June 10, 2016

'Be a Filmmaker, Not a Video Maker': Kodak's President On Why Film is King

Kodak's President of Motion Picture and Entertainment Steve Bellamy squashes the film vs. digital debate once and for all.

As little as four years ago, the entire medium of film was thought to be on the verge of extinction. In his 2011 essay The Sudden Death of FilmRoger Ebert declared "the celluloid dream may live on in my hopes, but digital commands the field...my war is over, my side lost, and it's important to consider this in the real world."

He'd be happy to know that in 2016, thanks in large part to the combined efforts of a handful of influential directors, the Kodak Eastman company and their recently appointed President of Motion Picture and Entertainment Steve Bellamy, film is king once again.

Just how triumphant has film's resurgence been? 2016's edition of the Cannes Film Festival featured multiple films shot on celluloid, including entries from Jeff Nichols, Olivier Assayas, Xavier Dolan, Hirokazu Kore-eda and Ken Loach.

Kodak's Steve Bellamy
Four of these films were included in competition. The prestigious awards this year (Palme d’Or / I, Daniel Blake, Grand Prix Award / Juste la Fin du Monde, Best Director / Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper) all were for movies shot on film.  And the Jury Prize went to American Honey which was a hybrid of film and video. 

Boutique theaters like The Metrograph and Alamo Drafthouse are sprouting up in more and more cities around the country. Most importantly, however, filmmakers both established and new are considering that despite how much technology advances, film will always look better than digital.

No Film School sat down with Bellamy to discuss the medium's revitalization, why today's film schools might as well be called "Digital File Schools," and how working with film not only makes you a better director, but could also end up making your career. Prior to his gig at Kodak, Bellamy directed several movies of his own in addition to founding The Tennis Channel, The Ski Channel, The Surf Channel and The Skate Channel television networks. 

No Film School: How would you say film makes audiences feel differently than video?

Steve Bellamy: I have never seen a study that shows "here is what your brain waves are doing when they're watching film; here's what they're doing when they're watching video." There is something going on emotively that we have not quantified as of yet. We will. When you're seeing analog and you're an analog being, there is an emotional connectivity, and there are emotive responses that you just don't get when you're looking at pixels.

"We were a bankrupt company three years ago, and now we're kind of a start-up. But we're like the most mature start-up in the history of business."​​

In this day and age, we look at our watch and we're watching pixels in video. We look at our phones, our laptops and our tablets, our television sets, our desktops, even sometimes our billboards. If you think about it, we're spending 10, 12 hours a day looking at pixels in video. When your brain is processing any kind of digital motion picture technology, it's seeing a grid work of colored boxes. When it's looking at film, it's looking at basically infinite image characteristics, and it's looking at a light pushing through layer upon layer of 3D dye clouds.

When your viewers go to the theater, do you want them to spend two more hours, looking at content created with pixels and video, or do you want give them a different experience?

Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day Lewis on set of "There Will Be Blood."

NFS: How do you go about exposing a younger generation to the value of analog technology?

Bellamy: I don't have enough money to tell [everyone] about film. I would have to be buying ads on your site and Indiewire and Filmmaker and in every film school all day long. Even if you gave me 10 million dollars, I couldn't do it. We were a bankrupt company three years ago, and now we're kind of a start-up. But, we're like the most mature start-up in the history of business.

Here's the unique thing that I never would have anticipated: it seems the more artful directors are finding us and reaching out in droves. We did a Kickstarter campaign last month, and in the first day, we had 300 e-mails from people just dying to shoot film. "Never shot it before, but how can I get involved? What can I do?"

Everyone thinks film costs more money. The funny thing is, film can actually be less expensive 90 percent of the time than shooting video. You have to buy the film at the front and you have to buy the processing at the front. Then after that, the film expenses largely will go away. When you get into post-production, you start saving a lot of money with film. The people that say "film is more expensive," seem to always focus on the upfront costs of film, and never focus on the long haul savings of film. 

"When you make a movie on film, you are incredibly pragmatic about what you shoot."

I'm seeing a huge interest from the next generation of motion picture artists to get involved with film. We did an 8mm film festival this year at Slamdance. A coworker and I had an argument about whether we were going to get five submissions, which is what I thought, or fifteen, which is what she thought. We ended up with 550. We barely marketed the festival at all. We just put it out there, and lo and behold, 550 entries. We weren't prepared for that, candidly. But it just shows that if you give them a reason, all of a sudden, they come out of the woodwork.

NFS: What are some of the steps you'd like to take to make access to this medium easier for emerging filmmakers?

Bellamy: 8mm is obviously an amazingly economical way to make a movie. We just shot some footage at Coachella, and I took a motion picture artist, Michael Kontaxis, who's prepping a huge feature now, and he's only shot video his whole life. I sent him to Pro-8 to pick up a camera and film, and he calls me and said, "Steve, there's a massive problem here." I asked what the problem was.

He goes, "I added up all the film stock here, I've got 10 cartridges, and I only have 17 minutes' worth of film. How am I supposed to chronicle a whole event with 17 minutes of footage?"

I said, "Ahh, you're just going to have to trust me." 

He goes to Coachella and starts shooting. After an hour, I get a text from him saying, "Oh my god, I've seen the light. Mind-boggling." Instead of one day, he stayed there two days, and instead of using all 10 cartridges, he only used nine. It's just a different way of image capture. When you're shooting film, you really focus on, "what do I need?" and when you're shooting video, you tend to shoot everything, and then you figure it out later in post.

"Video is just a gridwork of colored boxes. That's not as artful. Film is infinite.​"

It's a very different process and procedure. At the same time, it's amazing when you go back through and edit and you don't have clutter.  For the movies that I made, I usually had about 23 hours of footage to make a 90-minute movie. Going through and getting rid of all of that 21-1/2 hours and deciding what doesn't go in was so hard and so unfun, and I did it five times. That's often what happens when you make a movie on video and you have the illusion that it is costless capture.

It isn’t actually costless because you spend more time on set with more takes and it takes real money for cards and drives. But the significant cost of costless capture is after it has been captured.  Culling though all that excess data, storing it, transferring it, etc.  

When you make a movie on film, you are incredibly pragmatic about what you shoot. Do you cover yourself? Sure, but you also are more attuned to what really needs to be in your final product. That major philosophical difference is just paramount. I believe that if you shoot film, you become a better motion picture artist, because it's just a completely different thought process.

"Kill Bill Vol. 1" shot by Quentin Tarantino, on film.

NFS: What are the benefits of confronting the challenges associated with shooting on film that you may not face with video?

Bellamy: Video is just a gridwork of colored boxes. That's not as artful. Film is infinite. In a digital camera, it's pre-set everything. Whatever is on that chip is all that you can ever do. You can't do more than that. It's a finite capture mechanism. A great one, but very finite. And film is not. There are a bunch of chemicals in there, and you're mixing the chemicals and creating a new cake every time you do it.

"As the light is passing through that film, it's hitting those crystals at all kinds of different angles, creating this light show in your subconscious. It is literally 3D."

If you make a movie on film, the film is a character. It has a living, breathing, organic feel. Film is truly 3D. It looks like it's a flat strip, but the reality is, there's layer upon layer of silver halide crystals, and there's all of these dye clouds, areas that have little bits of dye that form the colors that make up the image.

As the light is passing through that film, it's hitting those crystals at all kinds of different angles, creating this light show in your subconscious. It hits the first bath and the second bath and the ninth bath. You get this organic feel. Even if it's grainy 8-mil, it still feels alive. It brings your characters to life. It brings the whole project to life.

NFS: It seems like there's this misconception that it's hard to break in. Do you believe that's true, or do you think that anyone can just pick up a film camera and start shooting?

Bellamy: Would I advise someone to go buy a bunch of 35mm film and start a movie if they've never used a 35mm camera? Absolutely not. I would get someone on your crew that knows how to do it. But can you walk into Pro-8, grab an 8mm camera, and go out and shoot film? Absolutely, it's so easy, it's ridiculous. It's so artful, and most of the things that people are afraid of are the things that work really well.

We've kind of referred to them as "happy accidents." Something goes wrong, you don't do something right, you open the camera early, there's a hair in the gate, I mean, just typical things that can happen, turn out to be the most beautiful, miraculous things that you love the most when shooting film. Whereas if you're running hot on the video camera, it's over. There's usually no recovering that. Film is more like overdriving a tube guitar amp and video is more like clipping on digital music. 

Film is the artful medium. If you want to create great art, I recommend shoot on film. If you want to create content, I don't think it's a necessity.

NFS: What sort of gear would you recommend for filmmakers that are just looking to get into film? Is there a specific type of camera that you think would be good for them? What is the minimum necessary equipment to be able to shoot film successfully?

Bellamy: Here's something that's pretty great: you can develop your own film. You don't have go somewhere to develop. You can literally go on Youtube find a bunch of videos showing you how to develop your own film. 

If you don't want to go through that, there are stores, like Pro-8 in Los Angeles, which is an amazing place. They know everything there is to know about 8mm, and their clients are Chris Nolan and Ben Affleck and all these people that shoot Super 8. The other thing that's amazing about film is it's almost like a fraternity.

"If you're a young person who wants to get ahead in this industry, a great way is to shoot on film, because you'll be in the 5 percent as opposed to the 95 percent."

This year we had a ton of directors make movies under a million dollars on film, like Outlaws and Angels, directed by JT Mollner. If I call any one of the 30 A-list directors who love film, there is an instant connectivity between those guys and JT Mollner, and they all cannot wait to go see JT Mollner's movie. He is one of 1,000 people this year that made a movie for under a million dollars, yet now he has a reason to be separate from the crowd.

If you're a young person who wants to get ahead in this industry, a great way is to shoot on film because you'll be in the 5 percent as opposed to the 95 percent, but 90 percent of the greats all are in that 5 percent, so you now have really jumped out of the masses and the clutter and gotten into the rare air.

"Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" shot on film by J.J. Abrams.
NFS: So shooting on film can really help you stand apart?

Bellamy: When you shoot film, I can't tell you what a fraternity you have joined. It doesn't matter what level you are, if you're making a $25,000 movie or $25 million or a $200 million movie, it's across the board. I mean, we [Kodak] are your partner. We are helping crew up your staff, we're helping raise money, we're making sure that the processing works great, we're introducing you to famous directors to come see your film, to go to your premiere.

It's amazing the value that you unlock when you shoot film, because there's this niche of people who are devoted to it. I tell you, the older guys, Spielberg, Nolan, J.J., Tarantino, all those guys, they are just so enthusiastic about a young person who shoots film. If you shoot a movie on film, you're making a statement that you are different and a different kind of artist.

"Be a filmmaker and not a videomaker, because you only get a few chances to make big pieces of art in your life."

NFS: I think that if more schools made film their first priority, the film industry would be a much more interesting place today.

Bellamy: Reaching young people is very important to me. So I've done the dance, I've gone to a lot of film schools, and half of them are digital file schools, not film schools. Right now, so many of these schools have migrated away from film, and some are even migrating away from story-telling, and they're migrating into 3D and gaming and VR. 

NFS: As an aspiring filmmaker myself, it's really nice to hear someone in your position saying these things candidly.

Steve: Well, be a filmmaker and not a videomaker, because you only get a few chances to make big pieces of art in your life. Shoot film for the art that needs to be timeless and video when you don’t have those needs or the characteristics of the project push you there. Even artists like Spielberg don't get that many chances to make big motion picture art as they each take a long time to make.  At the end of the day, the film ones will last. They're timeless. They're resolution-proof. You don't make a 2K film or a 4K film, you make a film. When you make a 2K video or 4K video, you're locked into a resolution, and there's going to be a time period when that resolution is no longer as valuable therefore marginalizing the value of your art.

You're basically making art that is more akin to being disposable.  Much like all the television shows on the early video formats and lower resolutions that are now largely worthless.  Resolutions will likely increase and increase.  We will be at 8K in no time.  I know of a camera company working on a 24K camera now.  Film basically has stayed the same decade after decade, is still and will always be the gold standard. 

Editor's Note: This post has been edited to reflect clarifications made by Mr. Bellamy. This is in no way sponsored content and no money changed hands.      

Your Comment

60 Comments

Don't read websites - buy magazines!

I guess the debate is squashed isn't it?

June 10, 2016 at 2:08PM, Edited June 10, 2:10PM

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What?

First of all, no, that comparison doesn't squash the debate. Websites vs magazines is an awful comparison to the digital vs film debate.

A more adequate comparison would be digital art vs traditional art. Should we get rid of painting, sculpting, etc. because we have programs like Photoshop and Illustrator and 3D printers? No. All of these should be considered different mediums to choose from to get to the same destination - art creation. Same with digital vs film. Two mediums for the same outcome - a moving image.

June 10, 2016 at 2:42PM, Edited June 10, 2:51PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
484

Get out of here with that talk of nuance and carefully weighing technologies and costs - don't you know that the question has been settled once and for all by the president of one of the last remaining film manufacturers??

Did you not read just the slobbering lip service in the byline that declares "Kodak's President of Motion Picture and Entertainment Steve Bellamy squashes the film vs. digital debate once and for all."?

June 10, 2016 at 3:07PM, Edited June 10, 3:11PM

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Well, I didn't mention anything about nuance or costs. I was talking about mediums AKA formats.

You know, like paint, wood, marble are mediums (formats). Film and video are mediums (formats).

Last remaining film manufacturers? You act like there use to be hundred or something. There were really only two major companies that manufactured motion picture film stock.

It's okay bae...I know this article has you all in a tissy. I'll pick up the heavy flows and chocolate on my way home.

June 10, 2016 at 4:39PM, Edited June 10, 4:45PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
484

I don't think you know how to sarcasm works.

June 10, 2016 at 4:48PM

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Oooooooooohhhhhhh that's what you were doing

June 10, 2016 at 5:04PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
484

;)

June 10, 2016 at 5:07PM

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Yes, why read websites with the most up to date information that was posted hours ago when you can read magazines with information that was up to date a few months ago, and you also get to kill a few thousand trees at the same time! Woo Hoo!

June 11, 2016 at 7:28AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
27726

Information only has value if it is imprinted in a way such that dye meets fibers.

Writers... and I hate to use that word "writers" because if you're not imparting ink to paper, you're not a "writer", your a data wrangler...

June 11, 2016 at 4:26PM

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Exactly.

June 11, 2016 at 8:05PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
367

Film is dead. Long live film...

June 15, 2016 at 11:41PM

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Vidrazor
345

While digital offers it's own unique look, I do agree that film does (and likely will always) look better.

What I DO resent, however, is this implication that shooting video is less artful. I'm not sure if Bellamy meant to suggest that, but it certainly seems that way.

June 10, 2016 at 2:17PM

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Quincy G. Ledbetter
Writer/Director/Musician
125

Just want to throw in there that Mr. Bellamy certainly isn't against shooting video...the article was edited down from a 19 page, hour long interview so, obviously, certain quotes had to be left out. In fact, he shot five films on video before taking the job at Kodak and had to do a tremendous amount of research on the medium in his first couple months on the job.

It's always going to come down to what medium works best for the story your trying to tell through your film. It's terrifying to think that we almost lost film as a tool for doing so and I, for one, am thankful that we still have the choice.

There's also no question that experimenting with film will give you some valuable knowledge/experience that will help you learn and grow as a filmmaker. Mr. Bellamy is clearly eager to get emerging filmmakers better access to analog technology and I believe his continuing efforts to do so should be commended.

June 10, 2016 at 2:41PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

Then you did a piss poor job of editing down for this article.

You left with a quote: "When you make a video, you're locked into a resolution, and there's going to be a time period that's over. You're basically making disposable art. "

How can anyone read that and not take away that Mr. Bellamy is anything but against shooting video.

June 10, 2016 at 3:10PM

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I'm just happy to see you read more than just the by-line.

June 10, 2016 at 3:16PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

Well it's just a bunch of pixels in a grid - so it's disposable anyway.

June 10, 2016 at 3:23PM

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"Video is just a gridwork of colored boxes. That's not artful. Film is infinite."
"You're basically making disposable art."
"I hesitate to use the word filmmaker, because if you don't shoot on film, you're not a filmmaker, you're a videomaker."
"Well, be a filmmaker and not a videomaker, because you only get a few chances to make pieces of art in your life."

It's very clear that the Kodak President of Motion Picture and Entertainment would have a bias against video. He constantly alluded that digital cinema is some how a cheaper form of art the entire article. It's really a ridiculous claim, there have been plenty of beautiful movies that were done digitally.

I mean just think of this part, "I added up all the film stock here, I've got 10 cartridges, and I only have 17 minutes' worth of film. How am I supposed to chronicle a whole event with 17 minutes of footage?"

He made it seem as though having a limited amount of film stock would make you a better filmmaker by making you be more careful in your shot selection. Well you can simulate that with a digital camera by only bringing an 8GB SD card. Obviously there is something romantic about shooting on film, but that doesn't mean video should be dismissed so easily. I come from an ENG background since I teach at a journalism school, so video is very suiting for our newscasts and documentaries.

June 10, 2016 at 4:30PM, Edited June 10, 4:29PM

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Charles Duoto
Instructor & TV Production Crew
1128

@Jon I'm not going to say that the article was edited poorly because I don't know the intent, but there is definitely a strong sense that Bellamy doesn't respect those of us who shoot digital as much as those of us who shoot film. I reiterate the quotes:

"Video is just a gridwork of colored boxes. That's not artful. Film is infinite."
"You're basically making disposable art."
"I hesitate to use the word filmmaker, because if you don't shoot on film, you're not a filmmaker, you're a videomaker."
"Well, be a filmmaker and not a videomaker, because you only get a few chances to make pieces of art in your life."

He's entitled to his opinion, but it's pretty hurtful for those of us who ARE creating art with digital.

...and with that, I digress.

June 10, 2016 at 5:39PM

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Quincy G. Ledbetter
Writer/Director/Musician
125

"He's entitled to his opinion, but it's pretty hurtful for those of us who ARE creating art with digital."

No offensive, but get a grip and don't feel hurt. He's the CEO of Kodak, of course he's going to say that anything but film is crap. His livelihood depends on you buying film. This is nothing but a sales pitch. Follow the money.

June 10, 2016 at 10:32PM, Edited June 10, 10:32PM

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Mike Tesh
Director of Photography
477

Still hurt me, though. I'm a sensitive dude.

June 13, 2016 at 9:33AM

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Quincy G. Ledbetter
Writer/Director/Musician
125

Agreed!

June 11, 2016 at 9:46AM, Edited June 11, 9:46AM

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David Vessey
Director/DP
1

Ok I don't know that much about digital projectors. I understand 97% of theaters use them nowadays and that a chip containing tiny mirrors that reflect individual pixels make the magic happen... So how is watching a movie shot on film, then digitally scanned, then digitally enhanced with CGI and mastering, then made into a DCP, then projected via pixels and mirrors the same as watching a "film?"

In other words, if you take a film camera and photograph a screen, when you loupe in close enough, won't you see pixels if the grain was theoretically fine enough?

Not really buying this CEO's argument.

June 10, 2016 at 3:26PM, Edited June 10, 3:26PM

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Paul Mossine
Videographer/Editor
81

Yea and additionally, with few exceptions, all movies shot on film are scanned and finished into a DI. I'd love to see how you can call something scanned into a digital image, not "little boxes of colored cubes".

This argument is ridiculous, film is...nice, but if you need a specific capture medium to be disciplined, you're not actually disciplined, you're just using it as a crutch. I would also argue that story and acting are the two most important things in a film. If you're sitting there thinking about what capture medium a film was made with, then you're just not engaged in the film in an emotive way.

June 10, 2016 at 4:20PM

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Derek Means
Director of Photography
305

Damn, he's right! Let me cancel my Netflix subscription, stop buying Blu-rays, and stop going to my local theater. Later on today I'll head down to Best Buy and buy the best film projector they offer, maybe I'll pick up some 35 mm prints of my favorite films as well...oh wait....

This man just insulted all the incredibly talented cinematographers who shoot digital.

June 10, 2016 at 3:27PM, Edited June 10, 3:30PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
327

I love this. I would love love love to shoot my next film ON film. I love that this is a huge step AWAY from 3D movies (which is the worst fucking thing to happen to cinema). The one big hurdle for me is, right now where I am, getting my hands on a film camera. I know you can buy tail ends of reels for cheap - and that's how you can really get film for pennies on the dollar - but the camera itself to rent is a hardship for a lot of up and coming filmmakers. I can shoot a scene with 2/3 DSLRs set up and cover it in one set up (not that that's what I do, but cost wise, you can see where digital saves you time). But I totally agree - if you have the means, and can rent a film camera, and get over the price of film, it's an awesome medium to work with, and classically cinema. Hope it continues to come back in a huge way.

June 10, 2016 at 3:27PM, Edited June 10, 3:27PM

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Filmmagician
Writer/Director
51

Film just always feels so much more immersive, despite what the pixel brigade tell themselves.

June 10, 2016 at 4:11PM

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chris
367

Film looks better and definitely is more immersive, but I don't think anyone who chooses to shoot digital should be regarded as less than because of their workflow preference.

June 10, 2016 at 5:41PM, Edited June 10, 5:41PM

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Quincy G. Ledbetter
Writer/Director/Musician
125

While I appreciate and understand a lot of his point of view, the fact is he is the CEO of the last standing motion picture film company and as he said in the article they were bankrupt just a few years ago. Now I think its absolutely awesome that film is making a comeback and that people are shooting on it. I agree with a lot of what is said, but I think there is a very negative heavy handed spin to this article that basically trashes anyone and everyone who is shooting digital.

Now as an obviously biased business man who's goal is to sell film, that may be his prerogative but I would hope that No Film School would offer some counter points and balance the argument. Especially since the main argument of the article is moot given the VAST majority of films have been scanned into digital format for finishing and distribution. This means that while the image may resemble the characteristics of film and have the beauty of it, its still just a grid of pixels for the audience. There are almost no film houses left that still project prints.

June 10, 2016 at 4:47PM

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Don't fall for this trap.

The trap is, and I've been there before, is that any one thing is the barrier between you and making "art" or being creative. Or that if you do not align yourself with other supposed great tools, your creativity will be hampered.

Film is beautiful. Film is great. Film has nothing to do with whether or not you put the camera or the light in the right place at the right time, which frankly is what it's all about and has vastly more importance than what you capture the image on.

I love that there is renewed interest in film, I hope there's always enough interest to make it economically viable.

But fetishization only obscures the real work, if you are trying to become a better filmmaker. It only has a place on a website that claims to be an education resource if balanced opinions are also made available.

June 10, 2016 at 4:54PM, Edited June 10, 5:08PM

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I don`t understand why it should be that bad if film was gone forever. I actually don`t care. I have a few 16 and 35mm cameras, some unexposed cans of Kodak 7218 and Orwo/Filmotec N74 and even two 16mm projectors. But the insane hazzle to get it processed properly and telecined aren`t worth it. Not even speaking of the costs. If even Roger Deakins, my personal god of photography can`t get 35mm properly developed while shooting "Hail Cesar" because there aren`t many labs left and those few don`t have the same quality level as they used to, then I`d be rather highly nervous to get my shitty dozen of cans done. I wouldn`t risk sending them across continents and to a facility which may not give me the quality I could easily get with digital aquisition. The only way to save film would be to have the same amount of labs, telecine facilities and supporting services like in the old days - but as long as the costs can`t be brought down this will be an utopia. Damn. It`s (not completely) about greed that killed film - it`s the market which made it harder and harder to shoot on film. And while we´re at it - how in hell can one justify spending excess money today on film while he/she is probably underpaying and putting the crew through overly long shooting days?

June 10, 2016 at 5:07PM, Edited June 10, 5:12PM

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I'm finishing my last film... Sorry "movie". I shot it in digital and Film, both, because the story need it. We are mastering and mixing right now... Shooting on film is great and digital is so flexible that... Uhggg...
My point is, 99% of the people who's gonna watch your film don't give a F"!# how it was shot... they just see the movie, the story, that's it!!!
Use the medium that fits better to you and stop this stupid fighting debate.

PD: Bellamy just want money...

June 10, 2016 at 6:00PM

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Matias Rispau
Director
156

Such an outdated debate. Would make sense if every other person would be able to afford it but nope. And just because today anyone can pick a simple camera (or phone) and make a story perhaps doesn't sit well with fellow capitalist "filmmakers" sitting on heap of studio money.

People care about good storytelling, not this.

June 10, 2016 at 7:50PM

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Aditya V Iyer
Cinematographer
36

Personally I felt the article was a sales pitch for film by the last company standing that makes motion picture film. We have discussed this before, but once film becomes ones and zeros it is no longer a film and is digital video.
Then in capture if film is "magic" logic dictates that video can capture all the "magic" of film then the "magic" of film is lost due to the digital process.
In Hollywood there are zero films that are captured on film, edited as film and projected as film.
At any point that it is converted to ones and zeros it is digital video. That is the indisputable that it is no longer film.
Having said that, if you have the money, find a working camera, find a place to have it processed, find the available stocks suitable or have Kodak custom make film stock for you.
Go ahead and use it. Esp if you have the skills for using it and are comfortable with it.
However to say it is superior is horse shit, it is a choice, just like using digital video is a choice,
but no one sees film anymore even in movie theaters, they see a series of ones and zeros.
I know people love to argue about this and pray that film will come back,
but the true magic are people who make movies and make us believe
and you have an option to use film for capture if you want,
but still becomes digital video in every way we view movies.

June 10, 2016 at 9:11PM, Edited June 10, 9:14PM

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Really...people are still debating on this. I change my title from 'Filmmaker in the making' to 'Moviemaker in the making' and squash this Debate ==once and for all== ::)

June 10, 2016 at 11:31PM, Edited June 10, 11:36PM

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Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
152

It was an enlightening interview to read or even felt like a curtain opened up like in the real movie theaters and then you realized that you knew it all on beforehand. It was there in my mind, in my subconscious. Just one point was lacking in the interview: The pressure and infinity of the problems faced by those who want to preserve the digital films and be sure they can be viewed after say some decades. In the far corner of the world were Iceland is located the oldest moving image containing Icelandic people is 110 years old and we have even got two films from that year, 1906, in perfect condition. Both of them shot by hand driven cameras made of wood on 35mm b/w film. Would you be sure your digital film made today will last so long? Think about it. Sony guarantees the ODA back-up system for 50 years. How will your computers, your hard drives, your operating systems, your applications look like after just 50 years, not to mention 110 years. You can watch all the 50 years old films preserved today in film archives but not in the cinemas of the world. Some invisible force prevents you from being able to.

June 11, 2016 at 5:20AM

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Erlendur Sveinsson
Director of the National Film Archive of Iceland
1

The solution is simple......transfer the digital image to film.

June 11, 2016 at 6:18AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
822

Then back again.

June 11, 2016 at 6:45AM

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This whole discussion is OBSOLETE........it's like Sandisk telling us that SD cards are king. Pixels...are square representations of grain.
Why use film if the end result is a digital format?
Any "LOOK" can be achieved digitally.
One more time.......it's all about the STORY!

June 11, 2016 at 6:16AM, Edited June 11, 6:20AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
822

Oh, by the way 99% of that precious film look can be emulated in Filmconvert or any grading suite. As long as your source material is properly exposed.

June 13, 2016 at 10:23AM, Edited June 13, 10:23AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
549

Spielberg's ration defiantly isn't 5 to 1 and nor was Kubrick's.

June 11, 2016 at 6:44AM

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I can't wait for all of these "Film is King" bullsh*t arguments to die out. Film has a unique look that looks great when shot at it's native ISO speed, but it also looks like hot garbage when trying to push it past 1000 ISO.

My favorite thing about digital shooting is that you get to choose how much grain you want in your image, which can be none or as much as you like. With film you are at the mercy of your lighting, so that grain is almost never optional when shooting film.

June 11, 2016 at 7:41AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
27726

Film is beautiful indeed, however, digital opens the door for people to be filmmakers, to tell stories. You can be cinematic in both. Some video game cutscenes can be more cinematic, than entire movies shot on film. Story is the most important element to make something cinematic. I am working on my first feature, in Zimbabwe, and digital is the best option where I am. No matter the medium, the mission is to tell the best story possible. And you gotta use what you have and do the best you can with it in order to grow. My two cents.

At the studio level tho, consider Iron Man (Film) versus Captain America Civil War (Digital-6K). There is a difference in the feel of those movies. How much is the writing, and how much is the medium? Or the effects of the mediums. Ultimately the story in Iron Man was better. If we look at the effects of the mediums (e.g. film makes you pragmatic; digital gives you options) that's only a reflection of how an individual director makes their movie, one person's pragmatism is another person's hell. Some films burn through millions of dollars in film reels that go unused. The mission is still to tell the best story possible, I do not think it's fair to say digital is disposable either, there are great and highly respected digital artists out there. Ok, now I go back to work.

June 11, 2016 at 8:32AM

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I can't believe we are doing this again... Yes film is special, but not practical. More important to me is not the medium used but the story told... I don't want to hear this debate anymore.

June 11, 2016 at 8:54AM, Edited June 11, 8:55AM

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Terrell Lamont
Director, Director of Photography
143

I stopped reading from the moment the guy talks about little cubes that we see all day. Yeah, if you have a laptop from the 90s... If you have a retina display, you don't see them anymore.

Now, watch these and tell me why film is so superior:

https://vimeo.com/117914474
https://vimeo.com/117913601
https://vimeo.com/117915845

You actually have to add grain to Alexa to get it to look like film.
And seriously, who's going to see a movie because it was shot on film instead of digital? This is a similar argument with DOPs who want their 15k prime lenses otherwise it will not be good enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0XQd9zYMc0

June 11, 2016 at 10:15AM

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Just incredible that some people can't tell the difference. Amazing..

June 11, 2016 at 3:40PM, Edited June 11, 3:40PM

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chris
367

Totally agree!! I've shot on both and edited on both, film is a pain in the ass!! Let me know how organic your feeling when your looking for 3 seconds of footage at 2am that the
director errrrr "filmmaker" wants back into the current version that hit the editing room floor a week ago. Or when you've dolled out every last $$ to evan have, or rent time in a editing room, let alone the skill to physically cut and splice film. You may get that organic feeling while remodeling your post production suite to accommodate x amount of film cartridges for the last couple of projects!! Yes, film has a unique look to it, but there is a reason a small minority use it, they have the infrastructure to handle it, or they have not thought thru the whole process and have become enamored with nostalgia!! Can you make a fantastic movie using film? Absolutely. Can you make the same movie digitally? Absolutely, with a lot less headache and a lot more flexibility. As far as 8mm, organic is not the word that comes to mind.

June 12, 2016 at 5:11PM

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Dave Williams
Owner/John Landon Multimedia
1

Film is dead. It just hasn't had the courtesy to die.

June 11, 2016 at 2:53PM, Edited June 11, 2:54PM

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it's evolving. Wet plate photography never died. Painting never died

June 11, 2016 at 6:55PM, Edited June 11, 6:55PM

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Everything this guy said, I've been telling people. Film is still the most cinematic and personal format. It's also my and many others' favorite. But digital is still king and will continue to grow its share. Hopefully things will get better image wise in the digital frontier. ARRI seems to be the closest in figuring out a cinematic image but it is nothing like film.

June 11, 2016 at 6:54PM

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Sort of off topic, but does this mean that shooting aerial shots from a helicopter will get me better shots than from a tiny drone?

June 11, 2016 at 8:57PM

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Frogy
Director / Shooter / Cutter
101

See what I did there? ;)

June 11, 2016 at 8:58PM, Edited June 11, 8:58PM

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Frogy
Director / Shooter / Cutter
101

Be (digital) cinema maker, not a pretentious smug-faced elitist.

June 13, 2016 at 10:09AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
549

"When your brain is processing any kind of digital motion picture technology, it's seeing a grid work of colored boxes. When it's looking at film, it's looking at basically infinite image characteristics"

Yeah, but if the movie is going to be screened with a digital projector, does it matter how it was filmed? Aren't you going to see a "grid work of colored boxes" anyway? Even if you use a film projector, does your brain know the difference?

June 13, 2016 at 6:52PM

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Ricardo
Film Student
156

Old debate. Nobody will ever doubt the beauty of film. That said, many great films have been shot/acquired via video. You can go all the way back to the doc Hoop Dreams. It was shot on BetacamSP, the gold standard video format back in the day, but pretty crappy by today's standard. It's a great film. This is due to more than being a well-shot piece. Hoop Dreams is a powerful narrative/story, that's also well edited.

June 14, 2016 at 9:46AM, Edited June 14, 9:46AM

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Great interview.
Totally agree with Mr. Bellamy statements.

Have been shooting in complex lighting conditions with the latest Vision3 50D, the result is just amazing.

To me, video is good for video assist or broadcast news and the like. I would never do a movie with a digital camera, as it doesn't look and feel cinema. It just look faux and ugly compared to real film.

Best regards

June 17, 2016 at 5:34AM

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The old analogy was that if we consider that video has a color range of 100 increments, film has a color range of 1000 and the human eye 100,000. But that was before HD, 4k, post coloring techniques and all the other tech advancements over the last 20 years.

The look of film may still not be 'matched' by video, but it is so well imitated that, lacking feature film budgets, we can still make great 'films' with a video camera...
http://panopticmedia.com

June 17, 2016 at 11:16AM

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Jim Prues
Director/DP
86

I agree with the argument about the importance of film because it's true but I just don't really agree with the fetishization of it.

June 17, 2016 at 1:16PM

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Enrique Godinez
Director/Producer/Actor
378

Great article- particularly the fact that shooting on film is so much more doable than most people think (myself included). He overplays some of the benefits here and there but the fact is, almost all (though not every one of course) my favorite movies tend to be shot on film.

June 17, 2016 at 4:49PM

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Douglas Bowker
Animation, Video, Motion-Graphics
102

It is so exciting to see Kodak finally take a more aggressive stand for film . Film is an amazing medium with enormous creative potential why would any creative person not want to learn about and use it. Hooray for Steve Bellamy & Kodak .

June 18, 2016 at 10:29AM

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Phil Vigeant
Pro8mm President
1

Not surprised that digital filmmakers feel defensive to anything that might upset their worldview, but I do get tired of it from time to time. The reality is that the great majority of filmmakers and photographers work with digital image capture, and that won't change. I wouldn't mind so much, if they didn't try so hard to increase that majority to 100% and attack anyone who does things a different way. It's this longing for homogenization that scares me the most; why wouldn't they want a richer and more diverse ecosystem for filmmaking and photography? Inferiority complex combined with fear of the unknown is my guess.

I don't hate digital technology, even though I firmly believe in film as the superior medium for image capture. But I'll be generous here: digital cameras can do some awesome things that film isn't capable of, and it's led to great films, like Russian Ark. No one has ever shot a feature film in a single take with a film camera, because it's not possible. Sadly, there aren't many films out there that push the technology to the degree of which it's really capable.

Leaving cameras aside for a moment, it's thanks to digital technology that filmmakers have such wonderful tools at hand to manipulate, finish, and share their film images. Digital correction and editing makes film-capture better than ever before, and I'm happy to be living in a time where I can utilize the best of both worlds for a wonderful hybrid workflow. I'm sure I speak for the majority of film shooters here--there can't be many people these days ordering workprints and editing on a moviola. Personally, my last project would look nothing like it does today if it weren't for Final Cut Pro X, but that doesn't change the fact that my images came to digital with a look that digital cameras can't replicate, and the original elements, properly stored, will last for a millennium. THAT'S why I and others like me shoot on film. Everyone else can do what they want.

I've seen a lot of posts here declaring that digital is better, largely a reaction to a suggestion that that might not be true. I'd respect everyone a whole lot more if they weren't so offended by an alternate opinion. It's not like digital sensors were in danger of disappearing just a few years ago, after all. We're entering a new era where film technology has come through the fire and survived--that should be celebrated! There's room for both technologies to exist side-by-side now, so please: be gracious.

June 19, 2016 at 6:18PM, Edited June 19, 6:29PM

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Joe
1