Today the Creative Talent issue of Pitch was released, featuring Havas’s Vicki Maguire, Grey’s Celeste Dalairac, Pretty Bird’s Juliette Larthe, Ogilvy’s Sakshi Choudhary, our very own Toby Tomkins, and more…
Toby discusses creative leadership, supporting new talent, and exciting projects in the pipeline.
“Some of our colourists started off as assists and have worked their way up, and one of our brightest producers actually started out on the front desk: it’s great to see that progression internally and nurture it. Externally, I’ve set up a group of independent post houses to provide mentoring, internships and work placements for college graduates of all backgrounds. We’ve also done some work in primary schools with Pitch Futures. We’re open to any sort of grassroots action to inspire future generations in the creative industries.”
Read the issue, HERE or read Toby’s full interview below!
Pitch: What drew you to a career as a colourist and why does the world of colour continue to inspire you today?
TT: I’ve always been fascinated with digital image manipulation. I was lucky enough to sit in with some of the best concept artists in the film industry on Tomb Raider (Ravi Bansal) and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Dermot Power), which exposed me to a whole new world of digital craft. My final A-level piece for fine art was a digital montage, which was a big risk at the time (2003) but gladly it was recognised alongside the other more traditional mediums and I felt validated that this was a route I could go down as an artist. At film school (Bournemouth) I thought I would focus on the art department but instead I fell in love with post, starting with editing and then VFX. I loved the input I had on story as an editor but also loved the magic of VFX. When I discovered colour grading I felt it was the perfect balance of the two and after about a year of doing all 3 I settled on colour as my discipline.
Inspiration is a funny thing, for me its not necessarily the world of colour that inspires me but the combined experiences of every thing I see, from the photography I work with, other people’s amazing work, or the way the sun hits a building on my bike ride home. All these combined experiences inform me and my process when working on colour and keep me inspired.
Pitch: What led you to set up CHEAT?
TT: Years of freelancing and being a lone wolf became a bit lonely! I started to appreciate the need for collaboration and cross pollination of ideas between colourists that you would get at a facility. I also appreciated that clients would feel more comfortable in the hands of expert post producers than dealing with me directly, so I started growing the business with a producer before expanding the creative team. We now have 6 producers, 8 colourists and a fantastic team of support staff, totalling 20 across our East London studio.
Pitch: As CHEAT’s founder, what’s your proudest achievement at the company?
TT: Until recently I was very focused on the work itself and a firm believer that everything should be in service of the work. As a leader I’ve come to appreciate that it’s all about the team, and if the team is doing well, the quality of the work will follow. Last year was a real challenge for us and I’m most proud of how we came together as a team and took the opportunity to improve the team dynamic. I’m truly humbled by my team’s hard work and commitment and I’m so proud of them all.
Pitch: In your opinion, what qualities and experience make an inspiring leader?
TT: In all honesty I’m still working this out myself! I think honesty and transparency is a great place to start. I think it’s important to hold on to humanity and personal connection in the chaotic whirlwind that post-production can often become. Stay humble, always be polite and communicate more than you think you need to!
Pitch: Can you share some of the ways you are lifting up and supporting talent within CHEAT and also beyond, in the wider industry?
TT: Some of our colourists here started off as assists and have slowly worked their way to becoming colourists. One of our brightest producers started out on the front desk. It’s great to see that progression internally and nurture that process. Externally, I have set up a group of independent post houses to come together and provide mentoring, internships and work placements for college graduates of all backgrounds. We will be working with ELAM college to provide more of these services once things open up again. We have also done some work with primary schools with Pitch Futures and look forward to doing more work like that once we are able. Anything grassroots we can do to help inspire future generations to realise the creative industries are an option we are open to, so please get in touch if you have any ideas!
Pitch: Which of your (many) projects do you believe have made (or are in the process of making) a real difference to society in general or a specific community?
TT: Making a real difference? The unfortunate truth is that although we’ve worked on campaigns centred around this idea (perhaps most notably the Yusra Mardini ‘I Will’ spot for Under Armour, which went on to win best International commercial at the British Arrows) I’m not sure any these provide much meaningful change. We do however support charities/causes such as Oxfam, the NHS, Pride, Women’s Aid, Shelter, Grief Encounter, Calm, British Red Cross WWF, Devon Wildlife Trust, MQ, and Penny Appeal, as well as films that we believe to have a positive message or drive societal change. We will always try to help these causes however we can to push forward the slow moving hand of change. In more subtle ways it’s been great to be involved with ‘We Are Lady Parts’, a Channel 4 series about an all-female all-Muslim punk band.
Pitch: You’ve worked across everything from big-brand commercials to award-winning TV series, shorts and feature films during your career – what 3 pieces of work really stand out for you?
TT: As a relative outsider to the London post community, when Amstel ‘Pass It On’ got nominated at the British Arrows for Best Colour Grade I felt a sense of belonging which I’ll never forget. No one expected ‘The End of The F***ing World’ to be such a massive success so it was a delight for it to become a bit of a cult sensation in America. More recently I’m very excited to be working on the screenplay TV adaptation of ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ for the BBC, which after such a terrible time for the NHS should really tug on the heartstrings and hopefully provide some laughs along the way!
Pitch: What new work do you have in the pipeline?
TT: We are working on some great projects at the moment : Commercials are doing really well with clients like Lexus, VW, Waitrose, Mulberry, Snickers, Birds-eye, Patek Phillipe, Asda, PG Tips, Adidas, Citroen, Samsung, John Lewis and in long-form we have a few things for BBC, CH4 and Netflix. We also have some super exciting Top-Secret work in the building but annoyingly I can’t talk about that just yet. You’ll have to keep an eye on our Instagram and website for those!
Pitch: And what are your wider ambitions for the future?
TT: I’m still firming up the foundations here, but undoubtedly we will continue to expand our offering to better cater for our clients’ needs so we can become a studio without boundaries and provide limitless possibilities. I hope to continue our outreach work and make meaningful change through opportunity and action, while supporting the great people and projects who are already trying to influence this change. Together we are stronger.