Film is dying a slow and painful death, which is a pity. For all the hallmarks of digital reels, those are not necessarily superior to film. But it is a lot cheaper and allows for much more footage to be shot. 3D footage and post production work such as special effects are also much more efficient when using digital footage, so it is purely a matter of market forces that are pushing traditional film out of the frame.
Kodak confirmed as much: in 2006 the company sold 12.4 billion feet or film reel, but this year it will be lucky to hit half a billion feet. Last year Fujifilm bowed out of making feature film stock, leaving Kodak as the last remaining producer of the material.
Yet not everyone is happy to just let film die. Numerous directors still adore the medium. That includes Quentin Tarantino, who plans to film his next feature The Hateful Eight on film stock. The director has been part of a group lobbying film studios to make long-term commitments for film orders. Tarantino is joined by Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams in calling for studio support – interestingly the new Star Wars is being shot on film.
The love for film goes beyond just using it. Martin Scorsese’s latest feature The Wolf Of Wall Street was shot and distributed entirely in digital. Yet even he is a big fan, saying as much in a new statement:
“We have many names for what we do – cinema, movies, motion pictures. And…film. We’re called directors, but more often we’re called filmmakers. Filmmakers. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the obvious: HD isn’t coming, it’s here. The advantages are numerous: the cameras are lighter, it’s much easier to shoot at night, we have many more means at our disposal for altering and perfecting our images. And, the cameras are more affordable: films really can be made now for very little money. Even those of us still shooting on film finish in HD, and our movies are projected in HD. So, we could easily agree that the future is here, that film is cumbersome and imperfect and difficult to transport and prone to wear and decay, and that it’s time to forget the past and say goodbye – really, that could be easily done. Too easily.
It seems like we’re always being reminded that film is, after all, a business. But film is also an art form, and young people who are driven to make films should have access to the tools and materials that were the building blocks of that art form. Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry? Of course not. In the history of motion pictures, only a minuscule percentage of the works comprising our art form was not shot on film. Everything we do in HD is an effort to recreate the look of film. Film, even now, offers a richer visual palette than HD. And, we have to remember that film is still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital informaton will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for.
Our industry – our filmmakers – rallied behind Kodak because we knew that we couldn’t afford to lose them, the way we’ve lost so many other film stocks. This news is a positive step towards preserving film, the art form we love.”
But can film be saved by the support of a few big directors or is this just delaying the inevitable? And is it worth the fight? J.J. Abrams thinks so:
“I’m actually a huge fan of digital as well. I appreciate how that technology opens the doors for filmmakers who never had access to that level of quality before. However, I do think film itself sets the standard for quality. You can talk about range, light-sensitive, resolution—there’s something about film that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real.
I would argue film sets the standard and once it’s no longer available, the ability to shoot the benchmark goes away. Suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, the warmest, the most rich and detailed images.”
Last Updated: August 5, 2014