The colour of Clint Eastwood
When Clint Eastwood came to direct his first digitally-shot movie, he turned to the post-production facilities at Warner Bros. in Burbank to ensure the process ran smoothly. That included developing an understanding with lead colourist, Maxine Gervais.
That first movie was the adaptation of stage musical Jersey Boys, telling the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The project went so well that he is using the same collaborators for his next movie, the very different American Sniper. The Cinematographer on both movies is Tom Stern.
“I first met with Tom early on Jersey Boys, prior to shooting,” said Gervais. “Tom and I discussed doing dailies on Baselight. We established looks that we converted into LUTs to plug into the Baselight for interior and exterior daylight, interior and exterior night time. These LUTs could be loaded on set as well.
“We set those looks at the beginning, so when we started getting the material all I had to do was grab those looks and balance things out,” she explained.
Stern shot on an ARRI ALEXA. The dailies were done at full resolution 2K anamorphic and HD files were created for Avid. Once the cut was locked it came back to Maxine Gervais and her Baselight for the final grade.
“Clint is very savvy, but he trusts Tom and left most of the DI technical decisions to Tom and me,” she said. “Tom and I started working together, establishing a look, and then Clint came to review it and provide feedback.”
“His main direction was to go with a strong period look, with largely de-saturated colours. We showed him examples of where we could go with that, and he gave us the go-ahead. To create the sixties look, I would pull certain colours – like elements of the wardrobe and the lipstick of Frankie Valli’s wife – and saturate those at a higher percentage in comparison to the rest of the image that was at a low saturation. This created a little colour separation and allowed some pop. I was aiming for what I imagine television looked like in the sixties.
“We showed Clint some looks and he said ‘yes, that’s it’. Once we knew what he wanted and what he liked, we just went from there and let our creative minds do the work.
“It is an intricate look,” Gervais added. “When you go very de-saturated you are always going to require a little more balancing, a little more subtle care. That is a challenge.
“It was such a fun project to work on though. Normally I would grade without the sound first and then do the final colour review with sound. But this time I coloured with the music. It was like the colours and the music all came together. It made me want to dance and sing, and I would always leave the office with one of their songs in my head – it was very inspiring.
“I love Tom’s work. He shoots fast, but always gets the lighting just right. He really understands what can be done in the DI. It made the technical and creative process that much easier.”
While Maxine was finishing Jersey Boys, Eastwood and Stern approached her about their next project - American Sniper.
“We discussed the look of the film in detail with Tom, so what I am giving editorial will be very close to what we think the DI will be,” she explained. “Again, I am supervising the dailies, and the workflow is running really well. In fact, I am trying to push this workflow on most movies now, because it is a really smooth way of working.”
Central to this workflow is the power and capabilities of the Baselight. “There are so many ways to achieve looks in Baselight, that I know I would find far more difficult in other tools.
“In my early days, every time I ran into a challenge, I would talk to the FilmLight team, and they would help me find the tools I needed,” Gervais recalled. “Now, with my experience, there is really nothing I cannot do in terms of achieving the right look.
“And with Baselight I can do it pretty efficiently,” she added. “I have had comments from DoPs in the past like ‘wow, you are fast!’ Baselight allows me to do things like re-shaping, grabbing or saturating the sky without having to do a key, and getting there really quickly.”Talking of her work on Jersey Boys and now American Sniper, Maxine Gervais said, “For me it is an honour to work with such iconic filmmakers. They really are the most amazing creative minds and very fun to work with – a wonderful experience for me.”
“In my early days, every time I ran into a challenge, I would talk to the FilmLight team, and they would help me find the tools I needed.
Now, with my experience, there is really nothing I cannot do in terms of achieving the right look.”
Find out more about Baselight on Jersey Boys.