The Art of Quality: Tom Poole

The rating gives a cohesive “look” to a drama, but a good rating can improve mood, focus, and narrative flow.

In Televisual’s spring issue, we interviewed four high-profile artists about their craft.

In the first of the series, here is the interview with Company 3’s Tom Pool (12 Years a Slave, Spotlight, Euphoria Cruella, Judas and the Black Messiah, Small Axe, Drive, I Tonya, The Place Beyond The Pines, Foxcatcher)

With the second season of Euphoria, DP Marcell Rév used the cross-processed 35mm Ektachrome. There’s this lovely creamy texture to the picture. The digital advancements are incredible, but I think things tend to become more homogenous. A lot of DPs and directors would love to take a risk like Euphoria – a major studio enabling cross-processing of Ektachrome on a TV show that was already successful on digital. Hopefully this opens the door for more filmmakers to be experimental in episodes.

You have certain relationships with DPs. The one I have with Marcell looks like the one I have with [12 Years a Slave DP] Sean Bobbit. It’s like a drummer and a bassist and you just have that cadence, and it works perfectly. When the DP finds their colorist and they have that vibe, it’s the best feeling in the world. You are lucky when you get these connections. And if you have a good relationship with a DP, you can be honest with them. In the end, it’s the images of the director and the DP, but I think a good relationship has a positive conflict. An editor will debate with a director on the cut and a colorist will debate with the DPs.

The science of colors is very important. I create a lookup table for every show I work on. Some colorists, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just have their go-to LUT. For me there are so many variables in the quality of the lenses or the filtration used and the lighting used, I like to create a lookup table which is a good basis for how the project was shot and which works for the package.

I’ll watch a piece for myself a few times, just to get a feel for it and take notes on things that jumped out at me. And then I create a color bible where that first session is really loose and you just set a few shots on every scene in the movie and move on. And then I’m going to string these selected shots together for you to watch a sizzle reel of the scenes in order and how they play out to each other. And then we’ll make adjustments from there. It’s very instinctive, you’re not sitting on a stage. A good analogy would be carving – you start carving big blocks, getting the shape, and little by little you slowly start to focus more on the details.

I’m not really referring to other films. I refer a lot to photography. I like when the screen image looks like it could be printed on photographic paper – where there’s texture in the highlights, texture in the dark, and it doesn’t look like a video image, it looks like a moving photographic print. The people who influenced me when I was riding were people like Jean-Clément Soret and what Jeunet was doing with Amelie or city ​​of lost children and deli. They were very powerful photochemical looks at the time. When we were becoming telecine artists, everything you saw in the cinema was a film copy and we always aspired to that copycat look. So we’ve always had this association of the cinematic feel being projected as the ultimate version of something.

A good note completes the story. The viewer should not be too aware of the note. That’s not to say you can’t have a heavy look, but for a good rating, the first thing is that it makes it easier to see the DP. There are colorists who want more recognition for their contribution to a film. For me, the only recognition I need is for people to talk about cinematography in a positive light. If so, I did a good job.

There are a lot of responsibilities. I’ve seen the pain and suffering that filmmakers have endured to get their films made. I’ve seen the process ruin people’s marriages; I’ve seen them get sick trying to finish a movie. And so, as a colorist, you need to have all your boxes ticked and their lives made easier. In the beginning when I was editing, for me it was about ‘how does my work represent who I am as a colourist?’ As I got older, I realized that the relationships and friendships I have are the most important things in a career. Because you can be really talented, but if people don’t like you and you’re not a good communicator, you won’t have a long career.

I have trained a few people over the years who have become colorists and others who have not. You might have people who have an amazing eye, but they just hate the client dynamic and the pressure of having people sitting behind them. It’s about being kind, confident, a good politician, a problem solver. There’s a lot of left-brain/right-brain stuff. You have to be very creative, but you also have to be incredibly technical.

Jon Cremier

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