Bob Festa was included in the April issue of Post Magazine's artice "In the Beginning: How Pros Got Their Start", written by Randi Altman.
'Bob Festa, who recently joined Santa Monica’s Company 3 (www.company3.com) as a senior colorist, has a long and impressive list of facilities under his belt. Most recently he was a partner in the DI studio New Hat for five years, but since his career began, he has been with Deluxe, Hollywood Digital, Encore, Complete Post, Editel, and others. Actually, it might be more accurate to say he has rejoined Company 3, since he spent 11 years working for co-founder/president Stefen Sonnenfeld at sister company Riot.
Festa had no idea he was to become an award-winning colorist. He says he was an audiophile first, playing stand-up bass in band at high school. “I played in the high school socials and at proms. So I was musical first; the visual medium to me came second, but all the fundamentals you use for tearing down and learning a craft, whether sound mixing, sound design, or visuals, if you break them all down, you still build up from the same fundamental areas. It was just being exposed to so many fields of experience that led me to being a colorist.”
After high school, Festa studied at Pepperdine University in Malibu and worked his way to an undergraduate and graduate degree in film and television. A great education, but one he says could never replace working in a real-world environment. “Back in the early ‘80s when I graduated, the stuff I was learning in the classroom was being taught by retired industry pros who were already five years off the technological mark. So honestly, everything you are learning is really just a foundation…the history of film and the business. Your biggest break happens once you are out.”
Festa’s first break was at Glen Glenn Sound, which he says exposed him to working with sound, picture and film labs, “which then exposed me to this new film scanner called the Rank Cintel.” But he says his biggest break was going to work at Deluxe, mastering feature films in the 20th Century Fox library. “I found a mentor who said, ‘I need someone who can start on Monday and you seem to know 10 words associated with this process. I can give you a raise and get you in the union.’ Boom, now I am working at Deluxe doing feature mastering at a major studio.”
Festa refers to those times as a sort of the heyday of color, where there were huge windows of opportunity opened to anyone with talent. “There was so much work and so few facilities that clients were forced to work with people in the second and third shift,” he explains. “If you look at that in today’s terms, it’s unbelievable. Those windows are closed now. It’s really hard to apprentice with a colorist and learn the craft; it is even harder to start your own craft and develop new business. Which explains why us senior guys are still in the chair.”
Another reason is that color grading is an art that needs to develop over time. “Talk to any colorist, and they’ll say the first six months of their career is a living hell, because you are so bad,” he says. “Even though you are exposed to good people and mentors, getting a good eye for color takes a minimum of six months, and I would add a couple of years on top of that to get a master’s eye.”
Festa started out in the business when there were just a couple of tools to work with. Now there are many to choose from, and often each studio picks a favorite to invest in. So how does someone like Festa feel about having to learn new gear? “To paraphrase jazz musician Charlie Parker, ‘Learn the changes and then forget them.’ It’s the same thing with coloring. Learn the tools and toss ‘em. Transcend the mechanics and use your experience and your eye. After a period, you know what signposts and cues you look for that bring life to an image. These are artistic concepts that develop in your brain, not in any given work surface you are using at the time.
“I have worked at 20 different facilities and on 10 different types of technology,” he says. “The first time you sit in a chair with some new gear, you think it’s daunting, but I have come to think of the different tools as just the vehicles you need to express yourself. The art is in your head, your eyes and hands.”'
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