Colorist Keyhan Bayegan Finds a Common Thread of Emotion in Every Story
The entertainment industry has a plethora of professionals within it. These individuals are sometimes dismissed as dreamers who, if not for their lucky break, would likely not fare well in the “real” world. This broad generalization overlooks three important aspects: the amount of work it takes to create a career in entertainment, the substantial talent required, and the “real life” skills of these professionals. Consider Colorist Keyhan Bayegan who achieved a degree in Physics before altering course and pursuing his passion in the film world. Having spent his early twenties immersed in science and math, Bayegan reinvented himself to embark on a career that would have him working on the biggest films in the world such as Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker and Walt Disney Pictures soon to be released live action Mulan, a host of Golden Globe nominated television series (Apple TV’s The Morning Show, HBO’s Insecure, Amazon Prime’s Homecoming), and numerous other productions. By his own admission, Keyhan had no idea how layered and demanding the art of storytelling truly is. While he has worn a few different “hats” as a professional, Bayegan confirms that he feels that he has found his true calling as a Colorist. The success he has experienced along with the praise of his peers vets the accuracy of his decision.
It takes someone like Keyhan to assess and understand where the intersection of art and science is in the creative Venn diagram of filmmaking. Every venture on his filmmaking pursuit offered seemingly limitless variations in how variables such as lighting, camera placement, lens choices, and others could combine in hopes of manifesting the images he envisioned within his own mind. The combinations seemed infinite. He confides, “Once I slowly started shooting more, I could see the difference between the effect of camera placement and lens changes. I gradually became sensitive to the mood and atmosphere one can create using Cinematography. That’s how I got into the visual aspect of my craft and little by little getting the perfect angles and lighting design was not as mesmerizing as playing with the color palette and skin tones. I found myself fascinated with the small details and the immense energy that thousands of artists spend on a single shot so we can get the impression that evokes sensorial feelings in us. I understood how colors are important to the making of the film and how DPs can control the hues in the frame but that there is only so much they can do. That’s how colors became such a huge part of my life. You only need to look around yourself to see that many things we do in our lives are tied to colors, visual design, and how they manifest themselves. Notice how we wear what we wear and the interior design around us; it’s all exciting and full of beautiful emotions.”
Whether it’s a big blockbuster like a part of the Star Wars franchise and Disney’s Mulan or a smaller film like the comedy Brunch! (a Vimeo Staff Pick also featured in Vulture), Bayegan attests to the rewards every project offers. He defines, “Yes, there are certain films which you know will be seen all over the world by an enthusiastic audience and this is exciting but every project allows me to use what I’ve learned in a creative way; that is true success. As Colorist for the film Birthday, I was able to translate the events of the main character’s emotionally draining 60th birthday and his altering state of mind due to the events that transpired in the story. Telling the story wasn’t as simple as following the events. I was afforded a lot of creativity to emphasize what the main character [Frank] was going through and how he processed it. The aesthetic of the film was built as if we were an older person watching the characters. Frames were still and colors were less poppy and the geometry of the scene was overpowering other visual elements. Older folks pay attention to the general structure of things rather than details; they care about how things are deep down rather than on the surface. We tried to focus less on a poppy color palette and wanted to have everything softer looking. Instead of chroma contrast, we wanted a contrast in luminance of the image. At the same time, we wanted the viewer to see how nice the main character was to the strangers. It was a delicate balance between keeping everything beautiful and washed out. Towards the end of the film we played with poppy colors as he’s dreaming. This communicates that it’s his younger self, basically recreating what he thought would be an ideal situation after a series of unfortunate events.”
From films to music videos by Grammy nominated Swedish band Galantis (“Never Felt Love Like This”) and a number of Vogue magazine’s “Diary of a Model” video projects, cultivating diversity in his resume has been a rewarding and positive course for Keyhan. While he always has an intuitive feeling about what’s best for a production, Bayegan asserts that helping other artists realize their vision is what has allowed him to gain such massive momentum in his own career.