had the budget to light some set-ups the way they would have liked and will lean heavily on the colourist to ‘relight’ the shot. It’s a great skill to understand what is and isn’t attainable with all types of footage, and low budget projects really help a colourist hone this important skill.”
Ahmet Sesigurgil, cinematographer
Sesigurgil was born in Turkey, studied in Denmark and London, spent some time living in New York, and is now based in Istanbul ¬– travelling between Turkey, Europe and the US to shoot features, streaming series and documentaries. In 2018, he was credited for his work on Four Cornered Triangle, which won best cinematography at the Kayseri Film Festival.
For Sesigurgil, a good colourist shows curiosity, courage and methodology and he likes to involve the colourist early in the film-making process.
“As soon as I’m committed to working on a visual project, I like to know who I’m going to be working with as a DIT and colour artist,” he comments. “Right after I begin talking to the director and production designer (and in some cases, the producer), I like to introduce all their ideas to each other.
“I like to create a pre-graded camera/lens specific LUT that becomes a standard for the whole production and post pipeline, and eventually the look of the project. I have never found this process to be limiting at any stage, as long as it’s well collaborated on and communicated. On the contrary, it leaves a lot of time and resources for improvement in post.”
In the Colour Awards, Sesigurgil is looking for “consistency, craftsmanship and creativity”.
“Above this, I’d love to see originality and personality,” concludes Sesigurgil.
Entering the awards
Colourists, production companies and facilities are invited to put forward their nominations, with a final deadline of 31 July 2023.
For more information on the categories, jury and instructions on how to enter, visit: https://www.filmlightcolourawards.com/
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