The post-production industry finds itself in an intriguing state of flux, a state that simultaneously celebrates design aesthetics and converging production roles for professionals and amateurs alike. At this intersection of design, technology and transformation is Crayon, a boutique finishing studio founded in 2012 by Tim Kentley of XYZ Studios and Wheelbarrow. After mere months of operation, Crayon’s projects span film, documentary, television, music video, installation and commercial, working on notable music videos for the likes of Kate Miller-Heidke, Peaches, Architecture in Helsinki and Dan Sultan as well as TVCs for L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and Chadstone: The Fashion Capital just to name a few.
desktop chats with Crayon’s executive producer Sophie Woods and colourist, Dan Stonehouse about the changing industry, the need to embrace a contemporary school of thought and the subsequent materialisation of Crayon.
Crayon has been labelled a graphic art finishing studio, film finishing studio, post production studio and editing suite all of which appear to just miss the mark at encapsulating what Crayon is so, what is Crayon in a nutshell?
Sophie: Crayon is a bespoke finishing studio for live action film productions. We are focused on colour grading and finishing short films, music videos, feature documentaries, TVCs and television series. As a bespoke studio, the approach can be tailored to each individual project. You give us something and we’ll make it pretty.
Crayon was launched by Tim Kentley as a sister company of XYZ Studios and Wheelbarrow. What was the impetus for launching the company? And why Melbourne as the base?
Sophie: XYZ has made its name in animation direction, and although this was always a passion for Tim, he has always had a deep love for live action, performance and story. In 2010 he bought a triple level studio in South Melbourne for XYZ and as the company grew, they were getting more and more enquiries for traditional live action post work.
Dan Stonehouse, who had been working for XYZ for several years, was falling in love with colour grading so Tim decided to fit out the ground floor as a really creative, personal space that would focus on grade and finish – and Crayon was born. Melbourne is such a magnificent city full of an exciting array of creative people, which is personally why I believe this is the best place for us. We love working with local directors and producers and adore the local industry.
How do you view the film production industry landscape that sees filmmakers a part of an every-growing artistic community? Is it a good time to be a filmmaker?
Dan: There has never been a better time to be a filmmaker, especially a young, emerging filmmaker. Many of the financial barriers to getting your film made, such as film stock and processing, simply do not exist any more.
The counter argument to this is that the work of filmmaking is becoming financially devalued. To an extent this is true. In the commercial world, yes budgets are down but so are costs. I think the democratisation of the industry and its processes is scary to some, but it is ultimately a good thing and will end up forging a filmmaking landscape recalibrated to focus on and value people, talent, images, and stories above all else.
Crayon seeks “projects with teeth.” When considering new projects, what do the team at Crayon look for and why?
Dan: At Crayon we want to build relationships with directors. We seek projects with substance, collaborators with passion, and relationships that will grow. We want to establish a community with filmmakers, and a space buzzing with creative energy. Our long-term goal is to have our suites full, and like-minded directors, producers and DOP’s meeting and chatting in the kitchen and the halls. We want to create a place with buzz that people enjoy visiting. We are pretty into what we do, and we seek to work with people who are pretty into what they do!
As a niche, small-scale business in a competitive creative industry, how does Crayon attempt to bridge the gap between independent, small scale productions and commercial, big budget projects without losing focus on Crayon’s vision/values?
Dan: I think by ignoring the gap and treating every project as important as any other. If we take on a project then we are going to give it everything we have to make it as good as possible and satisfy everyone involved. If we do good work that we are proud of, the rest will fall into place.
Directors on small-scale, independent productions, with time, grow into directors on big budget commercial projects and the people they work with grow with them. Good working relationships and trust are of paramount importance. Crayon will naturally grow alongside our clients.
Crayon strives to embrace a “new school” of contemporary thought that challenges typical production norms. Why go against the grain of traditionally corporate film companies and their post-production techniques and strategies?
Dan: Crayon is a natural evolution rather than operating in opposition to tradition. Costs have gone down across the industry, in postproduction in particular. This naturally leads to a more flexible and client-friendly style of working than in the old days where you had rock stars running million dollar machines, sushi lunches, and astronomical hourly rates.
People in post, these days while still highly focused specialists, tend to be drawing on broader backgrounds and experience. In the past, a person would often take a very linear path towards a role as a colour grader – runner to tape room to assistant and then to colourist. Nowadays, that same person may have studied design, worked as an editor and made his or her own films. This can only be of benefit to their clients.
The post industry as a whole is moving beyond thinking of what it does as a service towards more of a collaborative approach. Crayon embraces this attitude, and we put a very high value on our creative relationships with Directors – we want to be part of their careers, to build working relationships, to help out at the start of their careers and grow with them.
Crayon prides itself on producing projects that require an artisan’s eye, extending beyond client projects and into Crayon’s working environment and aesthetic. Is the environment important to the creative working process?
Sophie: Absolutely. And the space is part of the attraction. Tim put two years of work into designing Crayon, with the most beautiful attention to detail, creating these stunning and attractive studios for us to work in. When people enter our space, we want them to feel comfortable to interact with our staff in the best way to foster creativity. If the environment can inspire and cooperate with the creative process, then we have the best chance of producing something beautiful. Aside from that, we think it’s really damn cool and we want cool people to fill it. Simple.