Some of the movie industry's biggest creators, including Quentin Tarantino and now Martin Scorsese, have banded together to save Kodak's motion-picture film plants and successfully convinced major film studios to guarantee a percentage of movies will continue to be shot on film, at least for the near future.
In just a few short years, shooting digitally has become the dominant form of movie-making. The way of physical film and negatives are quickly going extinct, and lately Kodak has been showing lower than expected numbers every quarter. Now, some of Hollywood’s most influential directors have stepped in to save Kodak film, allowing them to allocate a certain amount of film stock so that a certain percentage of movies made in Hollywood will continue to shoot on physical film.
Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams (who is currently filming Star Wars: Episode VII on film) pushed studio heads into negotiations with the film company. Kodak’s film sales have fallen 96 percent since 2006, and its usage has dropped from 12.4 billion feet of film to around 449 million. Kodak is the only major company left producing the physical film since Fujifilm abandoned the industry in March last year.
Kodak Chief Executive Jeff Clarke said:
“After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we intend to continue production…Kodak thanks these industry leaders for their support and ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film.”
Perhaps the leading event-filmmaker working today, Christopher Nolan has spoke adamantly in the past about his continued preference for shooting his massive blockbusters on film. Warner Bros. was probably hard-pressed to persuade the man who revitalized the comic book movie genre otherwise – this is the man who created a gold-standard for blockbusters and brought a long-overdue respect to the development of comic-book movies. Nolan has since been able to handpick any project he wishes, and because of this, we have a genuinely intelligent director making films on a gargantuan scale, and doing so on cold, hard, real film.
In an interview last year, Nolan spoke (rather technically) about his love of film:
“For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. We save a lot of money shooting on film and projecting film and not doing digital intermediates. In fact, I’ve never done a digital intermediate. Photochemically, you can time film with a good timer in three or four passes, which takes about 12 to 14 hours as opposed to seven or eight weeks in a DI suite. That’s the way everyone was doing it 10 years ago, and I’ve just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven’t seen that reason yet.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Quentin Tarantino has spoken loud and clear about his preference for film over digital. While many others see the beneficiary aspects of a digital filmmaker, Tarantino “can’t stand that shit.” His newest film The Hateful Eight is already being advertised as shooting in 70mm Cinemascope, making it obvious he has no plans to shoot his newest movie (or any future ones for that matter) on digital.
Tarantino has spoken many times about this choice, but here is his most recent quote on the subject:
“I can’t stand all this digital stuff. This is not what I signed up for…Even the fact that digital presentation is the way it is right now – I mean, it’s television in public, it’s just television in public. That’s how I feel about it. I came into this for film…I hate that stuff. I shoot film. But to me, even digital projection is – it’s over, as far as I’m concerned. It’s over.”
Recently one more voice has entered the fray. Perhaps the greatest living American director, Martin Scorsese has joined the petition to ensure Kodak will continue to make motion-picture film. As the Chair of The Film Foundation, Scorsese recognizes the advantages of shooting digital, as well as the realities of modern “movie-making” (as you’ll see, Scorsese distinguishes between the use of “filmmaker” and “movie-maker”). This is the man who orchestrated one of cinema’s best uses of 3D to date, and he did it in his sixties.
Scorsese has a romanticized view of the filmmaker, a craftsman who can make you fall in love with the very idea of a moving picture. This is his statement in its entirety:
“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 information (sic) 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.”
Abrams, Tarantino, Scorsese, Apatow, and Nolan are some of the leading filmmakers in the world and are passionate supporters of the art who have taken action and urged Hollywood to keep film going. The studios in negotiations with Kodak are Weinstein Co., Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios, and these cinema juggernauts guarantee they will pay for film processing, at least for a while longer.
The campaign has worked and film lovers should rejoice over a small (maybe even inconsequential, in the long run) but crucial victory. Film lives on another day.
Images: Warner Bros, Kodak Corp, The Weinstein Co. Paramount Pictures