Combining the Art of Cinematography, Colorist and Producer
Jamie Trent is a rarity -- a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Society of Camera Operators, Australian Cinematographers Society and the Producers Guild of America. All while being a professional colorist with a number of colorist credits on films and TV shows which qualify him to be represented by the Motion Picture Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700.
The art and skills needed to be either a professional Cinematographer or a Colorist take years to hone, but to JT these skills naturally complement each other.
JT (JT as he is more commonly known) is a Cinematographer that also color grades and produces the films he works on and does everything from the conform through to the delivery for theatrical release. On recent films such as "Halloweed" and "The Algerian" he has achieved exactly that. JT is one of a handful of people that can do all three and believes that this is the beginning of a new generation.
In the decade that JT has been in Los Angeles (after moving from Sydney), JT has dozens of Films, Commercials and TV shows under his belt as both a camera operator and director of photography (DP), including the popular TV shows "Mistresses", Rob Schneider's NetFlix TV series "Real Rob" and the recent film "Halloweed." And since learning DaVinci Resolve, he now has 19 credits as a colorist, including five films in the final stages of completion.
We spoke with JT about his unique expertise and the reasons behind his hard work to master both the DP and Colorist titles.
How do you view the roles of DP and Colorist in 2017?
I view both roles as being skills that compliment each other. My passion for learning Color has allowed me access to the secret sauce of filmmaking and this has become the most empowering experience I've come across on this journey.
When I began doing color, every single person I knew told me I was wasting my time and my money. Nobody had any faith and it appeared I was the only person that could see what could be achieved by being the Director of Photography and colorist.
Over the years, I spoke with so many famous DPs that originated from the celluloid generation of filmmakers, most of which have since retired.
Back in those days, they had to wait until film was developed before everyone could see how the image turned out. So in essence, the DP had the lock and key for the secret sauce to making a beautiful film. This secret sauce was highly valued and DPs were known for their ability to deliver quality film work. This also gave DPs a certain confidence and leverage with studios.
I heard this story again and again, year after year. It was followed just as quickly by the story of how digital film had now taken away the DPs' highly leveraged secret sauce and even as far as being the erasure of the DP's signature look.
With the advent of the digital age, many DPs felt they had lost the most important part of their arsenal. They felt that the ability to view the work instantly on a monitor instead of waiting for film to be developed, and that meant the end of an era.
So having thought about what these DPs shared with me, I decided I would study color theory/science and learn how to color grade. Cinematography and Color Grading are absolutely complementary of each other. My weapon of choice is Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve. At the time I was starting the process, Blackmagic Design had just made DaVinci Resolve readily available to the general population. It was suddenly within my reach at a fraction of its previous six figure buy-in price.
When Did You First Learn DaVinci Resolve?
Things started in 2012 when a producer said he had never heard of any DP that could do color grading without a professional colorist team for each step. I smiled to myself and saw it as a chance to turn an obstacle into an opportunity. This was the beginning of my color grading revolution. I believed that training myself to be a stand-alone colorist would eventually be an asset.
From 2012 onward, I committed myself to color grade every single project I was doing cinematography for, as well as dozens of other projects in order to gain the most experience possible.
Without exaggeration, there have been several occasions where I have color graded for 15 days in a row, for an average of 15-18 hours per day and loved every minute. My only thoughts were "If I want to do great things and achieve the impossible, I must do things that others are not prepared to do."
How has this impacted you while shooting a film?
Directors and producers feel confidant knowing the Director of Photography is also an experienced colorist on their project.
This also saves money and avoids mistakes when I set up the workflow and pipeline, as I work with each department to tailor each project and maximize efficiency.
Additionally, when filming I may not have enough time to get the lighting exactly how it's needed, but I now know what tools I have in DaVinci Resolve to add what's missing once I get it into post production.
There is also the added value of understanding how a variety of cameras react radically different to light, shadows and colors because they all have their own proprietary sensors that allow for a certain latitude of exposure. Knowing these things allows for you to plan ahead.
JT, you now teach several classes on DaVinci Resolve. How are young filmmakers picking up your lessons?
I have written the curriculum and set out film courses for two different schools. In both courses I introduced students to DaVinci Resolve basics, which without a doubt got the most amazing response from students. Once they actually put into practice what I showed them on DaVinci Resolve, they became more interested because they can suddenly see how a flat image can come to life.
Suddenly students can see how to effectively balance shots for better continuity. It is the biggest confidence builder I have seen yet for aspiring filmmakers.
There is a totally new demographic of film maker/students coming through that are more open to integrating tools such as DaVinci Resolve onto their tool belts.
With DaVinci Resolve being so powerful and affordable, it will be this new standard (once unattainable), as it's now held in the hands of the next generation of filmmakers. Ambitious Cinematographers and artists like my students will stand as an invaluable asset to any feature film/ production with these new Colorist tools.