Thursday, October 20, 2016
  • Friday, Feb. 5, 2016
POV (Perspective)
Composing The Color of Lovesong

As a colorist you always hope that every film you work on will have the opportunity to be recognized as an excellent piece of filmmaking. It makes the hard work and creative decisions that went into the film all the more rewarding. That’s how I felt when I learned from director So Yong Kim that Lovesong would be in competition at Sundance this year.

Before the first rough cut of Lovesong was done, I started discussing the approach for color with the director and her cinematographers, Guy Godfree and Kat Westergaard. Starting this early was ideal, as it allowed us ample time to maximize our effort to find the look that best served the story.

The film is about love that develops between its two main characters, Sarah (Riley Keough) and Mindy (Jena Malone). Their story unfolds in a subtle and natural way, and we wanted to make sure that the color acted in service of that narrative.

The film inherently looked and felt different just based on the styles and sensibilities Guy and Kat individually brought to the two halves of the film. Cinematography and color grade are utilized along with the art direction to illustrate a passage of time.

Kat’s first half was warm, less contrasty and had an inviting and colorful feel.  In the second half, shot by Guy, more cool tones come into play, with a bit more contrast. The warm tones are from more artificial sources at this point and these convey how the characters have matured and how their relationship has evolved.

What I loved about our process for Lovesong was that the filmmakers didn’t come in with any color references. On many projects, creatives will come in with existing films or still frames as looks that they want to reference.  We wanted the essence of footage itself to serve as the starting point. We were only ever referring to the beautiful footage that So, Kat and Guy had captured as the basis for where the look of the film would go.

We started grading this film very early in the post process, basically as soon as we had a rough cut that well represented the core of the film. This gave us the opportunity to reflect on, and feel confident about, each creative decision. By the time the final cut was locked, most of the decisions for color had been made, and it was really just a matter of fine-tuning.

The end result is a look that feels as honest and real as the film itself. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the world getting to see what these artists crafted at Sundance and subsequent festivals.

About the author

Sal Malfitano is a colorist at Nice Shoes, New York. He has held a constant curiosity about the aesthetic trends in color imagery and the process and science behind it all.