I was intrigued by postings at a number of websites today about the deal struck between Hollywood studios and Kodak. The deal is basically that Kodak will continue to make movie film as long as the studios guarantee to purchase a certain yearly amount. Fuji exited this business in March 2013, so that leaves Kodak as the last film business. In the ASC magazine I receive every month at least one article talks about a project shot on film which just completed before the film developing service the project was using shut down. Then there's the matter of the cameras. Arri stopped production of film cameras years ago knowing that the future was digital. What happens when those Hollywood cameras run out of spare parts. Will Hollywood studios cut another deal with Arri to continue production of spare parts? How about film processing? With most film processing houses already gone will Hollywood studios partner and fund a common processing facility somewhere in West Hollywood? Then there's film schools. How will those schools continue to teach about using film when all those cameras and the film stock are precious and in short supply? That means the newest generation of "filmmakers" will be as educated in using film as audio engineering students are with cutting acetate on an LP.
The estimate is that Kodak's film business went from a staggering 12.4 billion feet per year in 2006 to a measly 449 million feet per year. Typically a roll of film negative is about 400 ft, just as an FYI. Pretty much all theaters have converted to digital projection, thank goodness. As you can probably guess the vast majority of those linear feet were positive film projection reels which are not required anymore thanks to DCP and digital projection. I will never miss the jumpy frames nor the squiggly lines up in the corner when switching between reels...or the really old reel that should have been retired years ago with dust and scratches along with bad soundtracks!
The initiative to save film was lead by Chris Nolan (+Wally Pfister, ASC), Quentin Tarantino (+Robert Richardson, ASC), and JJ Abrams (+Dan Mindel, ASC). I've never shot with film, so I can't pretend to be some type of expert in this field. What I do understand is digital capture. So is this just a matter of people holding on to what they know? Does it really matter to shoot on film when just about every film goes through a digital intermediate now days? If we can make digital look "digital" or "filmic" in post, doesn't that give the content producers more freedom?
Some other items in my understanding are that films like Skyfall (Arri Alexa camera), Zero Dark Thirty (Arri Alexa), and The Social Network (Red One camera) were all shot on digital cameras. Was the experience really compromised by the capture medium? I loved the look of all those films. It seems to me that there's more to movie making than the look of film. To me, and my non-ASC cinematographer opinion, a movie is about storytelling. It's about how the camera moves, the camera placement, lighting, shot composition, actor blocking, production design, and that certain believability that makes you think a 50-something male actor can still attract a 20-something female actor (OK maybe that was a little over the top, but it happens too often in Hollywood movies not to recognize it - Tom Cruise, anyone?)
I was thinking about this subject earlier this week and reminded myself that I am not a filmmaker. There is no film. I'm a storyteller. I try to tell stories with my work in cinematography. My goal is to help the director create believability and draw the audience in, not create "footage" - for which there is no such thing anymore, practically speaking.
I was at an ASC open house earlier this year and one ASC member made the point that "digital is as bad as it will ever be, and it's pretty darn good." I agree. It's not about the capture medium. It's about great storytelling. Just like when records transitioned to CD's it didn't change who created great music or what was considered great music. It's about compelling content.
HOW WE DID IT: Doc Style
2 years ago