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FilmLight chats with Sonny Sheridan, senior colourist at ENVY

08/12/2023

FilmLight chats with Sonny Sheridan, senior colourist at ENVY

Brie Clayton December 8, 2023

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After an early career as a child actor, Sonny Sheridan looked to a career in production and post-production. Starting as a runner, he worked his way up to edit assistant before meeting colourist, Aidan Farrell, where his colour grading journey began.

Sonny spent eight years as Farrell's assistant first at Molinare and then The Farm (now Picture Shop), observing and learning on the job, performing basic grades before getting the opportunity to grade music promos.

His big break came with Craig David: Live at Wembley, which lead to further work grading music content for artists including Madonna, Katy Perry and Oasis. Since then, Sonny has worked on a wide range of projects including documentaries, scripted drama and music concerts. Sonny thrives on projects with unique looks and loves collaborating with DoPs, directors and producers to visualise and create different looks.

Sonny recently graded the BBC series, Julius Caesar: The Making of a Dictator and the BBC documentary, Living Next Door to Putin. Other key projects include Made in Chelsea , Informer (2018), and the BAFTA award-winning, I Am Ruth (2021). Sonny also won an RTS Award in 2011 for Picture Enhancement for his work on TV film, Eric and Ernie.

Julius Ceasar The Making of a Dictator credit to BBC Studios

Tell us more about your career as a child actor?

I grew up in Islington where my Mum sent me to a local drama school. My sisters went to the same school and were not keen so I wasn't sure if it would be for me. Still, I thought I would give it a go.

We did a lot of improvisation, and it turned out I was quite good at imitating an angry young man. From there, I was able to get in front of lots of casting directors who would come and watch us improvise. And that's how it started.

I was in Grange Hill, as an extra, and then I did The Bill, London's Burning, Harry Enfield and a few others. I kind of fell into it - it wasn't a passion or a love, it just happened. It was fun, but I gave it up quite quickly.

Did it influence your journey into post?

Yes, absolutely. One of the agents' husbands was a DoP, which really interested me. I mentioned it to someone at the school and said I'd like to get into production. She directed me to Jacqui James who, it turned out, lived at the bottom of my road and worked at Molinare. I rocked up to meet her and, having just come back from the West Indies, I had my West Indies cap on. Jacqui, being Antiguan, noticed this straight away. I am also half Antiguan, so we hit it off and I got the job there and then.

Of course, I didn't know anything about post at the time. I walked in as a runner and was making tea and coffee and delivering sandwiches, but I was interested to see what was happening and learn more.

Tell us more about how you ended up as Aidan Farrell's assistant?

My first memory of meeting Aidan was in my early days as a runner. I was taking beers down to his suite at 9am after the team had worked through the night on a grade. But, it was a little later that I got to know Aidan a bit better and it wasn't long before I started to assist him as a tape operator.

I always thought I would become an editor, but I quickly realised that it wasn't for me and my interest in grading grew as I started to watch and learn from Aidan - it was quite mesmerising.

He was doing a lot of music promos back then, right in the prime of the Brit Pop era, with artists like Blur, Oasis, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, Mick Jagger. There were so many jobs coming through the doors, and these people would be in the suite with us. It was crazy. And there I was, sitting in the background, a little overwhelmed, just observing and taking it all in. It really was rock n' roll.

I still remember the day Aidan handed me a reel of film and allowed me to lace up the telecine for the first time. I knew, from that moment, that he trusted me and that was it, we were in it together from there. He would work long hours and I would be there all day and all night. I remember he had me using KitKat wrappers to create flares and he would use Vaseline to create looks and streaks. It took me years to understand how to do it, as there was a real skill to it. It was a very organic phase, and I really enjoyed the process. We were just creating and making images look amazing. There was something very special about that time and I feel very lucky to have been part of it.

Living Next Door to Putin, directed by Olly Bootle

You're now senior colourist at ENVY after spending 20 years at The Farm (now Picture Shop). Can you tell us more about your new role?

I was part of The Farm for a long time. When Picture Shop acquired them in 2019, it felt like the end of an era for me, and it soon became clear that it was the right time to look for something new.

ENVY came along and I am honestly so happy and grateful to be here. I joined because of their wealth of knowledge and years of experience in TV, which was really important to me. But they also do a lot of documentary work, which was another key factor in my decision.

I learned my trade working on music promos, but I moved on to do a lot of documentary work from there. Working on documentaries in the past, I have really enjoyed being creative and experimenting with colour and being a little freer. I would like to explore this a bit more.

How do you think colour shapes the way an audience perceives an image?

As a colourist, I'm using colour to tell stories. Colour is my medium. For me, it's a feeling or an emotion. Sometimes we don't have the linguistics to explain how we feel about colour, but we have a feeling.

I think audiences have become more aware of how important colour is in storytelling. People are m
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