Meet The Colourist
Head of Colour, The Mill, Chicago
A native Londoner, Luke started his career at The Mill where he quickly gained recognition for his work on music videos and commercials.
In 2013, he moved across to the Midwest to head up The Mill Chicago's colour department. Since then, Luke's highlights include work for Beats, Prada, Jeep, Miller, Porsche, State Farm, Wrigley’s Extra Gum and a VR film for Jack Daniel’s. In the past four years, Luke has grown his department and been an instrumental player in the position of The Mill Chicago as the premium creative technology and content studio in the Midwest.
I started off, like so many at The Mill, as a Runner. I initially thought I wanted to get into 3D and after a month of modeling a photo-real screwdriver I realised that wasn’t the path for me. Luckily, I poked my nose into the colour suites and saw them working with neg and lacing up the Spirit telecine. I was immediately drawn to it. It resonated with me and with my love of photography.
Yes, I like to take photos in my spare time. I actually take pictures all the time. I always carry some sort of camera with me. I’m fortunate to have a father who is a keen photographer and he had a darkroom in our house when I was young. I was always fascinated with what he was doing up there, in the “red room”.
Photography for me is all about looking at your surroundings and capturing or documenting life and sharing it with other people. I started a photography club at The Mill, S35, because I wanted to share that part of my passion with people. I find as a ‘creative’ you need to have other outlets to feed into other parts of you. S35 is about inspiring people - friends, colleagues, clients - to go back to the classic, irreplaceable practice of using 35mm film and start to consider photography in a different way than the current trends.
Yes and no. I personally haven’t changed my style to suit or accommodate the different market. I think it’s one of the things that appeals to my clients.
Chicago, however, has quite a different market than in the UK. Here, post-production is more agency lead and directors aren’t always involved in the process. In that kind of environment, there is a bigger role for the colourist to play in carrying the director's vision through or setting the tone of the ‘look’. I still strive to keep that collaboration with the director and DOP in the colour session whether it be a phone call to discuss ahead of the session, doing some grade tests or looping them in with a remote grade session.
There is definitely a difference in the suite dynamics, too. I found very quickly I had to communicate and translate the client's and my creative intent differently here.
The Mill is a global, creative technology and content studio, which means we have the ability to work on a range of media. We work on commercials, music promos, episodics and features, but always have an eye on new ways to tell narratives. That’s where the pioneering work in the emerging technology field comes into play. We’re no longer limited and are constantly looking for creative ways to remain at the forefront of creation for VR, AR, MR and experiential installations. It’s really exciting to watch it develop and to be a part of it. When Jack Daniel’s and DFCB Chicago approached us to create a VR experience taking the viewer to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Kentucky, we leapt at the chance.
Who doesn’t? It’s always nice to be working on a variety, keeping things fresh and pushing yourself creatively. We’ve moved into grading more feature projects and episodic work recently, which has been an exciting way to be creatively and technically challenged. Most recently, I’ve had a lot of fun grading some comedy specials, one for Jerrod Carmichael and one for Hasan Minhaj. This job is ever-changing, be it thanks to evolving technology, new clients or challenging projects. That’s one of the many things I love about it.
It was such a special project to collaborate on. I’ve been working with Ian Pons Jewell, who directed it, for many years now. We met way back in the day in London, when I was a Colour Assist. He would trade me deli meats and cheeses from his travels to do grades for him! That shared history made the AICE awards all the more special. It’s incredible to have continued to build that relationship and see how each of us have grown in our careers. Those kinds of partnerships are what I strive to do with every single client and job that comes through my suite.
For me, it’s always important to understand the idea, the creative intent and the tone of the spot. Once you understand that, it influences your decisions, dictates how you’ll approach the grade and what options you’ll offer the client. Then, it’s about crafting the grade appropriately and building on that.
Clients are always impressed with the speed at which I’m able to address their comments and react to things almost before they’ve said them. The tracker always gets a few “ooooooh’s” or “ahhhh’s”, too. It’s like they’re watching fireworks or something!
That’s the amazing thing about working at The Mill: we’re makers and creators for all media. Our Emerging Technologies team is constantly looking for new ways to tell stories and collaborate with our clients, whether it’s branded content or passion projects, utilising all technologies at our disposal: anything is at our fingertips, even a Pop Llama.
Well, I’ve got to have my Contax T2, an alarm clock otherwise I’d never be anywhere on time, and my bicycle.
It’s all about instincts! I’m into the technical side but I’m mostly driven by my instincts. It’s all about feeling and that comes from creating the correct environment in the suite, having a good kick off chat with clients, banging on the tunes and spinning the balls.
I find a lot of inspiration from just being outside. It might sound like a cliché but travel is massive for me and that goes hand in hand with my photography. I think it’s important to change your surroundings, be it traveling to Japan or just taking a different route to the studio. The change keeps me engaged in my surroundings, asking questions and stimulating my imagination.
- It won’t limit you.
- It can handle anything.
- It’s intuitive.
Riding (my bike) is my main thing. I usually do a 30-mile ride a few mornings a week and then 50-100 miles at the weekend. Riding keeps you constantly focused on that one thing so it’s a great way to de-stress and clear your mind.
I’ve got some great projects coming up that I’m excited about. But outside of the suite, I’ll be riding in this year’s 10th Annual Fireflies West ride. For the past 10 years, Fireflies West participants have embarked on a journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles in support of City of Hope. This year’s ride has the added challenge of an extra day tacked onto it making the ride 650 miles in total over 7 days, so...I best get training!
If you want to participate in our MTC programme, we'd love to hear from you. Contact:
e: [email protected]
“Clients are always impressed with the speed at which I’m able to address their comments with Baselight, and react to things almost before they’ve said them.”
Colourist: Luke Morrison
Role: Head of Colour
w: The Mill