Close brush with fame: Crawfordsville artist member of 2014 Oscar-winning team

Brian Hutchings of Crawfordsville has worked in Hollywood for 30 years as a color correction artist.

Now he can claim more than just seniority.

One of his latest projects, a film titled “20 Feet from Stardom,” is one of the 2014 Oscar winners, for “Best Documentary.”

The film, viewable on Netflix, is about backup singers in the music industry.

“It’s an exposé on backup singers who, you know their voices, but they never make it to the front of the stage.” Hutchings said. “It’s a great walk through history. It mainly chronicles the ’50’s, ’60’s, ’70’s and some current background singers with just phenomenal voices, should be stars in their own right, just they’re not. It’s kind of very realist portrayal of the music business how very few actually make it to the front of the stage.”

Hutchings has spent the last three decades working in color correction in Los Angeles. But recently he and his family have made their home in Crawfordsville to escape the big city.

“We moved out of the LA area to have a better environment to live in. Less pavement, less driving, and just to improve our quality of life.”

The Hutchings left Hollywood once before, he said. “My son was 9 years old, growing up before my eyes, I was so busy and didn’t want to have that regret when I was older.”

He had to return for a while to keep working, but is now out again, working remotely for clients in Los Angeles.

Many of Hutchings’ friends and colleagues view his move to Oregon skeptically.

“They say, ‘How’s it going up there – your grand experiment?’ They think I’m completely nuts,” he said.

“Right now I think I’m living the perfect dream. I have this incredible place surrounding me when I’m not working and I have been able to keep certain key clients who I enjoy and I like working for nice people. I’m very fortunate.”

With the changes in technology, Hutchings is able to live and work in Oregon while working with his clients down in Los Angeles. “The good thing now is I’m not tied to having to work in LA or Chicago or New York. I can live pretty much anywhere so long as I have clients who are willing to work with this. It’s a great win for all of us.”

Hutchings has been able to work from Oregon because of the connections he’s built.

“Over 30 years you develop relationships with people when they are in a pinch, or having problems. They can call and they know what they’re going to get.

“When I go to speak to colleges and classes, I tend to spend less time talking about the actual process because I can teach you to color correct in 30 minutes, but it’s also your people skills, the relationships you build along the way, it’s how you treat people and how they treat you and that’s what makes the difference often in what you do.”

Hutchings worked his way through the ranks in Hollywood, learning how to color correct when only 200 people on the planet knew how to do it.

“It’s one of the lesser-known oddities of post-production, but still equally just as important.”

Color correction gives Hutchings’ customers control over the final look of the film.

“Color correction allows the film maker to bring a certain mood to a scene that maybe wasn’t able to be captured while on a set when they were shooting.”

The process has the capability to make scenes filmed early morning look like they are at sunset, or clear up clouds, or even fix bad makeup.

“If I’ve done my job right, you don’t notice me, but you’re getting sucked into what’s going on in the movie. Our goal is to try to make it as attractive as possible; make everybody look as good as possible.”

Equipment and technology has changed since Hutchings first started. The last room he used for color correction cost over $2 million. “We’re accomplishing the same thing now for $30,000.”

Hutchings is the most well known in the documentary realm, which he enjoys.

“I find documentaries fulfilling in that a lot of times at least there’s some sort of moral or touch of humanity that helps along the way as opposed to the reality television, which unfortunately we all have to do to pay the bills.”

Last year he worked on the documentary “The Invisible War” directed by Kirby Dick, which was also nominated for an Oscar.

Hutchings said that documentary is “about sexual abuse in the military.

“Because of (the documentary), the military has gone through and been really cracking down and instituting some really significant changes that are really making differences to those who serve.

“It’s a difficult subject, but it’s one that in the end ended up helping a lot of people.”

Besides films and documentaries, Hutchings enjoys volunteering and service. This was another reason for the move to Oregon. He and his family have gotten involved in Crawfordsville Community Church and other nonprofits, which, he said, is something he and his wife enjoy together.

“We came up to serve, to be part of a small church and at the same time improve our lifestyle. Once you get a little older, it gets less about the career and more about your lifestyle and the things that make you happy.

“That’s success to me. That’s happiness to me.”

Recent films Brian Hutchings has worked on include: “The Invisible War,” 2013 Oscar nomination – Kirby Dick, director; “The Last Days of Vietnam” for PBS American Experience – Rory Kennedy (daughter of Robert Kennedy), director; “Non-Stop;” “42,” “Sherlock Homes II;” “Cloud Atlas;” “Jupiter Descending;” “The Gunman;” “The Judge;” “Project Runway” seasons 6-12.

Hutchins has also worked on “Locker 13” with legendary director of photography, Russel Carpenter, who worked on “Titanic.” During down time working with Carpenter, Hutchings heard him working the phones looking for work.

“Russell Carpenter has to hustle for jobs? Even the big cheeses are struggling. It’s just the nature of the business the last 10 years.”