Are You Punching Below Your Weight? Is There Anything To Be Done?

November 9, 2019

In this episode of From The Mailbag we discuss a member's email about how he feels he should be landing bigger projects but isn't.


From The MailBag Episode 76

I Should Be Working On Bigger Projects! What’s Wrong?

Continuing to answer some recent career-related emails we’ve gotten recently in this installment of From The Mailbag, we take a question from one of our members Martin (a different Martin than Episode 75 – apparently we have lots of members named Martin!).

Here is what Martin asks (edited for brevity):

‘Hi Mixing Light – I feel like I’ve been punching below my weight for a while as a colorist and with the projects I’m working on. What I mean is that I’m very confident in my skills and I’ve been grading full-time for just about 10 years (I’m 30 years old) but I just sort of feel stuck – I feel like I should be grading high(er) end projects, but the bulk of my work is factual reality tv programming, which as you know is often more color correction than color grading.

When I get passed on for a job, I’ll often watch the show or the film when it’s released and I see bad shot matching, bad skin tone, clipped highlights, and other technical problems like frame skipping, mismatched frame rates, etc. These are all things a professional colorist should have seen or fixed, right? And that’s frustrating because I know I would have!

I know that part of the issue about getting big jobs is who you know, and admittedly, I’m a bit of an introvert so that could be a contributing factor, but at the end of the day, I feel like my work speaks for itself.  Do you guys have any suggestions for winning more big projects?

Wow, there are a ton of things to talk about from Martin’s email.  In many (most) ways, each of us understands where Martin is coming from so we had a lot of fun with this conversation.

It’s Out Of Your Control – Don’t be Jealous!

One of the hardest things to stomach for a lot of colorists (especially these days) is that there is a ton of parity when it comes to color correction systems, monitoring, etc.

The thinking goes something like – dozens of A-list Hollywood features are graded on DaVinci resolve every year, I have DaVinci Resolve, and a top monitor, why am I not grading A-List features?

Nearly everyone has felt this way from time to time, but the reality is why you don’t get those jobs has nothing (ok very little) to do with gear, equipment or even talent.  As Martin points out it’s often who you know, and as we’ll discuss in this episode,  getting those jobs is oftentimes about an association with large companies, top DPs, and directors.

Wasting energy thinking about the possible million reasons you didn’t get a project doesn’t benefit your work right now.

Measuring Success, And It Just Takes One

At 30, Martin feels like he should be further along in his coloring career. Further how?  Higher profile jobs, high dollar rate jobs?  Working with top DPs and directors?  All the above?

We think its a mistake to use age as a milestone for success – sure, there are plenty of colorists who’ve got huge breaks when they were young, but there are plenty more who didn’t land that once in a lifetime project until they were 50 or even 60.

As you’ll hear in the episode, all of us agree that instead of lamenting projects that got away, it’s good practice to keep your eyes out for ‘the one’ project that can take your career up a notch. That one big project might happen several times in your career or just once, but it will happen – you just have to have realistic expectations of what ‘the one’ means for you.

In other words, 99% of us will never work Star Wars or a Christopher Nolan film, but that doesn’t mean that all of us are unsuccessful.  There is plenty of success to be had (and plenty of money) in the ‘middle’. One must differentiate between aspirations/dreams and the truth of actual success where they are now. While ‘the one’ for most of us will probably not be a billion-dollar film, that one is out there for all of us.

Have A Question For Team Mixing Light?

Remember, if you have questions that you’d like to get an opinion on please use the contact form

Your questions can be aesthetic, technical or even client related. We’d love to hear from you, and your question might make future episodes of From The MailBag.

Enjoy the MailBag!


Member Content

Sorry... the rest of this content is for members only. You'll need to login or Join Now to continue (we hope you do!).

Need more information about our memberships? Click to learn more.

Membership options
Member Login

Are you using our app? For the best experience, please login using the app's launch screen


Homepage Forums Are You Punching Below Your Weight? Is There Anything To Be Done?

  • Simon Astbury

    I read this as a link from the Tao newsletter and thought I’d chip in.
    Firstly, as the reply states, don’t measure yourself by age, your career is a marathon, not a sprint. I didn’t get my first ‘proper’ colourist job until I was 30. Before then I was a junior, learning the craft. Actually the industry is dominated by colourists in their late 30s up to their 50s. This is partly because the pioneers of modern colour grading (the people who essentially invented it) are still working.
    Secondly and most importantly the sense of entitlement that comes across in your email is really not going to help you in the long run. No one will give you anything, you have to work hard, grow a thick skin, network and consistently produce work of a high standard. Nobody cares if you’re not as far along as you think you should be, they only care that your reel is full of reality TV which doesn’t show them that you can grade their ‘higher end’ project whatever that is. Being an extrovert can help, but that’s not the be all and end all, I know some phenomenally successful colourists who are massively introverted. Working in a big facility helps more than most people would like to admit. Being someone that is easy to get on and work with, helpful, creative and easy going are really important. You will get knock backs and rejections but you have to stay focused and believe in your ability but don’t let that slide into bitterness as that is toxic. I’ve seen it happen.
    Lastly, how do you know you’re punching below your weight? Reality TV to a movie or top end commercial is a huge learning curve! Keep at it. Do your very best on every project. Be grateful for the work you have!

  • andi winter

    i used to and still do a lot of grading for filmschool students. of course you can’t charge the same prize, but it keeps you fresh and connected to the future film-maker-generation. and if you can grow with your generation, you will get a chance to grade a feature sooner or later. at least in the indie sector, and in europe 🙂

  • Marc Wielage

    Your location will also have a lot to do with it. The major studios, networks, and streaming services tend to work with people and companies in NY, LA, and London, and it’s hard to get away from that. Note also that the studios, networks, and streaming services have “preferred vendor lists” which specify which companies and people they’ve worked with in the past. Even with that, competition is fierce and relationships, location (even which side of town you’re on), and cost all are significant factors.

Log in to reply.

1,000+ Tutorials to Explore

Get full access to our entire library of over 1,100+ color tutorials for an entire week!

Start Your Test Drive!