November 14, 2014

Why Shooting on Film is Like Writing a Handwritten Letter

What is it about film that makes filmmakers want to shoot their projects with it, even though shooting digital is faster, cheaper, and still produces beautiful images?

This question is explored by a director that chose to produce his short on 16mm film. According to him, the entire process is much like writing a handwritten letter: slower, expensive, but very -- articulate.

This is a guest post by Naftali Beane Rutter.


Let’s say you want to write to someone. Instead of texting, instead of emailing, instead of writing a facebook message, you decide to get out a piece of paper or a postcard and a pen, and write a letter. You compose the letter. Maybe you get it right the first time; maybe not. Maybe you use white-out, or cross out a few words. Maybe you just crumple up the paper and do it over again. "Man, this is so much harder than writing an email," you complain to yourself. But you finish.

Your letter has the right amount of postage and makes its way into the mailbox. Now someone is waiting. They don’t know they’re waiting, but they are. Someone is waiting for your letter.

Last weekend, I wrapped production on a short film I wrote and directed called WILD ANIMALS, which is about two boys hiding out in the moments immediately following a school shooting. (As I write this I’m in the final stretches of a Kickstarter Campaign to fund it.) We shot the film on Super 16mm, on Kodak Vision 500T stock on an Arri 416 Plus camera that we call the Hidden Champion, and in the months and months of preparing for both efforts, I found myself explaining to many people why I wanted to shoot it on film. The fundamental question is: How will it affect the completed movie if you shoot on film? Will it ultimately make the movie more successful, more effective, better? My answer is: Unequivocally Yes.

Director Naftali Beane Rutter with lead actor Brian Solomon on the set of Wild Animals

Explaining why you want to shoot on film is not an uncommon position to be in in the year 2014. There are hundreds of writings and essays, even a documentary by Keanu Reeves called Side by Side, dealing with the battle between film and digital. Why are you shooting on film? Directors’ answers tend to come from an instinctive place -- the Spirit Place. Director Alex Ross Perry, describing his decision to shoot Listen Up Philip on film, said, “Super 16mm was an easy way to spiritually connect us to the type of film that made us want to make this film.” The director Jeff Preiss says of his choice to shoot his film Lowdown on celluloid that, “It really was the intangibles that tipped it for me: an organic surface where the image and story both nest.” When I try to explain it, I go naturally with Preiss and Perry to the Spirit Place.  Artistically, there is no doubt about the feeling of shooting on film. It feels better. Our inspirers all shot on film; some of them still do. But words like “organic” and “nesting” and “spirits” mean different things (and sometimes nothing) to different people. What else is this about? Can we explain our feeling about film to those who won’t give us the benefit of the doubt, the producers, the businessmen, the racers, the first responders, the google glassers?

At the same time that we are powered and bound together by digital technology, there is now more than ever a return to and desire for “vintage.”  Our fashion trends backward, from Victorian to 80s Bronx. Urban Outfitters sells record players and Polaroid cameras. Our apps let us take a picture that looks like it’s on film. Our culture yearns for the days before digital took over, but the yearning and delivery of this vintage is made possible by technology. That slower process of arriving at our products -- for example, of shooting and unloading and developing film -- is disappearing. We get it instantly and it looks almost like the real thing. You know all this. However, I mention it as a way of bringing into bold relief the question of Process. Because I think Process can be essential in changing the outcome, nature and functionality of a product -- in this case, a story told on film. We Process film, we don’t just plug it in. We Process it even if we have to send it to one of the last surviving locales which holds the Spirit of the Processing, on an industrial street in Burbank.

Arri 416 Plus 16mm camera

I knew that the process of making WILD ANIMALS would be different if I shot it on film. I am someone who thrives in structure (one of my best movies, in my opinion, was made in two weeks, from nothing to finish), and when a movie is shot on film, the director is automatically under greater constraints than when shooting digitally.  For WILD ANIMALS I had a fixed amount of film to shoot (a fixed amount of feet!), and had to prepare accordingly. I had to know more precisely where my actors were going to go, and what they were going to do. I had to think more about directing than I ever had before. I had to know more precisely what I wanted each shot to look like. In essence, before the shoot I had to know my film more thoroughly, deeply, intimately.

(The day before we shot WILD ANIMALS happened to be the day that the Kodak Film Office in New York City was closing. I was the last person ever to pick up film from that office. From the Spirit Place, this was a sign that this was all meant to be.)

The film I shot prior to WILD ANIMALS was a 90 second PSA for the DC Office of the Health Care Ombudsman. We shot it over the course of 4 days on the Red Epic Camera. We shot about 1.1 terabytes worth of footage for that shoot -- which in our case translated into approximately 350 minutes of footage. For WILD ANIMALS, a film that could be up to ten minutes in length, we ended up with 4700 feet of 16mm film -- which translates into about 130 minutes of footage. This means that my shooting ratio on the Ombudsman PSA was about 233:1 (an admittedly outrageous number of options) and my shooting ratio on WILD ANIMALS was about 12:1. This staggering difference not only affected the pre-production and production, it also will have ramifications in post-production and beyond. In editing, if you have fewer options, your process is naturally streamlined. Fewer options technically means less storage space (you don’t have to buy as many drives).  Creatively, as you put together the film, you work in that same constrained space with, in the case of WILD ANIMALS, even fewer options. In this way, the creative process returns to the days before satellite TV, before the internet, when our options for what to watch, read, or do were less fragmented than they are now. 

I also am fairly sure (unless it’s a verité documentary) that I will never again shoot a movie with a 233:1 shooting ratio. Shooting on film is like couples therapy -- to help deepen the relationship between you and your movies.  There is a soft, warm, lovely feeling as you start and stop that shutter. The actors move through the light as it is captured onto the negative. If you’ve prepared accordingly, there’s a feeling that we (the director, the crew, the actors, and our film) deserve this. We love one another -- in a different, deeper way.

So it is important for me to explain this decision not just from a spiritual perspective, but also from a simple, grounded place. After a conversation with my girlfriend this thought emerged: shooting on film forces you to be more articulate in your process. To be more articulate before you shoot the film as a means of being more articulate on set, as a means of then being more articulate in the editing room.

It’s the same for a letter. When you make that decision to write someone a letter by hand, you decide to do it more slowly. It costs more money, and it costs more time.  But that is more time thinking about the person you are addressing, more effort put in to the message you want to deliver. You are adding degrees of articulation to your message and to your relationship with that person. Shooting on film forced me to be more articulate about what I wanted WILD ANIMALS to be. This will make the film better. This will make it different. 

How different will it be from its digital counterpart? We will never know. And when you open your mailbox and see a letter there from a friend, do you wonder -- what would this have looked like if they’d emailed me instead?

I think you’re just glad you got that special letter.


Naftali Beane Rutter is a filmmaker and long distance runner. He is at the tail end of a Kickstarter Campaign that ends on November 20th at 4pm to fund WILD ANIMALS, a short film about children struggling with the aftermath of a school shooting. Visit the WILD ANIMALS Kickstarter Page here. Rutter's first feature film script, "La Marea" was selected to IFP's Emerging Storytellers Program. He is currently in pre-production on "La Marea." Rutter is the director of Waterbound Pictures, a motion picture and branding company based in Brooklyn and San Francisco that specializes in socially relevant stories for screens of every size.     

Your Comment

48 Comments

If I were to buy into this analogy, I would say that shooting on film is more like writing a novel in cursive, in the dark. ;-)

November 14, 2014 at 6:02PM

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Joseph Moore
Director
288

I'm a vegan who washes his clothes in the sink to save water and power, and I still don't get the insistence on film. Fifteen years ago, sure.

November 14, 2014 at 6:25PM

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The film workflow is actually much less environmentally friendly.

November 14, 2014 at 7:23PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
745

There's no such thing as a battle between film and video. That's an entirely spurious construct. It's a choice, nothing more. I applaud the drive to make the story but I'm having difficulty with most of the reasoning in the article to shoot film. Technically, yes. Aesthetically, yes. Automatically better, no. This idea of 'spirit place' as if film can only get you there seems more like religious intolerance rather than solid film making. Any greatness within story comes from people, from relationships, from a feeling of otherness outside of the norm but hopefully finding common ground with your audience. David Lynch shot a whole feature on standard definition DV. I wasn't looking forward to the aesthetic but I was drawn in pretty quickly and had no problem with it in the end. Did it matter it was on DV? Of course not. This has a disquieting feeling of filmic elitism.

November 14, 2014 at 6:57PM, Edited November 14, 6:57PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

So much of the film fetish...which is what it most amounts to at this point...seems largely masterbatory.

If you're spending your own money and care more about a self-punishing journey than the end product, than sure, shoot film. but if what you care about is sharing a story with an audience, then there is no longer any meaningful advantage to shooting film over digital.

November 14, 2014 at 8:00PM

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Joseph Moore
Director
288

OMG...that was the one David Lynch film I barely managed to finish. Video sucks. It looked and felt (and sounded like) an undergrad film project from the late 90's. DV has a special ability to cheapen anything.

November 29, 2014 at 6:57AM, Edited November 29, 6:57AM

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Daniel Mimura
DP, cam op, steadicam op
2255

And just to add to this I'm reminded of the arguments going around a good few years ago about linear and non-linear editing, essentially film and computer based editing. People were saying that editing can get sloppy in non-linear, that it's all to easy to make a cut and think about fixing it later whereas film forces you to think about the cut you make as you're literally slicing the film. This is true but then you realise because non-linear is so flexible one needs to be even more disciplined, not less. Non-linear editing forces you to be a better editor because there are so many easy choices to make.

November 14, 2014 at 7:03PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

I agree with the above. If you're worrying about what to shoot on you're worrying about the wrong thing. I can buy the argument for shooting on 16mm - because it has a look that's quite different from digital, and some on set advantages (see Beasts of the Southern Wild). That said it's a look that you get on a Blackmagic camera and an hour or two in post with plugins :)

35mm on the other hand looks a lot like an Alexia and with a couple of post filters 99.9% of audiences will never tell the difference.

November 14, 2014 at 7:22PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
745

Ooooooh I get it now. This is the follow-up to the EFTI ad.

November 14, 2014 at 8:47PM

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If you're wanting to limit your options and take a "less is more" approach, there are less painful routes.

How about bringing just one 64GB Redmag on your next shoot?

November 14, 2014 at 9:34PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2824

Ladies and gentlemen, the next Dogme 95

November 15, 2014 at 9:14PM

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Zack Wallnau
Cinematographer & Tinkerer
623

Wanna have a really long and deep therapy session with your film? Try cutting it on a Moviola or a Steenbeck. Then let me know how you feel about it.

November 14, 2014 at 9:49PM

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William Streeter
Filmmaker
199

I see where he is coming from with the "spirit place." Yeah you can make digital look like film with plugins but film is magic. If it were not prohibitively expensive, I think a lot of people would still be shooting film. Making a film on film is like woodworking or sculpting. You are shaping and changing a physical object. The feeling of connectedness with your medium and how that can inspire and influence your creative process is what he's getting at.

November 14, 2014 at 9:50PM

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Mark Hinchey
Shooter
159

I shot on s16 for the first time a couple months ago and I have to say, I'm hooked. The biggest draws for me are the grain, the resolving power, the color information, and most of all the highlight information in a film negative. It was a small test for my short I'm doing to finish school and it has really solidified my choice to shoot on film for that. Not that I was trying to, but I just could not destroy the image except for the bad scratch I got on my fourth reel. I just don't want to deal with digital highlights anymore, eating away at the edges of my images.

November 15, 2014 at 1:50AM, Edited November 15, 1:50AM

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Peter Phillips
Filmmaker
633

...great! then wait when you finish school and face the beautiful thing called "reality" (maybe you heard of that). I also still have a great appreciation for film but in the end I and almost nobody cares about the paper the story is written on!

November 15, 2014 at 6:03AM

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Gerard M.
1128

If you shoot S35, let alone S16 you have to embrace the film texture. Otherwise, what's the point? Shoot Alexa and other digital cinema camera if you want clean.

November 15, 2014 at 10:01AM, Edited November 15, 10:01AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1332

My take away from this isn't so much that I should use film, but the concept of the "spirit place". That isn't necessarily some abstract spiritual pursuit, but the attempt to approach every stage of the filmmaking process with the feeling that it deserves my full attention.

I don't intend to ever shoot film for pretty much the rest of my life, but I would like my next few projects to have shooting ratios closer to 6:1 than 233:1. I think that sense of "process" isn't exclusive to film. Film may be more likely, to force you to approach your work like that, but it's not a rule. There were people who shot ridiculous ratio's on film in it's heyday and people who shoot digital as if they own the only CF Card, SD Card, or SxS card in existence.

That's my take away. To give every step of the filmmaking process my full and respectful attention. I think that's a grounded/spiritual take away that can improve my work. Spray and Pray is not a shooting methodology that I want to take with me throughout my career. After that, in regards to the look? Plugins!

November 15, 2014 at 1:52AM

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Nnamdi Ejim
Filmmaker
312

regarding ratio - I was critized for shooting almost exactely what I need - ON DV! But I have a strong dislike or rather hate to waste time, money and energy by being not focused. and I believe most people with stupidly excessive amounts of footage simply are either sissies (to make a choice) or totally undisciplined.

November 15, 2014 at 6:07AM

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Gerard M.
1128

Spray and pray doesn't mean anything with regard to shooting on any medium. That's all about the discipline of the film maker. You're making it seem that if you shoot on raw, video whatever that automatically you're into a dynamic that degrades the content. That is just not true.

November 15, 2014 at 1:08PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

I'm kind of stunned by the comments here. Why give a guy shit for rationally expressing why he, and he alone, shot on film. It's absolute crap that digital looks like film when you put a few filters on. And I'd be surprised if many commenting here had ever shot on celluloid themselves. Not for me to launch into a debate about the aesthetic qualities of film but my own preferences stem from how exteriors, human faces and slow motion are rendered. Digital can't do it the same way. Yet.

Above and beyond all that tho is an elevation if story and filmmaking over and above the wretchedly mechanical repetitive process that it can easily become. I you're shooting film everyone on set steps it up a notch. You see that pile of cans slowly dwindling and you hear money ticking through the gate. That's when it gets really special. And if that isn't what you want out of filmmaking then I genuinely feel for you.

November 15, 2014 at 3:21AM

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Robin Schmidt
Director
238

"Why Shooting on Film is Like Writing a Handwritten Letter" - he didn`t say it is just his opinion but rather makes a general claim out of it thus presenting it as a point of discussion.

So I guess Transformers must be the most superficial handwritten letters, ever...

November 15, 2014 at 6:09AM

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Gerard M.
1128

True, that is fair I guess. Transformers... ergh!

Anyway, I guess, in amongst all this is the point that shooting on film isn't just about comparing sensors with celluloid, there's a load more going on which is still special, still magical and still worth preserving because it's value goes beyond simple pixel maths and resolution charts. Worth cherishing.

November 15, 2014 at 6:29AM

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Robin Schmidt
Director
238

>how exteriors, human faces and slow motion are rendered. Digital can't do it the same way. Yet.

Maybe low-end digital. There's mysterious machines called Red Dragon and Arri Alexa out there available for rent. You should try it out. Not a S16 cameras though, but I think Dragon will give you about ~3K something with 16mm lenses.

November 15, 2014 at 10:54AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1332

Um, okay! I've actually shot a feature on alexa and countless promos on all flavours of RED, which will only come out as bragging but having sat in the grading suite for long hours scrutinising the footage I do feel I'm qualified!

November 16, 2014 at 3:25AM

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Robin Schmidt
Director
238

Something shot on film can either look good or look bad - I've seen plenty of films over my years shot on celloid that looked amazing and those that look terrible. Whatever it takes to find your happy place - find it. For me, my happy place is now spending money or time no matter what on the coloring session. That has always been the difference between something looking good and bad. Once there is money and time in place for this, then I will talk with my director about shooting either film or digital. And also let's celebrate where digital has gotten. Birdman - I had absolutely no idea this was shot digitally. I shore it was shot on film. And behind every great cinematographer is a great colorist - I hope Steve Scott the colorist gets the praise he deserves.

November 15, 2014 at 7:50AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1676

Also it cannot be forgotten the stress of shooting film - finding out the next day that there was a hair in the gate - a scene - the focus is out - light leaks - all these anxieties and nightmares. And if you are on a low budget indie - you don't have the ability to fix this and reshoot. I used to be in full support of shooting film, but I'm learning there that digital will get there. I am seeing it in my own work as I learn to color myself what is possible. So yes agreed to others - why not just limit yourself with digital - force yourself to work like you are shooting film. Bring just a few mags. Don't shoot the rehearsals. Bring your discipline to digital shooting and then with the money you saved by going digital, have a better coloring session or higher more crew members or better crew members or a better editor or spend the money working with actors more and making your film better. Sorry Kodak - I feel so bad saying this. But it's time for us to realize what happened with technology and embrace it.

November 15, 2014 at 7:56AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1676

Stress? I've blown more days of shooting by some dummy deleting the wrong card than I've ever had on a set with film.
Aside from the ease of which digital is erased- with film comes respect- and respect comes patience and humility.
When I get on set with these kids and their DSLRs, I don't see respect or patience, I see arrogance and short-sightedness.

November 15, 2014 at 11:20AM

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Doug
231

I don't even see most people measuring to get their focus on digital shoots- i can't stand it.

November 15, 2014 at 11:23AM

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Doug
231

Shame Kodak would never put its extensive 100+ years of knowledge, experience and expertise with film emulsions, color sciences and filmic curves to good use in an inevitable digital replacement. The last nail in the coffin was giving up and selling their digital sensor division to Truesense/OnSemi. They could actually pay respect to Kodak's glorious photochemical legacy by creating dedicated Film LUTs, carefully tweaked exclusively for homegrown Kodak digital cinema sensor. With that you'll get 99% an effect of newer, older and long discontinued motion and still film stocks just switching through presets and color profiles. Instead we have 3rd-parties more or less successfully doing that work for them, projects like Filmconvert, Visioncolor, Koji, VSCO, etc.

Unfortunately, Kodak will be completely gone after processing the very final reel for the last batch of Hollywoods analog film die-hards like Nolan or Tarantino (and many more DPs, of course). There's no argument it's now on life support, therefore with end of celluloid all the amazing legacy of Kodak will be lost in time like chemical tears in acid rain.

November 15, 2014 at 12:40PM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1332

Oh I see what you did there

November 15, 2014 at 1:11PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

If you like dynamic range, lack of rolling-shutter issues, accurate colors and beautiful skin-tones, roll-off in highlights and shadows, easier archiving, film is still the way to go.

If you like being able to shoot in lowlight, view what you shot instantly, not dealing with a lab, working with lighter cameras, digital is the way to go.

I like to think film retains some of the spirit of the scene. The actual photons that bounced off the actor were imprinted into the film. In digital, they're merely interpreted by a sensor and processor.

November 15, 2014 at 8:36AM, Edited November 15, 8:36AM

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K W
388

I'm disappointed the liberties taken by this article. First the title suggests that digital is cheaper than film, which could be true if you never wanted to watch your film after you finished editing on your timeline.
Just last week I watched 80+ year old director Frederick Wiseman state plainly that archiving digital is extremely expensive and not cost effective.
Is that 80 year old man with dozens of films under his belt and years of proudction experience stupid or is this article biased?

November 15, 2014 at 11:15AM

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Doug
231

I have my digital films archived by etching the 0's and 1's on gold plates.

November 15, 2014 at 1:13PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1715

He's not stupid, just ill-informed or stubborn. Film is a s#it form of archival. Its a myth that films live forever safely as film. Look at Star Wars, just 20 years after it was shot the masters were faded and washed out sitting in their cans.

An extreme example - Compare even a low data rate digital file a 4.5GB HD iTunes download. Easy to store anywhere, cloud, usb sticks, anywhere in thousands of locations. Then 30 years open the film master and compare... One will have degraded even if its the tiniest amount and been at risk of fire, theft, getting lost etc, the other identical to 30 years earlier and safe. I'm not of course suggesting an iTunes file is a way to archive a film but it doesn't need to be terabytes either.

The answer is both. You absolutely archive to digital and that becomes your main master. But you don't throw out the print.

Just because a film can be scanned at a ridiculous data rate doesn't mean film has that much data there to begin with. Digital archiving doesn't need to be expensive.

And while I'm at it, I would rather have seen Interstellar shot on the F65. But thats just me.

November 15, 2014 at 7:05PM

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I am deeply concerned with the ignorant, indignant, "film is obsolete" attitude that is common in this community. How many people who this attitude have actually shot film? Last month's American Cinematographer issue covered seven movies of dramatically varied budgets, five of which were at least partially captured on film. Half of the cinematography oscar nominees for the past two years were shot on film. Are all of these filmmaking masters just choosing to piss away money for a cumbersome medium that can just be emulated in these magical plu-ins, of which apparently people like Janusz Kaminski, Rodrigo Prieto and Sean Bobbitt are unaware? Should these masters be taking advice from this comment thread or should we be learning from these masters?

November 15, 2014 at 3:55PM

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Matthew Espenshade
Cinematographer
135

they should learn from Chivo who is going to get an oscar for birdman. also past 3 cinematography wins were for films shot digitally

November 15, 2014 at 5:10PM, Edited November 15, 5:10PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1676

Or, maybe we should learn from Chivo, who shot the next two Terrence Malick movies on film (at least, according to imdb, they're a mixture of formats). It doesn't have to be one or the other, I find all tools that are available to cinematographers to be valuable. Anyone who is taking a hard-line position for one format or the other is handcuffing herself. There is no "better" in the general sense, there is only "better for the project". Sometimes it's ALEXA, sometimes it's 16mm, sometimes it's a DSLR.

November 17, 2014 at 1:02PM

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Matthew Espenshade
Cinematographer
135

what the heck are you even talking about??? you are comparing people like kaminski who personally earn more than most of us spend on a complete film, heck, my best friend just shot a movie for 150.000 Euros, not because he wants to but HAS to - totally ridiculuos, even at thrice the amount it`s not enough and the result is that 60% of his crew are beginners.

we aren`t the people who have super skilled 1st, 2nd and 3rd ACs who have time to handle film and the film camera with the needed attention, focus assistants who hit the marks blindfolded and don`t get all gadgets on the planet if we want them. no, we`re those who sometimes have to use construction lights, greenish tube lights or the head lamps of "production cars" because there no money or even crew for a generator. nobody absolutely gives any crap what nolan or tarantino is shooting on, they can shoot 16, 35, imax or iphone if they want to - most of us HAVE no choice but to shoot digital. and again, maybe most of us rather want to see their stories coming to life than ponder if the grain of 7219 or 7213 is better suited to convey Mary`s love for John and if that is worth begging someone to shell out another 100.000 bucks for film and wait another year or two until that happens.

November 15, 2014 at 6:01PM

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Gerard M.
1128

I've shot shorts on film that cost less than if we had rented a RED. For certain purposes, film can be cheaper. Understand, I'm not saying that people shouldn't shoot digital, I'm just saying that people shouldn't be dismissive of either tool.

November 16, 2014 at 11:09AM, Edited November 16, 11:09AM

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Matthew Espenshade
Cinematographer
135

Its a beautiful love affair with film thats outlayed here. Makes me feel all fuzzy and romantic about purring motors and all that. One day when I have a project I want to be that intimate with, but not today.

November 16, 2014 at 12:09AM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
972

Not that I either agree or disagree with the authors reasons for shooting film, but I see a lot of comments with people saying things along the lines of 'most audiences won't care' or 'not many people will tell the difference' when it comes to digital or film. There have to be compromises in this industry, more often than not because somone else is footing the bill but honestly, the day I start doing this for 'other people' and not for myself is the day I'll probably stop. For me and most other people here it's a business, a hobby, a passion and most importantly for me at least - an art form. I've dabled in many different art forms over the years and if there is one single piece of advice I can give ANYONE it is to make your work honest. Don't make it for other people, make it for you. Otherwise it is nothing more than a business and genuinely, if you are honest and passionate you put in more time and effort and the end product will ALWAYS be better.

Anyway, my point is if you have the desire to shoot on film (or any format) and that excites and inspires you creatively and at the end of the day you can actually pay for that to work then go - the fuck - ahead :)

November 16, 2014 at 12:23PM

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from a grad film student's perspective…I see film on commercials and t.v. series…it really does make a difference…if you're not in L.A. it's a way to stand out…(it is cheaper than renting an alexa..post..etc..)

November 16, 2014 at 3:04PM

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Stephanie Mahalis
graduate film student
155

Wow, weren't we all just making fun of the romanticized portrayal about what it "means" to be a cinematographer?

November 16, 2014 at 4:09PM

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Pointless. I shot film in film school in the 90s, had little idea what it would TRULY look like until 3 or 4 days later, had to edit on a platter, editing sound was a PITA, just cuts, it was slow, ect, ect. Now I can shoot on a BMCC, everyone can view it the whole time, can edit it immediately, add special effects, color correct, blah, blah...yeah, no comparison. I can always choose to handicap myself and shoot as if it was an old Bolex, or I can face reality that there is really nothing to gain, going back in time. Its over folks, there is nothing "COOL" about shooting film. Did it, done it, its no big deal.

Its like choosing to watch on a 10" tube TV over a 60" Samsung or listen to a record. Why?

November 17, 2014 at 7:57PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
1046

Having actually shot 16 and 35….. Film requires discipline to shoot - from buying it and keeping it safe from hi temps, loading mags, loading the camera, unloading mags and processing. A lot of careful attention goes into handling. Because it is expensive to shoot, you spend more time rehearsing shots, playing around with blocking ect before you roll the first take. With video its easy to just shoot everything, instead of just rolling on a couple good takes after pre production rehearsals and on set rehersals. with film you respect the medium more. you check the gate, lens ect, after every take. Sure production is a bit slower, but its more thoughtful too. The problem with video is that while you can shoot in a more deliberate way, most people don't. With film you have to have a higher skill level because the price of mistakes is much higher than blowing a take on video. Film simply forces everyone on set to be more focused.

That said, I also don't miss all the downsides and costs of film. I enjoyed the more intentional approach used in it that seems a bit lacking in video. So if anything, I'd like to see more thoughtful production done. With film you either got your light levels right or you got junk back. With the latest crop of digital cameras people seem to take a lot less time lighting, if at all. Now while I love to work more towards available light and supplement it as needed, I wouldn't work without lighting, or just bouncing a light to boost levels a bit. video encourages spray and pray shooting which is sad. just because you can roll for 30 minutes at a time doesn't mean you should. I'm all about keeping your shooting ratios reasonable because who wants to wade thru all the junk when editing. it turns post into a nightmare of takes where often you look at take #3 and #10 and go "whats the difference between the two ? "….

November 17, 2014 at 10:15PM

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Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
426

The thing that bothers me the most about this "article" is not the filmmaker's de facto 'Film Is Better' stance (a de facto 'Digital Is Better' stance would have been just as pretentious), but that this was published just before the close of his Kickstarter campaign - which he blatantly promotes at the start of the article complete with embedded video and a link to the Kickstarter page. Is this opportunity available to all No Film School subscribers? If so, sign me up as "Guest Author". I have a project starting at the beginning of 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign to support it. I will write about whatever topic you want if I can pimp out my campaign to your subscriber list.

November 21, 2014 at 3:24PM

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Rich Gehron
Director / Editor
79

Thanks for writing such a moving post! I am going to start my own dream project which I had initially wanted to shoot on film-but than I though and retracted and decided to shoot on Digital RAW as I do believe in compact, small, and freedom in movements as a film-maker.
As David Lynch a film-maker I admire, puts it very well, but after reading your post and also reading about David Lynch's comment on Falling in Love with Film again on the making of the "New Twin Peak Series", I just may change my mind ?!

November 21, 2014 at 10:07PM

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Richard Kazn Young
Writer/Film-Maker/DOP
76

You're absolutely right and absolutely wrong I think. Yes to all of the above but you're missing the weir, romantic, irrational connection that happens when you shoot film. It is special, it does make you care more and for me that's still worth something. But you make your choice and at least thee days we all have one. Didn't used to be the case

November 16, 2014 at 3:33AM

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Robin Schmidt
Director
238