Faces of BC Film – Mykel Thuncher, film colourist

Mykel Thuncher. Photo: Jennifer Thuncher

Mykel Thuncher. Photo: Jennifer Thuncher

Employment agencies such as the YWCA and Mosaic provide job seekers with career orientation courses and assistance in cover letter and resume writing.

But are these courses useful for film industry workers with highly specialized skills?

Mykel Thuncher is one film industry worker who was brutally forced to re-orientate. Thuncher, 48, a colourist from Burnaby, was laid off after 20 years of steady employment. 

The married father of four teenage sons says although the digital evolution in film post-production ultimately caused his profession, which was based on celluloid film, to become obsolete, the general lack in film work forced him to reinvent himself.

Thuncher defines his work as a colourist as both creative and technical. He says his job was to create looks for certain feature films and television shows, whether that meant make them bluer or warmer, depending on the scenes. He needed to create the feeling of what images would look like, whether they would be contrasty, or desaturated in colour.

“You had to come up with creative ideas, to what certain scenes would be. . . A Christmas kids show would always be bright and colourful. . . Doing a show like The Killing, it was always dark and moody, cold, blue-looking, and you would have to come up with those looks,” says Thuncher.

Thuncher, who had to make tough decisions like selling his house and cutting his long hair, went to an employment agency.

He says it’s difficult to explain to job agencies that film industry workers have specific professions. “They say, oh you work in the film industry, why don’t you do this or that? It’s like, within the film industry, there’s lots of different jobs and you can say I work in the film industry and you could be a caterer and you could be a cook. It had nothing to be with what the boom operator does. But for some reason, including these hiring places, think you all do the same thing.”

Thuncher’s wife Jennifer Thuncher recently graduated as a journalist and works as an associate producer at CBC radio, where she was hired after a successful, unpaid internship.

Mykel Thuncher, however, refuses to volunteer or work unpaid, as a matter of principle.

“I’m just taking a paid job away from somebody, by doing that. It’s also, a lot of the stuff is very unionized. So you really, you can’t even do that. You can’t touch the stuff. Which, for better or worse, that is one of the things the unions are there for, to protect the people that do work.”

Thuncher realizes he is not the only victim of the “drag and drop”-evolution, which made filming digital, and cheaper, anywhere. And because of that, there is a lot of work reclaimed by the United States, he says.

The United States and Winnipeg is where it took Thuncher to find work for the summer, leading to a position as dailies colourist at the set of Heaven is for Real, with Greg Kinnear.

Next week: Actor Alvin Sanders

Reported by Katja De Bock

***This six-part series was originally created as a feature length article at Langara College’s journalism department. The series shows the faces of some of B.C.’s film industry workers who are affected by the recent decline in jobs. Some of them are involved in the #SaveBCFilm movement, others are relocating or reinventing themselves professionally. But all are passionate film lovers, and great people.***

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