As its full-time facility director and colourist, Steve Cook knows The Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-operative (NIFCO) inside out. He’s currently deep into important upgrades to keep NIFCO on the cutting edge of post-production technology, but, lucky for us, he put his generosity to work and made time to discuss what he does.
When did your career with NIFCO begin?
I’ve been at NIFCO since 1999, but before that I was involved when NIFCO bought its first computer based editing systems in 1994, so this is twenty-two years in total NIFCO time. I’ve been tasked with keeping NIFCO on the cutting edge of post-production technology since then.
What does a colourist do?
A colourist helps the filmmaker make the images of a film look the best they can and balance and match each shot within a scene. Sometimes it’s simply making the image look normal. Often, though, it’s interpreting and implementing a ‘look’ that adds to the storytelling. I use various techniques such as adjusting contrast, adding vibrancy, or reducing saturation to invoke the viewer to feel what is happening in a scene or film.
What keeps you passionate about work?
The filmmakers. I’ve worked with some incredibly talented people over the years. They’ve taught me so much about the art of filmmaking. I’ll never want to make my own film, but I will be as enthusiastic as they are, and I take their direction and ideas to add to their vision. I absolutely love the collaboration. There’s also the technology side of colouring and post-production. I get to work with the best equipment, the latest tools, and the best people here at NIFCO.
Were there any unique challenges that forced you to develop your skills to a higher degree?
The biggest project was obviously Republic of Doyle. I coloured every episode over the six years it was in production. It really taught me to make good quick decisions, and I think everyone was generally pleased with how the show looked and featured the City of St. John’s. The NIFCO Picture Start films are always fun to do because the filmmakers always want to do something a little different, and the production value is high on those films. I guess the biggest challenge is always trying to stay up on the latest software and technologies. NIFCO is in the midst of making the leap from HD to UHD (4K) and High Dynamic Range image capture. The images of today will look vastly different in a year or two.
What advice do you have for any local budding colourists?
I would say learn about the craft from watching films and observe how the filmmaker uses colour to tell the story. Work with people that are inspired and want to make movies. Observe nature, as well. Look at everything with different lights. It’s important to understand what different times of day look like. Learn about the technical aspects of filmmaking. A complete understanding of colour science and camera formats is also vitally important.