Sundance: Light Iron's Katie Jordan grades three films
Issue: March/April 2022

Sundance: Light Iron's Katie Jordan grades three films

Light Iron ( colorist Katie Jordan worked on three films that were presented as part of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Here, she details the need for each project.

Photo (top): Huella

“For all three projects, the filmmakers had put together look books before shooting, and they shared those with me, which is really helpful. I’m a very visual person, so a look book is a great way to get a sense of their tastes. But it’s also just a starting point — I always strive to make the film look as best as it can rather than try to exactly match the references.

Light Iron's Katie Jordan

Huella is a short film, so we graded it in a day, with director Gabriela Ortega and cinematographer Frances Kroon in-person at Light Iron. The story has lots of magical elements that are rooted by a young woman who’s grieving the loss of her grandmother and exploring a family curse. A lot of the story is communicated visually, so it was important to enhance those story points by creating deep blacks and rich color. For certain scenes, we intentionally popped the red to stand out against the more muted elements. This was such a passion project for Gabriela, and her passion was infectious. I had a great experience working with her and Frances on this really beautiful film, and I'm so happy to see them getting much-deserved exposure.

“For Am I OK?, I had a preliminary phone call with cinematographer Cristina Dunlap to talk about the overall look and certain scenes where she had specific ideas. As a whole, she wanted to grade the film in a natural, elegant way that would keep it relatable to the audience. The movie depicts an emotional journey of self-discovery, and the tone of any given scene is informed by where Dakota Johnson’s character is on that journey at that moment. The more romantic scenes are warmer, cozier and inviting. By contrast, other scenes were graded cooler to highlight her loneliness. 

“We had about six days for the grade. I worked a day by myself first to get familiar with the footage, balance the scenes, and start to develop a look based on our call. Then Cristina came in and we worked together to dial-in the look before presenting it to co-director Stephanie Allynne, who was really happy with it. I was so proud to work on this film — the way it deals with themes of sexual identity and self-discovery with humor and care will really speak to audiences.

Photo: Am I OK?

“My work on Palm Trees and Power Lines started with a Zoom call with cinematographer Chananun Chotrungroj and director Jamie Dack to talk about the look they had in mind. The film has a contemporary setting, but it’s set in the suburbs, so Jamie wanted a classic look reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s movies. The suburbs are simultaneously depressingly mundane and uniquely beautiful, and that carried through into the color grading. In the story, the teenager Lea is seduced by a man twice her age; by having that familiar, timeless look, the filmmakers were underscoring that this is something that happens every day all over the country.

“As with Am I OK?, we had about six days to grade Palm Trees and Power Lines, and I again started with an unsupervised day to get used to the footage, balance the scenes, and experiment to find what I thought would be a good version of their desired look. Jamie was local, so we worked together at Light Iron. The movie is full of long, slow shots, so it was fast to color. After a few days, Jamie brought up the idea of trying a film-emulation look. Everything was balanced, so I was able to apply different film looks at the bottom of my stack, and we played through seeing how they felt on different scenes. We ended up really loving a Kodachrome emulation LUT. It modeled the skin tones and brought a slight blue tone to the shadows in a subtle, beautiful way. I applied that emulation and a little grain to the whole film, and we were both happy with the look.

“All three projects were graded in Baselight. For Huella, we worked in Rec 709, and for both Am I OK? and Palm Trees and Power Lines, we graded in DCI-P3 with the intention of making a DCP when Sundance was still planned to happen in-person.”