Colourists can be film production’s invisible heroes; although armed with the superpower to craft work from a bronze to gold, the truth is, the less you notice the colour, the better it probably was. World-class Colourist and Flame artist, Jarryd Duthoit from Left Post Production shared his insights on the role of Colourists in production, how to get the best out of your collaboration with colourists, and talks colour trends.
‘If a picture speaks a thousand words, the colour is the tone in which the words are spoken.’
In 2020 Jarryd Duthoit was awarded the Loeries Young Creatives Award, making him the first person to win the award from the post-production field. His dedication to his craft, photographic sensibility and love of filmmaking has seen him become a formidable Colourist. He joined Left almost 5 years ago and has since worked with some of South Africa’s best directors and on some of the biggest brand ads. Having just finished working on director John Barker’s latest film, The Umbrella Men, Executive Producer Jacqui Pearson introduces us to Jarryd over video call: ‘This is the most talented Colourist in the country.’
Screengrab from Jarryd’s latest film ‘The Umbrella Men’
Q: First off, what exactly does a Colourist do?
Jarryd: If a picture speaks a thousand words, the colour is the tone in which the words are spoken. I look at the images and use colour to elevate and heighten the emotion the director wants to convey with these images. As a Colourist you have to be aware that you are not just bringing your own taste or voice to a piece, it’s completely about collaboration between you and each director.
Q: How did you get into this?
Jarryd: I have always had a camera on me, everywhere I go. I wanted to go into stills photography but didn’t want to take photos of weddings, so I studied to be a DOP and then I found colour grading and I fell in love. I thought how cool is this!? You get to take something that is already there and make it look even more beautiful. I could make people fall in love with their projects again. I knew there was nothing else for me. All I wanted to do was to sit in a dark room and make things pretty
Screengrab from Jarryd’s award-winning short film ‘My Beskermer’
Q: Are there colour trends in film and does South Africa follow any at the moment?
Jarryd: There are and they are usually set by top international photographers and film replicates those trends. South Africa is usually a few months behind these trends. We have a very warm, saturated, bright look and we are moving into an edgier stage where everything is going darker and more cinematic. Clients are a bit more apprehensive and still want it brighter but there is definitely a shift. In the UK, the look is very blue and grainy, they put film grain over everything there. Hollywood is still keeping it clean in terms of grain and we are sitting somewhere in the middle. Here the 8mm look is coming back and we are heading toward an ‘edgier’ time. I am guided by the trends but it’s never set in stone for me. I’m more focused on pushing the boundaries and finding what looks really cool for your film or commercial, this means looking at each film as a unique piece of work.
Sometimes things are a little more set in stone though, for instance, some brands do use a specific colour palette, which means as a Colourist I know I need to push the greens or reds on this project. In these commercials, the viewer usually knows within the first frame what the brand is.
Q: How do you find the right ‘look’ for a commercial
Jarryd: When I sit with a director for our first session, I will always share with them what is trending and what I think will work for their project. But it’s really about collaboration and listening and understanding their vision so that together we can find the best look for their film.
Each director also has their own look, like a Ross Garret (from Darling Films) for example, who I often work with, he has a very filmic look. He has a background as a photographer and that translates beautifully into film.
Screengrab from Jarryd’s commercial for ‘Castle Lite’
Q: Is it better for a director to meet with their Colourist before they shoot, or does post really mean post?
Jarryd: We wish they would meet with us before! We would very much encourage that approach. Post is unfortunately often an afterthought and it is so important to the overall piece of work. Including your post team in pre-production can elevate any film. More often than not, by the time I am handed a film, my options are very limited in what we can achieve in grade. If we meet before a shoot, we can plan for a director to shoot for a specific look or colour.
Many directors do work with us before they shoot though, and some directors will collaborate with us before they do their commercial treatments. We just completed a Stella Artois job which was very post heavy and director Amr Singh from Fort and I had several meetings before he went to set. It makes a huge difference.
Q: What advice would you give South Africans who want to elevate their colour work?
Jarryd: I would say let’s pre-prod together, bounce off ideas. Obviously, we understand that it can be a challenge for a director to include us in the filmmaking process from the beginning because deadlines in South Africa are often very tight. However, when possible, early collaboration with your Colourist will inevitably provide you with you more options in post and an overall better-looking film.
Jarryd Did That