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Colorist Cynthia Chen creates artistic masterpiece in new award-winning film
Filmmaking is one of the most celebrated artforms. However, unlike a painting or photograph, it takes an incredibly large team of talented people to make it a masterpiece. Cynthia Chen knows this well.

When a film is done shooting, the footage is raw and looks pale, and as a colorist, it is her job to fix that. She ensures that every single shot in each scene matches one another by balancing color saturation and luminance from shot to shot. She applies different color styles to the whole picture for different contents based on their stories, characters, emotion and themes. 

For Chen, the suite is like a magic room; she can turn a day scene into a night scene, enhance and switch the emotions by using the different color palettes, help to finish the lighting tasks that can't be done on the real set, assist the director to emphasize the atmosphere and feelings. Her final goal is to provide extraordinary images for the audience. 

"If one says that the scriptwriter is the first creator of a film, director is the second creator of a film and editor is the third one. Then I would say the colorist is the forth one as a creator who brings the whole film to a new level," said Chen.

Chen is a leader in her industry in both her home country of China and abroad. She has worked on several award-winning productions, including OffsprungSlingshot Prince, The Last Page, and Mask. With her help, these films have gone on to see great success at many of the world's most prestigious film festivals. 

Earlier this year, Chen once again showed international audiences what she was capable of with her work on I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. The surrealism film tells the story of a woman whose husband had passed away in an airplane crash a couple of years prior. Then, one morning, she finds her husband's body in the forest while jogging. She carries him back to their home and takes care of the body and that night, her husband comes back to life, having dinner and sleeping with her just like a miracle. However, the next morning, her husband disappears all over again. She believes the entire evening to be some sort of dream or illusion until a giant tree grows where she found her husband's dead body, and notices a scar on the tree that looked like the one from her husband's body.

"One single bed, one dinner table, one dog, one woman, living by herself day after day, the empty seat on the other side of the dinner table, two pairs of knives. The film was so quiet, just like a solitude island," Chen described. "The loneliness and loyalty feelings that came with this film had a huge impact in my heart, which also reminded myself a lot of people or things that I had not let go of. Yet this film was not a tedious narrative film, this film was a unique image art piece."

Chen was involved with the project from the beginning, making her job as colorist much easier during post production. She attended the lighting/camera/script discussion on the early pre-production stage, so she was very clear about the goal of this film. She knew exactly what the director wanted, helping seize the basic editing rhythm and making the correct judgements and selections very easily. She understood that the director wanted a special and specific composition of the picture, and for the film to act as a tribute to another film, Ida. Chen was very familiar with the source material and quickly adjusted the editing rhythm properly. After several experiments with the director, they had exactly what they wanted. 

When shooting, Chen arrived to set an hour earlier than the camera crew every day. She brought her laptop with her with the required editing/color grading software, editing right on set to expedite the process during post-production. She was in charge of the image data management, communicating camera/coloring and data transporting information with the cinematographer, and also assembling the shots as a rough sequence to show to the director. There were also two visual effects shots, therefore Chen prepared some templates before shooting that allowed her to do a quick digital composition in a very short time and show to the director for pre-visualization. This saved a lot of time and effort for the film crew, and also helped the director and cinematographer greatly. 

"This project was completely different from the traditional narrative films, it has more experimental meaning to it. The idea for this film came from the director and was very unique and innovative, we both brought up some interesting ideas about the picture converting and using black and white colors, and we sat together in the editing suite discussing, trying, and finally applying those ideas into the project. It's a special filmmaking experience which was very different from all other film projects that I had worked on," said Chen.

Chen's work was pivotal to the success of I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, which had a tremendous film festival run. It was the winner at the London Independent Film Awards 2018, the LA Shorts Awards 2018, and the Global Film Festival Awards 2018. It also was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles Film Awards 2018. It will be distributed on Amazon later this year.

"The first time that I heard that the film won the awards I was extremely excited, especially because I put a lot of effort into the work. I believe that the awards are the best confirmation from other filmmakers about the success of our work. It was such an honor to be part of this project. It was such a pleasant experience to work with the whole film crew, and I would love to work with them again in the future," she concluded.

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