Speaking with José Durán, a colorist whose experience flows between production and post, we dive into his work to gracefully reflect on the value of color grading on storytelling and the tipping point that shifted his career.
1. As a film colorist, how do you view your role in shaping the overall visual aesthetics and storytelling of a film?
It takes an army to make a film, my role is to understand the world that the director created and enhance the production design and photography. Helping create a visual experience in which the viewer can get immersed.
2. What initially sparked your interest in becoming a film colorist, and how did you pursue a career in this field?
I’ve always been fascinated by the mediums of capturing images (film photography / vhs/ mini dv, digital) and curious of the spectator’s emotional response. This motivated me to pursue an advertising degree in 2012 with the goal of making music videos and commercials as going to film school in DR was not a “viable” career path back then. In parallel to my education in 2009 I started out as a PA in a production company then worked through all the other departments until I reached post production. A DOP friend who had recently come back from studying in Spain in 2013 introduced me to the role of a DIT (Digital image technician), in his own words “it’s doing post on set, you’ll love it”. Soon after I got an opportunity to attend the prestigious EICTV in Cuba for an intensive on DIT, which allowed me to work on big budget projects through Lantica Media & Pinewood Studios during 2017-2021. After that I started doing color assistance for a local-based project under Nancy Angulo (EICTV Color correction teacher). We became friends and she took me under her wing… and after a ton of indie projects here we are.
3. Film color grading often involves working with various visual styles and moods. How do you maintain consistency while keeping each project unique?
The main tool of a colorist is to have a very good understanding about film, complemented by knowledge about color theory, art history and contemporary art, all of which will aid in developing TASTE. Right now technology is advancing at a very rapid pace but one thing that AI still can’t do is develop taste.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring film colorists who are looking to make a mark in the industry?
Study the technical aspects first: explore the workflows and color models and after that read books, go to art galleries, have friends in different creative areas, not only in film. Music, fashion, food, anything artistic can fuel your taste and with the right knowledge you can transform that into beautiful images
5. How do you see the role of film colorists evolving in the industry, considering the advancements in technology and visual effects?
The role is to offer SOLUTIONS and a fresh perspective. It’s vital to learn how to work in a team for the good of the project and not as an individual. If you're not a team player then I'm sorry, you’re better off in a different creative field.
6. As streaming platforms become increasingly popular, do you believe there is a shift in color grading requirements for projects intended primarily for digital distribution? How does this impact your work?
Yes, like all things it has positive and negative things, the positive is that the audience is bigger, the negative is the displays and proper viewing experience sometimes is not good because the common viewer does not have the time or the technical knowledge to calibrate the screens or having a proper/controlled viewing environment.
7. Do you have any thoughts on the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning in color grading, and its potential impact on the market?
It makes the technical work easier and faster which translate in more work in less time, also for editors or other creative people now is easier to have something that looks good without all the technical knowledge that you need to properly color grade, but the major shift that i can see on the horizon is that the role of the colorist will become more artistic than technical, the high end tier will still need colorists with developed taste to work on projects that require an artistic vision.
8. Can you share some exciting projects you have on the horizon or any personal creative endeavors you're currently exploring?
Of course! Right now i’m grading a biopic that spans 3 different eras and the main character travels to various countries in Latin America (this is why it is important to travel as the sun behaves differently depending on the country and that renders the colors different).