The natural progression of a career as a colorist is to always reach for the next big job. To try and catch the carrot dangling in front of you. Higher profile work that challenges you both professional and artistically. The idea being that the work snowballs and leads to more work on that particular level, which then creates a new norm for you.
But then what?
After the dust settles and your new norm becomes what you’re expecting to work on all the time, then what’s next? There’s always another level to strive for. New brands, new creative, new technological advances. So now, how do you get to that next, next level?
I firmly believe that it’s important to stick with what works, but to be able to adapt at the same time. Be confident with your skill set, but don’t be cocky. Know that this is an ever changing field both technologically and aesthetically that constantly requires constant adaptation. Don’t become complacent with old techniques and habits and be aware of your surroundings. Be prepared to think outside the box and step our of your comfort zone, because the second you let your guard down, you’re already behind the curve.
That’s what makes this career daunting and exciting all at the same time. You can never go on cruise control.
If you’re conscious of all of that, the next level jobs normally end up finding their way into your color suite. That’s not to say there isn’t a certain element of luck involved. There definitely is. I consider myself very lucky that I was able to work as an assistant colorist and learn a lot of the craft through the eyes of a well established colorist. Not many people get that chance. But when presented the opportunity, I took advantage of it. Luck only gets you so far. The key is to not let the opportunity be a wasted one.
All this being said, there are still moments where I wonder if we can ever feel completely fulfilled. Will there always be a next level to strive for? Do we ever really “make it” with this mindset? Probably not. But I feel like it’s a necessary mindset in order to succeed and push yourself. But can we ever really let our guard down? Will there always be another job that you want to land? Another dangling carrot?
I consider myself very motivated and self driven. I put in a lot of hours and time away from the color suite in order to better hone my skill set. I started working in a color suite in my early 20s and am now in my mid 30s and still operate the same way. There have been peaks and valleys along the way, but overall I have stayed pretty consistent with my approach towards career advancement.
There are probably only a handful of colorists in the world who have reached the mountaintop of the highest tiered work. Hollywood blockbusters, Super Bowl commercials, hit episodic television, etc. So I suppose that is my ultimate “next level”. But I have to imagine even those colorists are always striving to do bigger and better. That’s what makes them the best at what they do.
So until I grade my first Super Bowl spot or nationally released Hollywood hit, I’ll continue to chase after that carrot. Taking it one step at a time while always striving to reach that next level. It’s not easy and sometimes I wonder if I’m going about all of this the right way. But for the most part, it’s worked pretty well for me so far.