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Why Colourist Kath Raisch Lets the Footage Do the Heavy Lifting


Company 3’s senior colourist speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway about her career so far and why you shouldn’t overcomplicate the grade

Why Colourist Kath Raisch Lets the Footage Do the Heavy Lifting

Colour has always been a driving force in Kath Raisch’s life. Her love of photography and darkroom printing eventually led her to Company 3, where she quickly worked her way up to senior colourist. As well as grading commercial projects for the likes of Airbnb, Ford, Gucci, ASOS and Ulta - for which she received an AICP nomination in 2021 - she also has a significant body of music video work and was nominated for AICP’s 2019 ‘Best Color Grading, Music Video’ award for her work on Lykke Li’s ‘Hard Rain’.

Kath also has a long list of feature and short film credits, including ‘Aftersun’ which saw great success at the 2022 Cannes and Berlin film festivals; the Oscar-nominated short ‘My Nephew Emmett’; six projects for Tribeca 2022; ‘Shapeless’ for Tribeca 2021; ‘Black Bear’ for Sundance 2020 and ‘Premature’, which premiered at Sundance 2019. She has also graded documentaries including ‘Framing John DeLorean’ and ‘LA92’, both of which premiered to excellent reviews at this past Tribeca Film Festival. 

Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, Kath discusses her journey into the industry, gives some tips and tricks to youngsters who are looking to get into colour grading, and shares some insight into her collaborative, creative process.

LBB> Has colour always been a prominent creative force in your life? How did you express your creative side growing up? 

Kath> I played piano and violin pretty well as a kid, but soccer was my passion. Then in 2001, the HBO show ‘Six Feet Under’ premiered. I identified a lot with the character Claire Fisher on the show, so I started playing around with a 35mm film camera and became obsessed. In high school, I had access to a darkroom, so when I wasn’t playing soccer, I printed and processed my film there. It was a sanctuary when I wasn’t on the soccer field.

LBB> How was your journey into this industry? What brought you to colour grading and Company 3?

Kath> At first, I didn’t know anything about the industry, aside from one of my photo professors in college briefly mentioning being a colourist as a job. Even though I focused on darkroom printing and film processing in college, I couldn’t get that job out of my head. So after college, I took a big chance, moved to NYC, slept on friends’ couches, and gave it a shot. 

I managed to get an interview at a sister company of Company 3, who luckily hired me with no experience. I did that job well enough for them to recommend my transfer to Company 3, and luckily, they also gave me a chance. Once at Company 3, I started doing night shifts, working my way up through dailies, then overnight commercial conform before assisting colourists. While assisting, I did everything I could to learn and build my own colourist reel until I finally built enough clients to make the jump into full-time colourist.

LBB> What’s the most important lesson/piece of advice you received early on in your career? How does it influence you and your work today?

Kath> Don’t over-complicate the grade; let the footage do the heavy lifting. It’s super easy to put a ton of nodes and crazy LUTs (lookup tables) on a shot and make it look cool - but it also can cause a lot of mess in post. Many people don’t realise you can get that same look with just one or two nodes. This was especially helpful once I started moving into the theatrical world.

LBB> How does your colour process start for you? Are you a mood-boarder? A trial-and-error fan? An avid reference image collector? 

Kath> I like to watch the film (or commercial) first to get an understanding. Then I will look at the references/mood boards (if any) provided by the director/DP/client and see how they compare with how I felt watching it. I then play around with the footage to see what feeling it gives me because I like to let the footage speak for itself. Of course, there are cases where pushing the footage to a place that may not directly come through in the log files is necessary (and fun), but I still like to let the footage guide me there.

LBB> What kinds of commercial projects excite you most? You’ve colour-graded projects for Airbnb, Ford, Gucci and more - what are some of your favourites projects so far?

Kath> Collaborative ones! Commercials have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so it’s hard to navigate that sometimes, but the ones who genuinely trust the vision of their team of creatives, directors, DPs, editors, colourists, etc., always come out the best. We are all in this together; we could make it fun for everyone! I loved working on the FTX Super Bowl commercial from 2022. The collaboration was the best kind of collaboration; agency, director, DP and colourist. It couldn’t have gone better. And I love Larry David.

LBB> Last year, you colour-graded ‘Aftersun’ - tell us a bit about that! What was your grading process like for that film? How did you work with the director and the production team to bring their vision to life?

Kath> Charlotte [Wells, writer and director], Greg [Oke, cinematographer], and I go way back. We’ve all collaborated before on many different jobs and levels. For ‘Aftersun’, Charlotte and Greg had a clear vision for their film, and what they shot and how they shot it conformed to that vision. We also all grew up in the ‘90s, and all had a deep admiration for point-and-shoot film cameras and minilab prints of family vacations during that era, and that’s the vibe we went for.

LBB> Do you have any colour grading opinions/takeaways that might surprise some people? Is there a piece of work that is underappreciated for its grade? 

Kath> There’s a fine line between right and wrong in this industry. There’s technically good and technically bad work, but the rules I thought existed don’t. I’m not entirely sure how underappreciated it is, but I think the grade for ‘Spencer’ [2021’s Princess Diana biopic] was stunning. I hadn’t had a visceral reaction to a grade before that one.

LBB> For people who might want to become colourists - what advice would you give them, and what pieces of work would you show them to share the potential of a good grade?

Kath> Try to link with another colourist who’s been in the biz for a while, because this job is not just about what you put on the screen; it’s how you interact and collaborate with your clients. And also, a good grade is not just what looks fly; it’s what suits the vibe, the photography, and the client.

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Company 3 New York, Thu, 01 Jun 2023 10:50:00 GMT