Longtime Film Advocate Martin Scorsese Abandons Film for Digital

June 27, 2012
Source: Empire

Martin Scorsese

Though Martin Scorsese's Oscar winning Hugo featured some of the best use of 3D we've seen so far, many still aren't embracing the new technology and are still waiting for the "fad" to go away. Well, when names like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Ridley Scott start using 3D to tell their stories, chances are it's here to stay. Another aspect of filmmaking that's likely here to stay? The practice of using digital over 35mm film. Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker told Empire that Marty, a famous advocate of celluloid, has already made the switch. Looks like even a legend can tell when the times are changing.

Here's what Schoonmaker told Empire (found via SlashFilm) that is certainly worth reading:

"It would appear that we've lost the battle… I think Marty just feels it's unfortunately over, and there's been no bigger champion of film than him… It's a very bittersweet thing to be watching films with him now that are on film. We're cherishing every moment of it. The number of prints that are now being made for release has just gone down, and it would appear that the theatres have converted so quickly to digital."

Scorsese's switch has already happened, as Schoonmaker also revealed that their upcoming drama The Wolf of Wall Street will be shot digitally, but for those of you who hate wearing glasses at the theater, rest easy. This one's comin' at ya in good old fashioned 2D. Still, the number of directors out there who are holding out for film is dwindling quickly, with only Christopher Nolan as the lone holdout and guys like Steven Spielberg and Jon Favreau preferring it a lot of times and trying to keep it alive whenever they can. It's a shame to see Scorsese make the switch, but this really should be a turning point for the format when someone who has as much invested in celluloid as Scorsese does comes across the line to your side.

He's well known for his restoration work, and he's one of the country's most influential and knowledgeable film historians, so it really must speak to the fact that the technology is finally "there" for him to commit to directing movies digitally from now on. It'll be interesting to see how guys like Nolan and Spielberg respond to this move, almost like a chess game being played between the two sides. Will they give in and eventually embrace the new way, or hold out and keep 35mm alive? Personally, I can see the value of both sides.

When I look at something like Michael Mann's work on films like Collateral, it's easy to see a look that film just can't provide, and that absolutely works for some specific film stories. On the other hand, looking at a movie like Cowboys & Aliens (despite the quality - or lack thereof - of that specific movie), I totally get why Favreau wanted to use film to emulate the expansive look of an old John Ford movie and capture the western backgrounds in his movie. It's a debate that rages on, but it's interesting to see one of the world's most legendary filmmakers take a solid stance for one side. Where do you stand on this?

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Movie News



As a Director who loves film, this makes me very sad : (

Matt on Jun 27, 2012


Trust me the long run theaters are going to regret the conversion.Pretty soon people are going to ask that question: If it's digital why am I coming here? Why don't I just stay at home?

thaRiddler on Jun 27, 2012


I'm pretty sure the argument is more about the filming of movies on digital rather than the projecting but in response to your above comment I wasn't aware that you could project 2k or even 4k movies at home. It's the experience that people go to the cinema for. Not too mention theres more to it than the picture. Dolby's atoms sounds amazing and is something you just can't emulate at home. Anyway I think it's like records and cds all over again. And if thats anything to go by I reckon there'll always be film around it will just be limited. People will swear by one or the other but i don't think it can ever fully disappear.

Jen on Jun 27, 2012


Personally, I dread going to the movies. I'm always excited to see a highly anticipated movie as soon as possible, but I am certainly not going to the theater for the experience of it; it's just where it's available first. More often than not I get frustrated with loud or stupid people in the audience; at home it's just my husband and I on our comfy couch instead of shitty seats that make our knees scream for mercy when we get up. As for the theater sound, I find my home stereo system good enough to enjoy any Dolby movie at home. The sound tends to be way too loud in theaters, imo. I'd gladly pay $10 per movie digitally released so I can watch it in perfect quality at home. But, obviously that'll never happen.

SuicidalOptimist on Jun 27, 2012


2k and 4k? Or do you mean 720p and 1080p for cinema's. Then the surround sound? People are completely happy with their Bose or any other 7.1 surround system at home. Consumers buy these system to sound like the movies theaters. Filming, but mostly projecting in digital takes away the organic uniqueness of the cinema. People will think: Now I'm paying $11.50 to watch a giant HDTV? It'll do this because it's suppose to. The endgame here for studios is to get everyone to stay at home. They make 10 times the money on TV then at the cinema.

thaRiddler on Jun 28, 2012


How I feel when I'm going to digitalcinema here in Sweden. Watched Moonrise Cinema on digital, it was shot on 16 and I felt... this is just a glorified Bluray.

ryderup on Jun 28, 2012


Scorsese is a stipid old fool and no one cares what he uses to capture his crappy movies.

Jesse Bangerter on Jun 27, 2012


Too obvious, sir.

SuicidalOptimist on Jun 27, 2012


Are you fucking kidding me? Go kill yourself right now, why are you even on a film site if you clearly have no interest in it

HazedMind on Jun 27, 2012


Obvious troll with grossly excessive response. Let's keep the integrity of this sight afloat and delete both these guys, yeah?

waffles on Jun 27, 2012


As long as the story is good, who gives a shit on how its filmed. Scorsese himself even said to aspiring filmmakers that you dont need to have the perfect camera but you just need to get out there and make your movie. A good story will carry any movie.

Harry on Jun 27, 2012


I've had some issues with Scorsese as of late. He's been doing/saying some really off the wall things. They claim they 'lost' the battle, but this feels more like they just gave in to pressure.

germss on Jun 27, 2012


He is just giving in because he can now attempt to cement his legacy as a filmmaker who actually used "film". And is it just me or is he becoming Woody Allen...

happy camper on Jun 27, 2012


Alright. Future HO!

DAVIDPD on Jun 27, 2012


No complaints here. The guy made a ton of great movies so he can do whatever he wants now. He earned it.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Jun 28, 2012


Well, I admit, I haven't seen too many Scorsese films other than Casino, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, but I'm glad that even he recognizes that its time to move on. That sure as hell doesn't make him a fool or a sellout or whatever, so people need to get over themselves. The way I see it, film is great and all, but c'mon, you don't see the MUSIC industry putting out cassette formats anymore... The future is now folks. Live with it.

LosZombies on Jun 28, 2012


3D works for animation, holograms are the future.

Davide Coppola on Jun 28, 2012


Marty has entered his twilight years, a lot of strange shit is going to happen, this is just the start.

David Banner on Jun 28, 2012


Scorsese may be an old bat, but he knows how to make movies. Film has made some drastic changes over its history, this is just another one. He's not giving in, he's acknowledging the future of film. If you shoot down progress, nothing is going to change. I do have some problems with digital, but as more filmmakers experiment with it and develop new techniques and technologies to shoot, it will only get better.

erin on Jun 28, 2012


Digital is here to stay. And while its sad in a nostalgic sense to lose the tangible 35mm celluloid prints, the only reason 35mm has survived this long is it still captures super high quality images. Now that digital is catching up in quality, there really isn't a huge issue for me to switch over to digital (although I love knowing that guys like Pfister and Nolan are holding out and dang Inception looked so good and it was 35mm) What I hate to see is any advances in 3D. Its not like audiences are demanding to see movies in 3D, the studios are ramming it down our throat to save their box office returns. Once again, I'm so glad to hear that The Wolf Of Wall Street won't be seen digital and that TDKR which is hopeful to be the biggest box-office success of the summer, won't be shown in 3D.

Carson on Jun 28, 2012


Well, Digital 3D films do in fact have an extra element of entertainment and engagement due to the effect. But 3D at 24 FPS is not going to last...there are too many flaws. The 3D effect doesn't hold up during blurring caused by motion in the film...so when you have the big fast action scenes the 3D effect is lost. Higher framerates are the solution to truly immersive 3D cinema.

Chris_G on Jun 28, 2012


When everyone agree with me , I feel sick , sense of repetition kill me.I want everyone had been his own private opinion. I love both agree & disagree minds . I know i am not perfect , i search my flaws in thoughts of others , THAT'S ROAD TO PERFECTION. While I'm not vigilant , i believe pride is sin. Difference & variety between minds is delightful & pleasent thing , it give me fun moments , I feel living more. Scorsese invest on Celluloid , True but he is not Proud. First he insist but now he understand that insist wouldn't be needed, and accept it. His last work was about worth of invent! Scorsese learn from his own movies even! Meanwhile power of his directing don't has any business to Celluloids . He is skillful & mastermind . His Craftship in storytelling and taking out really incredible performances from his players is Un-deniable And in matter of Nolan's Vision to 3D i must say, my opinion is Nolan know 3D is not flawless already , he want deliver us "DARK" knight rises and dark scenes are crucial for 3D , he is really genius , he recognized critical point perfectly (i mean 3D matter) , cleverly evade it , he is going to deliver the fans something PERFECT , Definitely believe when the times come he will go for 3D too , but not YET.

Ehsan Davodi on Jun 28, 2012


im a cinematographer... the feeling that you get when you are working on film is totally different than the one that you get with digital.. film is not dead... film is film and digital is digital.. a lot of cinematographers are wrong and they try to make a digital shot that looks like film but doesn't work like that... is a different technology it should look different you should work different... sorry for my english..

Nicolas Dalli B. on Jun 28, 2012


As long as Christopher Nolan still holds out, there is still hope!

Chris Amaya on Jun 28, 2012


There are films like Collateral and Public Enemies that have a VERY digital/video look to them, then there are films like Avatar and I'm sure plenty of others that are shot digitally and there is no sort of 'visible side-effects'...from what I understand a lot of it has to do with compression rates of the footage and etc...in terms of the weird look during motion. Beyond THAT...from what I understand, Digital is not quite up to the standard of film if you are the most scrutinous eye...but I know at this point it's damn close...and it's only going to get better. Douglas Trumbull said it best when he said Digital has the ability to go beyond film...whereas 35mm film is where it is. It's not a matter of IF, it's a matter of when. Digital IS going to replace film, it's just a matter of when.

Chris_G on Jun 28, 2012

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