In Conversation With Toby Tomkins

Founded in 2015, London based CHEAT has quickly become the go to colour and finishing house for a long list of respected filmmakers. For those of you who may not know the intricate processes of filmmaking, they would go roughly like this: First the film is planned, talent gathered, scripts written, etc. then it is shot, big cameras, lots of lights, and so on, after that it would go to post production, where is it edited and pieced together like a big jigsaw, and then, finally, before unveiling itself to the world, it will be colour graded, and this is where some real magic happens. In the colour grade the image is brought to life, it's where skin tones come alive, and sun flares pop and stylistic nuances occur, and it is here that CHEAT would come in.

Despite only being around for three odd years, CHEAT has already amassed an impressive list of clients, having worked on projects for Nike, Audi, BMW, and most recently NETFLIX for 'The End of the F***ing World'. At the centre of this company, is Toby Tomkins, the founder and senior colourist of CHEAT. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Toby and ask him about everything, from the reasons behind the name CHEAT, to the resurgence of the filmic look within the industry. Have a read below and be sure to keep up to date with Toby's work on Instagram and his website.

For those who may not know, what is CHEAT?

CHEAT is boutique post production company that specialises in colour grading and finishing, We have two locations in London and are the only post company in London that specialises in colour.


What motivated you to set up CHEAT?

I was motivated by my peers, mostly directors and DOPs that believed in me and supported me by bringing projects to me from the bigger post companies. The same was true for my business partner Joseph Bicknell.


There are a lot of different aspects and processes to filmmaking, and I suppose the finishing and colour grading process is one that would go generally unpraised or unnoticed by individuals who aren’t involved in the industry. What attracted you to the this particular aspect? 

I began in both editing and 2D VFX, and I always loved the emotional and narrative aspect of editing but I was also fascinated by the wizardry of VFX, so when I found I could have parts of both worlds with colour grading I fell in love. After deciding on colour grading as my future I became exclusively involved in colour grading (and related research and development) in that area and haven’t looked back!


Over a short few years you’ve worked on some pretty incredible work with some amazing clients. Did you find it difficult to start CHEAT as a solely dedicated colour and finishing house, especially in a market as competitive as London or did the work come in fairly quickly?

The work came in from my freelancing clients and when Joseph joined he also brought a small client base that got us started. From that starting point it was just about the work. We believed if we put out good work then the rest of the work would follow. To much relief it paid off and here we are.


Have you always been involved in filmmaking? Or how and why did you decide to get into the industry?

My dad was in the art department and after growing up around the industry I decided to go to film school to learn more about the other departments and filmmaking as whole. Even in the first year I found myself drawn to post production. I was glad to separate my career from my fathers, both on a personal level and also to dismiss any accusations of nepotism.


Have you noticed a resurgence in filmic emulation in the industry over the past few years? Be it in format, style or grade. Why do you think this might be?

Absolutely. I believe this is down to a generational reaction to certain colours and the way films looked during our childhoods and various parts of our lives. I firmly believe that the worlds that were created by shooting on film alone are entrenched in our psyche to ways of displaying reality on screen that are ‘of a world’. I believe that palette differs depending on generation, but right now the film aesthetic is for for whatever reason (possibly nostalgia or escapism) adopted by a lot of creatives. Of course I also believe that we are now going beyond that and taking some elements of film while developing possibilities that weren’t possible before in the ‘film’ ecosystem.


As previously mentioned, you’ve worked with some massive clients, from Nike, to Audi, to Netflix with ‘The End of the Fucking World’, what has been 1) The most fulfilling/exciting job to work on 2) The most difficult job to work on.

1) The End of the Fucking World’ – because making Red look filmic. 2) The End of the Fucking World’ - because making Red look filmic in 1 day per episode.


What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the industry but not knowing where to start.

Hound people. Keep chasing. Prove yourself. First in, last out. Work smarter not just harder.


Why the name Cheat?

Because we cheat it to look sunny, we cheat that flag that there wasn’t time for on set, we cheat day for night and if you’re bored of the big post houses and the way they do things, why not try and cheat with us.



Big thank you to Toby for taking the time to talk to us, be sure to follow CHEAT on Instagram.