Keep Film Rolling: “The Dark Art of Processing Film is Like Voodoo”
Cinelab’s head of colour Darren Rae on his fascination with film and his incredible portfolio as a lead colourist
Delve into the intricate world of film processing with the team at Cinelab Film & Digital who are the UK’s only full-service film lab and digital dailies facility, providing everything from pre-production through to deliverables, all under one roof.
LBB are joined by Cinelab's Head of Colour Darren Rae who discusses moments on his favourite sets including Star Wars and Bond, as well as his insights on where film is heading for 2022.
LBB> We’d love to get to know a bit about your background and influences. Tell us a little bit about your childhood and what drew you to this industry.
Darren Rae> I first got into the industry when a very good friend of mine contacted me about a potential opportunity at a film cutting studio - even though I knew nothing about the film industry and was working as a lifeguard at the time. I went in for a weekend to look after dailies and absolutely loved it. They liked me too and must have seen something in me, as they offered me a role. I then learnt on the job, starting off by syncing sound and developing into colour grading from there.
I feel very lucky to have the career I’ve had because when you're enthusiastic about something and you get paid for it, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
LBB> You’ve been at Cinelab for a few months now and were brought in as Head of Colour - how do you hope to grow the department?
Darren> I’ve known Adrian Bull (Cinelab, CEO) for a long time and he actually offered me a job a long time ago but the stars weren’t quite aligned at that time. I’ve been brought in now due to my experience on major studio feature films and high-end episodic drama. And that's what I love - I love being on projects with a DOP for three to six months. I’m also helping to train people in colour grading on different types of projects, from short-form to episodic and features, showing how each requires some different skills.
LBB> What’s the most interesting part of your job and what’s the most challenging?
Darren> I love building creative relationships with people and forming a good collaborative understanding. That’s really at the core of the job. The types of projects you work on with people can vary massively. Once you’ve built that relationship, you can find your professional paths can often trace each other and build together. You may start off doing short films and promos together and develop into working on a big budget feature film.
Fundamentally, I just love building associations with people and making really good relationships. For example; I do a lot of work with DOP Ben Davis, and I love working with him because we have such a great understanding and he trusts me to take projects in the right direction after he’s given me the brief because we’ve built that trust.
As for the challenging side of the job, it would probably be managing relationships, expectations and keeping the ball rolling.
LBB> And what area of processing film amazes you the most?
Darren> Being the first person to see what actually got shot. When you shoot on digital, you can pretty much see what you're capturing live. But on film you can’t. And that dark art of processing film and the chemistry, is literally like voodoo to me.
LBB> What projects have you worked on that have been most memorable to you so far in your career and why?
Darren> I’ve been lucky enough to work on two of cinema’s biggest film franchises in Star Wars and Bond. Three Star Wars films and two Bonds in total. In terms of memorable moments, I remember sitting on the set of SOLO, in the director's space with Ron Howard, George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy, with Woody Harrelson and Chewbacca in front of me in the millennium falcon – a very surreal moment. I was also lead dailies colourist on two Bond films, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and SPECTRE, which was a fantastic experience. To be immersed in these worlds I’ve loved from childhood it really makes you step back and appreciate what a fantastic industry we work in.
LBB> What industry trends or insights have you seen develop in 2021?
Darren> What stuck out more than anything is the need for content. It's just mad, considering that Covid restrictions also got in the way. Going forward into 2022, there's a massive opportunity and potential with how many films and TV shows are in the pipeline.
And on the technical side, the emergence of remote working and some really clever tech has allowed us to collaborate anywhere in the world, with as many people as we want, which has opened up a lot of doors.
LBB> Lastly, what do you like to do outside of work to unwind?
Darren> I love to play guitar and I enjoy online gaming. On the other hand, I also love being outdoors fly fishing or on my motorbike. I’ve also got a decent vinyl collection and stereo that I love to tinker with.
This article first appeared in LBBonline / Jan. 22