Embracing the Un-Filmic for Fitting In’s Saturated Visuals

February 27, 2024 Feb. 27, 2024

When cinematographer Nina Djacic began discussing her ideas about comedy/drama Fitting In with Toronto-based Senior Colorist Dave Muscat, he recalls, “she didn’t want it to look filmic.” This is an unusual request, Muscat notes, as both feature and episodic clients most often want to emulate film characteristics. But not Djacic or writer/director Molly McGlynn (episodes of Grown-ish, Bless this Mess and many others). They wanted the imagery to go in another direction.

Starring Maddie Ziegler, whose unusual and uncanny dance moves for artist Sia’s music videos garnered international acclaim, the film takes a frank but humorous look at 16-year-old Lindy, whose life is thrown into turmoil when she’s unexpectedly diagnosed with a reproductive system issue that causes infertility. McGlynn acknowledged there are some autobiographical elements to the story and dubbed the film’s genre a “traumedy.”

Djacic, whose reel includes quite a few stylish commercials and music videos, wanted Fitting In to look “vivid, bold and colorful,” Muscat recalls. “I found that refreshing. Nina and Molly were looking for something different. Their enthusiasm to do something different really energized me.”

This stylistic choice for the color also helps to enhance the viewer’s emotional experience of the film, with Lindy’s home feeling “warm and safe,” Muscat notes, “but then, any time we are in a medical office, it needed to feel very cold and stark.”

The colorist is quick to point out that the success of this look is largely in part due to the quality of work that came from set design and lighting. “It already had a lot of color,” Muscat notes. “We were able to build off that and push it further.”

Of his approach within Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, he says “there is a limit to how high you can increase the standard saturation knob before the picture looks unnatural and harsh. I opted for a subtractive saturation method,” he says of a process in which the overall image becomes darker, as opposed to the color corrector’s default additive process, which makes the affected colors brighter. “The additive method can make colors look ‘electric,’ which we definitely did not want. The subtractive method allowed me to push the saturation further without that happening. We also crafted a lot of color separation to the image, which introduced the sense of there being even more color, all the while making sure skin tones were always natural and beautiful.”

By pushing interiors in such a stylized way, Muscat recalls, exterior scenes by comparison “felt a little flat. Not by themselves. It’s beautifully shot throughout, but since the interiors had this very bold look, we also wanted to get the exteriors into that same realm, so we did a lot of selective grading on those scenes. We might make the grass denser” — darker, richer — “the sky bluer and then further shape the image using Power Windows — darkening certain portions of the frame and brightening others to add the feeling of additional depth and bring a consistency to the look throughout the film.”

For Muscat, the whole process of working on Fitting In was artistically quite satisfying. “Molly McGlynn had a personal story tell and she tells it really well,” he says. “Nina Djacic had a clear vision of what she wanted, it started on set and then continued in the grade. They were both very clear what they wanted to achieve, and they were also very collaborative. It was really a wonderful process.”

Fitting In is now playing in theaters.