CAMPAIGN CRAFT: PROFILE JEAN-CLEMENT SORET - Winning a higher profile for the colourist’s trade/Telecine work is taking on a new significance for post-production. Jim Davies meets its biggest star

Just as the audience was on the point of nodding off at last month’s over-long Bafta Craft Awards ceremony, the place erupted. The organisers hadn’t announced free drinks all round, so what could possibly have caused such excitement? Almost every jaded creative and production person in the house hauled themselves to their feet to clap Jean-Clement Soret all the way to the podium. He’s not, as you might be entitled to think, the hottest new director in town. Far from it. In fact, he’s a humble colourist, which makes the reception accorded him even more remarkable.

Just as the audience was on the point of nodding off at last

month’s over-long Bafta Craft Awards ceremony, the place erupted. The

organisers hadn’t announced free drinks all round, so what could

possibly have caused such excitement? Almost every jaded creative and

production person in the house hauled themselves to their feet to clap

Jean-Clement Soret all the way to the podium. He’s not, as you might be

entitled to think, the hottest new director in town. Far from it. In

fact, he’s a humble colourist, which makes the reception accorded him

even more remarkable.



Based at the Moving Picture Company, the affable 36-year-old Frenchman

is living proof that telecine work has finally emerged from the shadows

of the supposedly more flashy creative post-production techniques such

as Flame and Inferno. Fortunately, however, it hasn’t got to the stage

yet where top operators will happily call themselves ’artists’.



Once just a matter of transferring film to videotape, today’s

technologically advanced telecine methods allow various effects and

embellishments to be made during the critical colour-grading process.

’Basically, I listen to everyone and then try to make them all happy,’

says Soret, sounding more like Kofi Anan than Soho’s most sought-after

colourist. ’You can either enhance the photography, respecting the work

of the director,’ he continues, ’or create a different aspect entirely

by tweaking the colour.



I always go for what I think is best, not necessarily craziest. Every

day is different. There are more and more things that you can do. The

tools are becoming more sophisticated and resolution better and

better.’



With high-profile commercials for The Independent, Sony, Land Rover,

Diesel and Daewoo under his belt, as well as pop promos for the likes of

Suede and Pulp, Soret has quickly established himself as one of the

leading lights in the recently elevated discipline.



’Every agency and every director in town wants to work with him,’ claims

Laura Gregory, the managing director of the production company, Great

Guns. ’It’s just impossible to get your film into the Moving Picture

Company at the moment, everyone wants a piece of him,’ adds Mark

Hanrahan, Saatchi & Saatchi’s head of television. Put these eulogies to

the man himself, and he responds with Gallic diffidence. ’Well, I am

pretty busy,’ he says simply.



Hanrahan contends that Soret has single-handedly turned the Moving

Picture Company’s fortunes around. Mark Benson, MPC’s deputy managing

director, is a little more circumspect. ’(Jean-Clement) has definitely

been instrumental in raising our game,’ he says. ’His talent and

enthusiasm has rubbed off on the whole company. Even in a game like

this, the technology is always less important than the talent. The whole

package - the new building, state-of-the-art facilities - is driven by

front-end talent.’



And what is it about French talent in particular? ’Currently, there is a

great interest in French colourists and respect for French talent in the

industry,’ says Benson. ’They have kick-started a new, fresh and often

experimental look.’ MPC currently boasts two French colourists, Soret

and Frank Voiturier. Interestingly, MPC’s arch-rival, The Mill, has also

dipped into the French market to sign up a telecine specialist.



So how did Soret get into this rather obscure area of post-production in

the first place? First he took a three-year degree in audiovisual

techniques from the University of Brest, before winding up at a Parisian

processing lab. ’It was a very technical, rather than creative course,’

he recalls.



’Most people ended up as cameramen or sound engineers. There wasn’t any

telecine.’ But there was telecine at the processing lab, and Soret

quickly became intrigued by the possibilities of the medium.



Soon afterwards, he found work at the post-production hotshop, Durant (a

sister company of Dubois) in Paris, where he got his first taste of

working on commercials. ’Generally I prefer working on commercials (to

promos),’ he says. ’You can be far more daring with the colour grading.

Because they are shorter, the production can go further. You can really

refine the colour. It can be very rewarding.’



A freelance project alerted the Moving Picture Company to Soret’s

prodigious talent, and they decided to entice him over to London. ’I saw

his reel and it was stronger than anything I’d seen previously,’ Benson

says. ’He had the ambition to be the number-one colourist in the world,

and London arguably is the capital of television post-production.’



Soret made the move to London two-and-a-half years ago. ’I miss Paris,’

he says, ’but the French market is less international. It’s more

exciting here, and Soho has a special energy. I am married to an English

speaker, so the language wasn’t a problem.’



Today Soret attracts custom from as far afield as Los Angeles, Stockholm

and Paris and is courted by high-profile directors including Traktor,

Daniel Barber, Joe Public and Ivan Zakarias. ’I can’t say enough nice

things about him,’ Barber says. ’He has a natural feel for what he does

and takes a great deal of time and care over it. He’s also one of the

nicest people I know. I genuinely look forward to going to see him.’



You could say Soret had an odds-on chance of winning the Bafta Craft

award for telecine - having secured two of the three nominations in the

category. It was his contribution to Jaguar’s ’history repeating’ spot

which finally won the day, making a little piece of history itself, as

the first winner in an entirely new category. ’I’m surprised there

wasn’t an award (for telecine) before,’ he says. ’Everyone knows how

important telecine has become over the past few years and is fully aware

of its possibilities.’



So what’s next on the agenda? ’Movies,’ says Soret without

hesitation.



So he’s not that different from the hottest new director in town, after

all.



CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Sony

Established Soret as a leading light of the colourist’s discipline

Jaguar

Soret’s work won the top prize in a new Bafta Craft category

Pulp

High-profile pop promos add to Soret’s cachet