MPC colourist Philip Hambi on blurring the lines between colour and VFX, and the piece of advice that never left him.
Award-winning colourist, Philip Hambi, has been perfecting his craft at London’s MPC for the past few years. A fast rising star in his field, Philip has built himself a diverse portfolio of commercial and promo work, and last year, was awarded a Silver Arrow for his grade on Billy-Boyd Cape’s celebrated Pride film, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.
Some of his most notable projects include the likes of Little Mix’s ‘Bounce Back’ music video, ghd’s ‘Long Live the Queens’, Nike’s ‘You’re It, Lexus’ Hybrid Disruption’, H&M’s summer 2019 campaign, and Matt Lambert’s ‘Diesel On’.
In an interview with LBB, Philip shares his journey into the industry, and the most enjoyable and challenging parts of being a colourist.
LBB: Tell us a little bit of background! What kind of kid were you and was there any inkling that you would end up in your current career?
Philip Hambi: I was a pretty chilled kid to be honest. I grew up in rural Worcestershire and my time was mainly spent in the great outdoors. I’d like to say that I was artfully playing around with my parents’ camera from a young age but, in reality, I’d have been shouted at for touching it!
LBB: What were your passions or hobbies when you were a kid?
Philip: When I was a kid I spent my time playing Zelda on my N64 or out in the garden causing chaos or getting lost in the local woods.
Now, I’m pretty passionate about cooking and it’s always nice to see empty plates at the end of the meal. My son is easily my biggest critic and he doesn’t hold back. I’ve also started a little love affair with tequila and as MPC is next to Amathus on Wardour Street it’s been quite fun popping in and discussing new bottles. Appropriately masked up of course.
LBB: How would you describe your cultural background and what impact does that have on your outlook?
Philip: Growing up in a small village just outside Malvern in Worcestershire, my exposure to cultural diversity was definitely pretty limited. However, my parents’ backgrounds and perspectives have always helped influence my outlook: my father, a London-born Greek-Cypriot and my mother, a born and bred Brit straight outta Derby.
LBB: How did you first get into the industry – was it something you deliberately tried to get into or was it more accidental?
Philip: I went to Staffordshire University where I studied Film & TV Production. The overall experience was amazing and I met some really incredible people. Looking back though, the expectation that you could walk into any job because of your degree is hilarious. It was pretty clear as soon as I got to London that things worked just very differently and being a runner helped define my understanding of the industry.
Getting a job in the industry definitely wasn’t accidental, I must have printed off hundreds of copies of my CV to hand out. My first break came from Philip Richardson and Olivier Lauchenauer and the rest of the team at Pogo Films. It was only six weeks of work experience but it gave me the opportunity to get to London and find a more permanent role.
LBB: Where/how did you hone your craft?
Philip: This was absolutely at MPC and it was all about practice, practice and more practice. Also, a lot of time spent shadowing some of the other colourists at MPC.
LBB: How would you describe your personality?
Philip: At work, I reckon I’m extroverted, pretty ambitious and can probably be quite annoying at times. I can be quite loud – I have a feeling some of my colleagues have enjoyed the past few months of working from home… Jokes aside, these attributes have been a strength in terms of building my networks and relationships with clients. Attended grade sessions can last a number of hours and I’ve always enjoyed chatting away in the suite.
LBB: What was the most useful lesson you learned in the early days of your career?
Philip: Work hard, but make sure people notice it! I honestly can’t remember who gave me this insight but as soon as I realised, I would do all of my MCR theoretical learning sat in the reception/communal areas. From that moment on, everyone from the top to the bottom knew the effort I was putting in and exactly what I was aiming for. I’ve never hidden my hard work or ambition since.
LBB: What was your first professional project and what are your memories of that?
Philip: That would be a super low budget Disney promo for a holiday park somewhere in Europe that was shot on 5D. Remember those days!? I remember it because I felt like I was finally getting somewhere although creatively it’s probably the one I’m most eager to forget.
LBB: And what was the project or piece of work that you felt really changed your career?
Philip: Winning a Silver at the British Arrows for the Pride in London film was a pretty special moment. I’m incredibly proud of that grade but am still pinching myself to this day about the award to be honest.
LBB: What’s your favourite part of what you do and what’s the most challenging aspect for you personally?
Philip: My favourite part is easily the collaboration and the collective sense of satisfaction when everyone is excited and happy about the grade.
A really challenging moment for me is when you have a clearly divided room from the get go. Trying to mediate and be the glue that brings everyones opinions together and make sure that everyone leaves happy can be a challenge, but it’s definitely one of the most important parts and one that I find very satisfying.
LBB: How do you keep yourself fresh and abreast of developments in your field?
Philip: Regular conversation with my peers at MPC, whether it’s other colourists or VFX artists, help me keep up with new developments and tools/techniques. I also keep in touch with my wider industry network to keep a broader view of the field and anticipate future trends.
LBB: Looking at the broader industry, what gets you really excited?
Philip: At the moment, I get excited about the blurring of lines between colour and VFX. Working more closely alongside the VFX and CG guys with the Baselight BLG workflow is incredible. Some of the projects that we have recently delivered are genuinely mind blowing.
LBB: What could the industry be doing better, in your view?
Philip: The topic on everybody’s lips at the moment is diversity and inclusion and it’s quite clear that our industry really needs to improve.
Globally, MPC has started a diversity and inclusion drive which all of its employees are part of and so I’m quite excited to see where that takes us. I’m definitely feeling positive about the new direction.
LBB: Is there anyone in the industry you particularly look up to or admire – why?
Philip: I admire anybody that is attempting to join the industry at this current moment in time. I thought I had it bad back in 2008/2009 off the back of the recession but 2020 has definitely upped the stakes! I’m hoping that some of the diversity initiatives will be focused on supporting and encouraging this next generation.
LBB: Where are you currently based and how have you found the lockdown experience?
Philip: I live in Shepherds Bush with my heavily pregnant wife and my three year old son. We are fortunate to have a garden which made lockdown considerably easier – I even grew some vegetables and mountains of tomatoes – although juggling childcare and laptops was not always fun. I think we were all relieved when the nursery re-opened in June and now have an even greater respect for the patience of teachers.
LBB: What do you think it is that drives and motivates you in work and in your life?
Philip: Creatively, I’m always trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and create something striking and unique. My family is my main motivation though and I know they are really proud of me.
First published on LBB Online