Read Martin Scorsese's Passionate Statement About Saving Celluloid

August 4, 2014

Martin Scorsese

Just last week we learned that directors Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, Quentin Tarantino and J.J. Abrams assembled like The Avengers in order to convince major movie studios to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years in order to keep Kodak in business and not let film die. This would ensure that Kodak could keep making film stock and give the format at least some life in the industry being taken over by digital technology. Now longtime film advocate Martin Scorsese has made a statement in support of this initiative by these filmmakers to save a pivotal part of film history that needed a savior. More below!

Here's the full statement made by Scorsese about the effort to save film:

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.

Scorsese himself has switched to digital, because digital technology can finally match the quality of real film, though he still pushes the importance of film in the world of cinema, especially when it comes to preserving prints of the past for future generations. This is truly a passionate statement from a man who loves film not just as a medium, but literally as a format. While technology is changing the face of filmmaking, it doesn't mean that we have to abandon formats like this completely. After all, the difference between shooting on film and shooting digital isn't the same as the difference between 8-track tapes and MP3s. Cool?

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Reader Feedback - 13 Comments


Very nice will piece. I admire his passion, but am skeptical of film lasting much longer.

DAVIDPD on Aug 4, 2014


You can't hang on to the past forever. You can't keep pouring money into an inferior product just for the sake of nostalgia. Let it go. Film has had it's glory days but it's time to move on with technology.

Chuckee Knowlton on Aug 5, 2014


Pretty much agree with you.

DAVIDPD on Aug 5, 2014


“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.” - Christopher Nolan

Matt Lathrom on Aug 5, 2014


Good stuff, Matt....thanks!

Bo on Aug 6, 2014


It seems there are those commenting and writing this article have missed Mr. Scorsese's rather informed point. All digital is doing is trying to look like film and it doesn't. Period! Forget the sake of nostalgia as commented below. That's nonsense. Forget film has had its glory days. What the hell does that mean? That's absurd! Move on with technology is a silly statemant as that's what's always happened and will continue to. But to miss the reality of what film is all about and will continue to be all about for the sake of this 'new' technology is crazy! And besides, who cares what fanboys on web-sites write? They do not make films and have no sense of making films. Pay attention to the Scorsese's, Tarantino's, Nolan's, el al who are important filmmakers and take the fanboy's opinions with a grain of salt! Now...Re-read the last five lines of the second to last paragraph...this is it is: "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." Get it? Digital is here and here to stay. But film, hopefully, will continue to be available also.

Bo on Aug 5, 2014


You're too funny. I don't know why some people get so bent out of shape over other people's comments. I'm not going to stoop to your level and say you're comment is nonsense. In fact I partly agree with it. I'm just stating facts. Film is going away no matter how much Nolen or Tarantino wants to hang on to it. You have the nerve to call me a fan boy after your comments regarding those guys? Ok.

Chuckee Knowlton on Aug 5, 2014


Chuckee, I perceive your incorrect perception about being bent out of shape over other people's comments may be a projection on your part. I will own up to very passionately disagreeing with your comments 'you can't hang on forever' or telling others to 'let it go', but won't own up to being 'bent out of shape'. Come on, man. You're is going away and some of us are not exactly happy with that. Why does that bother you? And why does 'fan boy' seem to 'upset' you so much? Is that not what you are? A fanboy to me is defined as an audience member; perhaps an over-zealous fan on the internet expressing opinions that have no effect or mean anything to professionals. If the shoe fits, then wear it; if it doesn't then don't. Hopefully you'll read Matt Lathrom's few comments on this thread regarding the use of film and let go of this fanatic position regarding digitals movies and lack of understanding the artistic merits of film and the possibility of the co-existence between the two.

Bo on Aug 6, 2014


"You're is going away and some of us are not exactly happy with that. Why does that bother you?" It doesn't bother me at all. I couldn't care less that Nolen is fixated on film. Why would I care? I'm just stating the truth about the future of film and that is all. I have no reason to get passionate over any of it. I know that whatever becomes obsolete will undoubtedly be replaced with something better. Yes, BETTER. I am a professional, I shoot for a living. Mostly commercials. I've shot on pretty much every format in terms of film and video for the past 20 years or so. I've shot 35mm and pretty much on every format of digital video there is, everything from A Canon Rebel to Reds to any number of cameras in-between depending on the client and their budget. I can't for the life of me see how shooting on film can be CHEAPER than shooting on digital video, but I'll take Nolen's word for it because he IS a GOD. As far as the use of the word fan-boy, it's an insult used by teenagers who normally I don't care to spend wasting my time on. This has to be my favourite WTF line of your post.. "Hopefully you'll read Matt Lathrom's few comments on this thread regarding the use of film and let go of this fanatic position regarding digitals movies and lack of understanding the artistic merits of film" Good lord, what does that even mean?

Chuckee Knowlton on Aug 6, 2014


Thanks, Chuckee. I appreciate your experiences and will refrain from sharing my views on commercials. I respect your right to have your opinions regarding this whole film vs. digital thing. I whole heartedly disagree with you and shall remain steadfast in the viewpoint stated by Scorsese which I share. The irony here is that I really do not like the films of Nolan; or Tarantino and I find that amusing. These are the guys who are standing up for film and I do not respond to their films? Kinda funny. You are correct. Digital is here to stay and I hope one day it will look as good as film. I also remain steadfast that that day has not arrived yet and when and if it does I shall welcome it with open arms. Until then, I look forward to those filmmakers who continue to shoot on film and their work. That doesn't mean it'll resonate with me just because it's film, but I'll be paying attention! There's nothing more to be said between the two of us as evidenced by the 'good lord, what does that even mean'? Therein is our differences being revealed, but there's worst things in the world than this. Good luck with your professional endeavors and may you advance to where you wish to be in those endeavors.

Bo on Aug 7, 2014


It's not a matter of inferior or superior product, it's an aesthetic choice. Digital cameras still can't match the depth of color and dynamic range that film can capture. Just ask Roger Deakins, arguably one of the best cinematographers alive. He shot Skyfall on an ARRI Alexa. It looked great in the theatre. It was nominated for best Cinematography by the Academy. But even with a master of light with one of the best digital cameras on the market couldn't achieve the quality of film. Just watch the bluray. Compare it To Deakins' work on No Country for Old Men. Shot on film. The two technologies can coexist. For example. Maybe you're shooting a surfer riding waves at sunrise. Great, film will better capture the subtle interaction of light on the sea and in the sky. But you need to do a face replacement on the surfer. Great, shoot the face replacement in a studio on digital so it goes directly into the computer for VFX. They are different technologies that can be used to achieve different effects. It's similar to the real books versus ebooks argument. Personally, if I'm relaxing with a book, I'd prefer a physical copy. If I'm referencing something or reading for information, I often prefer an ebook. Both have a place in my life. I didn't just come up with this. I stole a lot of it from a cinematographer's lecture at the 2013 NAB. I defer to the people who work with the tools. They're the experts.

Matt Lathrom on Aug 5, 2014


Mr. Lathrom, Thank you for clearly articulating the case for film. Much as photography has not replaced painting and drawing, film needs to continue to co-exist with digital cinematography.

dandassow on Aug 5, 2014


Yes, I too appreciate your position and intelligent and well informed views on the whole film vs. digital nonsense. It's interesting to me some of these young guys, or fanboys they seem to call themselves, are so adament about replacing film with digital. I pity their lack of respect and lack of appreciation and lack of aesthetic awareness to what film has given us and continues to give to us in the arena of movies. Again, much thanks for your informed and intelligent comments.

Bo on Aug 6, 2014

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