×

‘Wonderstruck’ Colorist Joe Gawler on How Film’s Multi-Period Look Was Created

Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” which screened in the main competition at Camerimage, tells the complicated story of two children, both deaf, growing up in New York during different historical periods, whose paths strangely and magically converge.

To tell this multi-layered story, DP Edward Lachman, a Camerimage regular and frequent Haynes collaborator (“Far From Heaven,” “I’m Not There,” “Carol”) shot the film on black and white and color film, as well as on digital. Joe Gawler, partner and senior colorist at New York post-production studio Harbor Picture, who has also worked with the two men, tells how he graded the widely varying footage to give the film a seamless look.

How did you happen to get the “Wonderstruck” assignment?
I’ve had a relationship with Ed Lachman for a number of years. I’ve remastered maybe 100 titles for the Criterion Collection, and they brought on Ed to consult on the color. Ed is a real encyclopedia of filmmaking. I’ve also worked separately with Todd Haynes on Criterion, and I have a relationship with his editor, Affonso Gonçalves. So when “Wonderstruck” came together they were all already familiar with Harbor, and they ended up living there many months doing post on the film.

Had Todd and Ed always intended to shoot on film?
Yes. Unfortunately at the time there was no film processing lab in New York so they came up with a workflow plan to process the film with Fotokem on the West Coast.

The movie has black and white and color scenes in approximately equal measure.
Yes. All the film footage – black and white as well as color – was shot on Kodak 35mm stock. But a good portion of the film was shot digitally – namely all the scenes that take place inside New York’s Museum of Natural History. The museum has limitations on how much you can light the interiors, so for that extra speed and exposure they needed they decided to go digital. Everything inside the museum was shot on ARRI Alexa.

You had to deal with footage that included both film and digital elements. How did you approach each medium?
There’s something special in the film image. You can’t quite put your finger on it, and you don’t necessarily miss it if you’re just working on a digitally acquired show, but when your eyes see it in the film scan, you’re able to apply it to the digital footage. With film, the look finds itself more easily for you. There’s something inherent in the film, but it’s hard to put your finger on it. Film takes you to a place that looks great.

And digital?
Digital looks great as well, but there’s something about the photochemical process, a nuance. I’ve had the experience on a couple of shows where you start color grading digital footage and everyone is happy, they think it looks great. And then when we start working on the film footage, it’s like, oh, wow, this is really nice, and once we have those references in the film we’re able to then go further in the digital – it’s just a subtle nudge. There’s something clean and linear about the digital image that you just need to dirty up a little bit, give it some kind of warmth.

More Film

  • Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as

    Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as CEO of VFX Firm Foundry

    Jody Madden has been upped to CEO at U.K.-based VFX outfit Foundry. She steps up having been chief product officer and replaces Craig Rodgerson, who joined the company in late 2017. Foundry was bought by U.S. tech firm Roper Technologies earlier this year in a £410 million ($509 million) deal. The London-based business provides software [...]

  • The Lion King

    ‘The Lion King’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “The Lion King.” Ads placed for the remake had an estimated media value of $5.64 million through Sunday for 1,290 national ad airings on [...]

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez Takes Down Wall Street Crooks in New Trailer for 'Hustlers'

    According to Jennifer Lopez, basic pole dancing movements all revolve around a few foot positions. But as she tells her stripper student Constance Wu, it’s not just about the dancing. In the new trailer for “Hustlers,” Lopez and Wu swindle a number of high profile Wall Street clients in an effort to bring their white [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Leaders Warn Members About Contact With Fired Agents

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are warning members about being contacted by their former agents — asserting that such efforts are an attempt to undermine the WGA and its members. The missive, sent Tuesday from the WGA negotiating committee, came with the guild in a bitter three-month standoff with talent agents that appears [...]

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content