Tarantino, Nolan, Apatow, Abrams Join Together to Save 35mm Film

July 30, 2014

35mm Film

Hooray for filmmakers! On the same day as Christopher Nolan's birthday, news hits that Kodak has struck a deal with Hollywood movie studios to keep 35mm film alive. For now. The Wall Street Journal is reporting a big story that actually names some names saying that film production at Kodak is being saved thanks to a few filmmaker "lobbyists" who pushed the studios to make this deal. Officially numbers will be announced soon, but Kodak has partnered with the studios to "buy a set quantity of film for the next several years" even though they may not use it all, which will help keep one of their main factories open and running. Read on.

The report on the deal names a few specific directors: Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams (who is "currently shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film"), as those who "lobbied the heads of studios to help find a solution." Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of Weinstein Company, is also quoted as saying the deal is really "a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it." It's important because it helps keep Kodak film available. "Kodak's new chief executive, Jeff Clarke, said the pact will allow his company to forestall the closure of its Rochester, N.Y., film manufacturing plant, a move that had been under serious consideration."

As part of this new deal with Kodak, "studios are committing to purchase a certain amount of film without knowing how many, if any, of their movies will be shot on the medium over the next few years." That seems troublesome, but at the same time, these filmmakers would argue it's important to make sure that film lives on - @save35mm should be very happy. "In an industry where we very rarely have unanimity, everyone has rallied around keeping film as an option for the foreseeable future," said Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

35mm Film
Old film canisters at the Seattle Antiques Market, photo via beans in a can.

In a separate, short interview with the Wall Street Journal, J.J. Abrams also spoke outright in support of film saying: "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." Many other filmmakers are supporting this and speaking out in favor of film, not to mention shooting with it on their latest projects anyway. The WSJ says Weinstein was "personally lobbied" by Tarantino to support this. Another big supporter is Judd Apatow:

Film and digital video both "are valid choices, but it would be a tragedy if suddenly directors didn't have the opportunity to shoot on film," said Mr. Apatow. director of comedies including "Knocked Up" and "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," speaking from the New York set of his coming movie "Trainwreck," which he is shooting on film. "There's a magic to the grain and the color quality that you get with film."

It's great to see so much support behind this, even though it seems like an excessive financial burden, but a necessary one. And if you haven't been able to understand the difference between the quality of film and digital, go to places like the New Beverly or Silent Cinema or Film Society of Lincoln Center or MoMA or MoMI for actual 35mm screenings. There are so many places, and so many people, supporting 35mm film but we also need to make sure we can continue to shoot on film. Abrams explains: "I would hope filmmakers who are just getting started will be able to have this as an option as they continue in their careers because movies are nothing if not a romantic experience and film is a big part of that." Agreed. Here's to film/35mm!

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Gosh sakes! Am sorry but these directors NEED to get with the times! Digital is the future and it's the way things are going to go like it or not. 35mm film IS not going too last forever. So just learn to adapt. It's simple! There is a reason why movies aren't made on VHS tapes anymore. The era of VHS ended and we transitioned on DVDs and so forth. We evolved as technology progressed. Digital films will have the same progression in technology with quality and distribution. As much as I like 35mm films, move on! It's antique and it's a much slower process. Also to mention it's a far longer process than digital in terms of editing.

Stephen Ritchie on Jul 30, 2014


Some things you just can't do with digital. You can APPROXIMATE the vagaries and flaws of analog but can't achieve the real deal with digital. There's a reason why musicians insist on vintage equipment, etc.. Editing is still in the digital realm. But acquisition of the original on film imparts certain characteristics you can't do in digital.

OyVeyzMeir on Jul 31, 2014


Convenience kills fidelity. True artists will fight tooth and claw for fidelity.

a20 on Feb 9, 2015


To lose film would be to drastically diminish the artistic integrity of the film industry. I'm beyond ecstatic by this and that some of the best filmmakers are staying true to celluloid.

Marcus on Jul 30, 2014


I've seen plenty of films shot digitally that maintain 'artistic integrity'. At some point, it just becomes arbitrary to cling to celluloid as if it is the ONLY way to shoot a film.

Chris Groves on Jul 31, 2014


It's not the "only" way to shoot a film. It's about having variety. PTA's The Master would not have been the same had it been shot on a Red, or any other digital camera. Don't get me wrong, I love digital movie cameras and they have made beautiful films. It's to lose a method of film making for good, that is so aesthetically distinguishable, that would be a great loss to the art.

Marcus on Jul 31, 2014


It's like saying "since we have whiteboards now, artists should stop drawing on canvas". The medium affects the final art. The artists should be able to choose what they want to work on.

a20 on Feb 9, 2015


I don't think 'film vs digital' is very comparable to 'canvas vs whiteboard' all. At the end of the day, the same types of images are being captured and put on film or put on digital. Because of the difference, you fundamentally cannot put the same kind of art on a whiteboard that you would put on a canvas. Film vs digital doesn't change the process much at all...aside from the digital process making things quite a bit more streamlined and cost-efficient.

Chris Groves on Feb 10, 2015


First, I agree with you that process is easier with digital. So let's stop bringing that up. Second, what I'm really taking about is the texture / quality of the captured images. With film, especially 16mm, you get a more gritty quality that comes from barely perceptible distortions. Digital does not have that. Digital is all smooth, pristine and glossy high quality. I'm saying that for certain types of stories / drama, the grittier quality of film is more suitable than the glossy perfectness of digital. In that way, the artist should be free to choose the hardship of canvas or the ease of whiteboard according to their needs. We shouldn't dictate that since technology has advanced, the other mediums must be abandoned.

a20 on Feb 10, 2015


See, I don't see it as an artistic 'choice', for years, people shot on film because that was really the only quality option. They didn't 'opt for grain', they had to deal with it. But with the advent of digital, things like grain are no longer required. But because film was essentially the 'only' option for decades, perspectives were warped, and imperfections like grain became thought of as 'interesting aesthetic choices'. The quality of the image captured, be it "gritty"(grainy) or clear, has nothing to do with the content being displayed. Films like Gone Girl or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would have been no more 'harsh or 'gritty' if the image was clouded with grain. This notion of grasping onto 'grain' and 'grit' as if it is some sacred trait is beyond me. Game of Thrones is filmed digitally, the first season of True Detective was shot on film. Their 'gritty-ness' has nothing to do with how they were shot.

Chris Groves on Feb 11, 2015


> imperfections like grain became thought of as 'interesting aesthetic choices'. Not just in cinema, I think it happens in many walks of life. It's a cycle of "chasing perfection", and then "appreciating imperfection". Check out wabi-sabi: It happens in art - realism gave way to abstract & surrealism. Happens in life - when we're young we chase money but at older age we look back and think that the moments which we didn't slow down and appreciate were the worthwhile ones.

a20 on Feb 14, 2015


I really don't know much about all this...

Bl00dwerK on Jul 30, 2014


Very cool to see this rally around film. Soon it will just be a niche market.

DAVIDPD on Jul 30, 2014


Admirable. I'm very outspoken in my belief that digital is quickly catching up to 35mm film, and that 35mm film will be surpassed by digital sooner rather than later(6K cameras are already in existence, 35mm has been compared to won't be long before digital cameras can shoot at that, and go even beyond) BUT for the time being, digital is not quite on the level of 35mm. That point is coming soon enough, but digital still isn't the way to get the absolute best there is great justification in still filming on 35mm. So for that, I'm very glad this is happening. I want Nolan and co to shoot digitally because digital has reached the point of matching or going beyond film(which is a formality at this point) and NOT because the industry shifted and TOOK their option of shooting on film away.

Chris Groves on Jul 30, 2014


Digital filmmaking is cool in it's own way, but what's great about film is actually the imperfection. The difference between 6k and 8k is barely noticeable to the human eye. Film feels different because it is an actual physical product.

clinteastwoodscloset on Jul 31, 2014


So pro-film proponents love to throw out 'it is like the equivalent of 8K so it is better' arguments, but at the same time, want to say that the human eye can't tell the difference between 6 and 8K. That sounds contradictory. is a physical object, but that has squat to do with the image on screen. To be frank, most would prefer a clear, pristine image over an 'imperfect' one. If you can get an image with as much clarity, vibrancy, and detail as film, only with a digital camera that reduces and simplifies the whole process....why would you NOT prefer it? 35mm film is still a few inches ahead, but within about 5 years, this won't even be a debate worth having. Until then, I do think these filmmakers fighting for their preferred format is pretty awesome though. the difference between a 9/10 and 10/10 image might not be much, but if these perfectionists want it, then that is cool. One day soon though, digital vs film will be a battle of two 10/10 images....and one will be quite cheaper than the other. If these guys still champion film then, I'm not sure if I would be so happy to condone their stance.

Chris Groves on Aug 1, 2014


No I prefer film over "clear, pristine image" provided by digital (for certain movies) because movies need to deal with conflict & drama. The gritty nature of film is better suited for that than the slick plastic of digital - which imo is only suited for bright-coloured, G-rated, Marvel movies. Digital is for the people who like expensive effects while film is for cinemophiles who look for more layers than just eye candy in a movie.

a20 on Feb 9, 2015


Digital film-making didn't hurt The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Gone Girl. Not one bit.

Chris Groves on Feb 10, 2015


Wow. I wrote a long reply to this but apparently it wasn't allowed in because I added links.

a20 on Feb 14, 2015


But Nolan will NOT shoot digital, and neither will Spielberg who has been quoted as saying he ''will be the last to convert'' to digital.

Jamey on Nov 1, 2014


Higher resolution does not equal better movie. Film is about story telling & conflict. Beautiful, glossy digital films serve certain kinds of stories and the gritty, raw films serve another. Even if Kodak doesn't produce these films any more, around the world film industries will still need (and are producing) these types.

a20 on Feb 9, 2015


Another thing about film vs digital is that the ''flicker effect'' of film, not to mention the fine grain is totally different when the two are played together. I've not seen a digital presentation that looks exactly like film.

Jamey on Nov 1, 2014


4k,6k,8k whatever, digital is the way to go. I feel sad that Kodak has to effectively bribe the major studios to keep Rochester open making 35mm motion picture.What about Fuji or Agfa,and indeed the demise of 16mm that effectively fell off a cliff when tv became totally electronic. We can look back to the 70s when NBC stated no more film on site and scrapped its telecine islands and converted to tape only. The death of 35mm film as a production tool will come when the last film editor converts to digital and the hybrid systems come to nought - how many "films" have an IMAX/digital effects combo, and how many people sitting in conventional theatres can tell the difference. The king is dead - long live the King.

Ivor Allison on Dec 28, 2014


The quality of the finished product is definitely different. If you're a movie buff you can tell. Most of the new high-budget movies are definitely made in digital and have this "plastic-slick" feel throughout. Using 35mm or 16mm gives a grittier feel that's essential with certain types of stories. Hurt Locker was shot on super 16mm and way you are viscerally drawn into the movie is amazing. It's not the tools that matter, but the film maker's vision and the team behind it. Very few high-budget, expensive production movies are able to achieve this.

a20 on Feb 9, 2015


No you couldnt be more wrong - a cameraman speaking here - if you can tell what the difference is between a movie shot with Alexa or Red without looking it up on IMDB then your better than me. The digital formats use C mount film lenses and cameras have so many in camera variables that you cant tell the difference between the 35mm depth of FOCUS or that of the electronic equivalent. If you know what Im talking about then please tell me - otherwise shut up and wait until the final credit on the movie to credit Kodak or Red - and see and be amazed

Ivor Winston Allison on Feb 9, 2015


Personally Ive been surprised that many movies Ive rented and viewed on my 37inch tv that have beautifully crafted subtle some times high key photography have in fact been filmed on the Arri Alexa or Red camera. The old adage that 35mm film was better for capturing such creative images is long gone. These days we find that directors are finding that electronic original photgraphy is NOT an inhibition to creativity.A 23 inch HD tv picture is almost indistinguishable from a SD picture at normal viewing distances - so enough about "quality"

Ivor Winston Allison on Feb 9, 2015

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