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Making the Grade: Kaitlyn Battistelli

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Ethos colourist Kaitlyn on the intrigue of the job, honing her craft at Ethos and the joys of watching film scans coming to life

Making the Grade: Kaitlyn Battistelli

Kaitlyn Battistelli has been with Ethos since the beginning. A life-long artist, Kaitlyn started off as a runner at MPC after graduating from MassArt in Boston. While working as a receptionist at ETC, Kaitlyn became hooked on the craft of colouring while observing the work of her fellow creatives. Titled a shots Rising Star in 2018, Kaitlyn is known for her fun and vibrantly hued films spanning across a diverse range of platforms. Her most notable projects include 070 Shake’s ‘Nice to Have,’ Joywave’s ‘Obsession,’ Moses Sumney’s ‘Cut Me,’ Ke$ha’s ‘My Own Dance,’ and Bad Bunny’s ‘Hablos Manana’ and ‘Pero Ya No.’ Commercially, she has worked for brands including Fender, Wrangler, and Lola. Kaitlyn values the process of collaboration, working with artists and creatives from the start of a project and ensure colour helps to effortlessly move every tale forward.


LBB> What was your first experience with the world of colour grading – and when did you decide that being a colourist was a role that you wanted to pursue?

Kaitlyn> My first job in this industry was as a runner at a big post house in Santa Monica and at the time me and all the other runners were all encouraged to watch and learn from the senior staff there. I remember peeking into a dark room and seeing a colourist working and I was intrigued enough to stick around and watch. That was my first experience of colour grading, but it was really months after then when I had joined ETC LA where I actually got to sit in full grades and learn what the world of colour was really like… I never looked back!


LBB> What was the project that you felt really changed your career?

Kaitlyn> It’s hard to pinpoint a single job that has been career-changing. I feel lucky to get to work with such talented people who all bring me great projects, all of which have contributed towards my career. One of those people is director Allie Avital, who I’m constantly inspired by and in awe of.  I was lucky enough early in my career as a colorist to have been introduced to her. Our first job together was a Nao music video she was working on during a visit to LA. We hit it off pretty quickly and fast forward five years later, we’re still collaborating! 

I did some music videos last year that picked up a slew of awards at various festivals: Joywave’s ‘Obsession’ (directed by Laura Gorun, Cooper Roussel, and Dimitri Basil) and 070shake’s ‘Nice To Have' (directed by Noah Lee). And recently I was double nominated at AICP for best commercial colour grade for Etsy ‘Name’ and Kaiser Permanente ‘Thrive.’ So I guess those four jobs feel pretty career-changing! 


LBB> How/where did you hone your craft and did you have any particular mentors?

Kaitlyn> I cut my teeth at ETC. There was a colourist there who brought me in and showed me the ropes for a short period of time, but I owe most of what I know to the amazing colourist and friend Jason Wallis. He really supported me and helped me develop my creative eye in recognising what you can achieve in a grade.

Since then, I’ve continued to hone my craft here at Ethos. We launched just two years ago and I’m the only full time colourist here, so it’s been a bit like being thrown into the deep end. I’ve had to figure out a lot on my own, but there is no better way to learn than by doing!


LBB> Tell us more about your creative process 

Kaitlyn> I usually ask for some visual references or the treatment just so I can get a sense of what the creative intention was before the shoot. Additionally, before I start,  I’ll hop on a call with the team and discuss possible ideas for different setups. Then really once in the suite, it's all about experimenting and trying different looks until we cook up the perfect one! 


LBB> From experience, we’ve found that colourists often love art and photography - when you’re out of the studio, what inspires you?

Kaitlyn> I’ve also noticed this! Whilst I’m not a huge photography buff, I have an appreciation for it. Really, my heart lies in fine art and Illustration. Illustration is a fun creative field to follow alongside the commercial and MV world because similarly, the creators are constantly influenced and challenged by current events and trends. One of my favourites right now is an illustrator named Gage Lindsten (@gage_lindsten). I’m super into the vintage sci-fi-esq, Yoshitaka Amano inspired, airbrush pieces he makes.


LBB> Colour grading is largely a digital affair, but there’s also been a resurgence of film over the past few years in commercials and music videos. What are your thoughts about working on film versus digital formats? And what are your favourite techniques for capturing a vintage or tactile feel? 

Kaitlyn> There’s almost nothing better than getting a nice film scan and watching it come to life in the grade. I usually approach every job differently, but with film I generally try not to push film too hard...generally trying to respect what was shot. As far as film vs digital - I’m a sucker for film. I feel like I have some sort of false nostalgia for a period of time I didn't grow up in, before technology as we know it now. Film always scratches this itch I have for something that feels more tactile and analogue. 


LBB> When working in commercials, what role can colour and a grade play in enhancing a brand’s assets and what sort of conversations do you have with creatives and clients about that?  

Kaitlyn> Being able to assure companies that their hard work in creating a brand identity will be accurately represented in their commercials is everything! We usually start by having a meeting and then I ask for swatches or photos of the products so I can ensure they are correct. Then while in the grade, I check back to the references to make sure the products stay true. 


LBB> How do you ensure that each colourist-director partnership is a success?

Kaitlyn> I value good relationships just as much as good exposure! I think a big part of that is having an open line of communication, and really working closely to ensure that the director gets what they're looking for.


LBB> What advice would you give to budding colourist?

Kaitlyn> Commit! And don’t be afraid of working long hours. Also, experiment and just try to have fun. If you go the traditional route of working as an assistant at a big post house then I would say to learn as much as possible from the colourists, and then try to do grades on the side and after hours. You’ve got to start sometime!


LBB> In your opinion, what's the difference between a good grade and a great grade?

Kaitlyn> Like most art, I consider colour grading mostly subjective so I don't really subscribe to good grades vs. great grades. A lot is based on the content in which is being graded along with the grade itself. If you have an amazing piece with a detailed and considered grade tailored to that story, then you can’t go wrong.


LBB> How is the craft and trade of colour grading changing?

Kaitlyn> I think that it's now more accessible to people. With all the filters on Instagram and other social media apps these days, it’s really shone a light on the ways you can treat an image. That doesn’t mean to say that what colourists do can also be done on instagram, quite the opposite actually!


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Ethos Studio, Fri, 23 Jul 2021 14:17:48 GMT