February 4, 2015

The Deal That Saved Film: Kodak Reaches an Agreement with the Big 6 Studios

Even though there is clear evidence of the mass exodus from celluloid to digital, especially for indies, that doesn't mean that the use of film is dead. In fact, Kodak and the six major Hollywood studios are seeing to it that this doesn't happen.

Today, Kodak announced that they've made new agreements with Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, Paramount, Fox, and Columbia to, in part, provide them with motion picture film stock.

Many Hollywood directors have lobbied and voiced their concerns about why we have to save film, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan, and now the studios are jumping on board. This is certainly good news for Kodak, which has gone through some tumultuous times in the last several years -- reporting only one profitable year between 2004 and 2012, the year they finally had to file for bankruptcy. However, now that they have fought their way out of financial hardship, this agreement with the Big Six (are we calling them that now?) certainly seems to ensure that the future of not only the 127-year-old company is a promising one, but that of film stock as well.

Kodak's President of Entertainment & Commercial Films said in today's announcement:

With the support of the major studios, the creative community can continue to confidently choose film for their projects. We’ve been asking filmmakers, what makes a project ‘FilmWorthy.’ Their responses have varied from the need for its exceptional depth to its distinctive grain, but overwhelmingly, the answer is ‘the story.’ They need film to tell their stories the way they envision them, and hold a strong desire for it to remain a critical part of their visual language. Enabling artists to use film will help them to create the moments that make cinema history. The agreements announced today are a powerful testament to the power of film and the creative vision of the artists telling them.

Of course, telling your story on film stock is a very expensive decision -- one that no indie filmmaker takes lightly. That somehow natural, organic look of film grain and the richness of the color is still an aesthetic that digital chases like it's a purple dragon, but the cost of producing a film on celluloid poses financial and technological restrictions that many filmmakers are forced to (or would rather) avoid.

However, the value of the existence of celluloid can be measured just by seeing how much of our medium's history is exposed onto it. We make, see, and love films, not digitals. That doesn't mean that every single movie should be made on film -- again, it's often too costly for indies, but every filmmaker should have the chance to work with it at least once. 

Kodak's CEO Jeff Clarke also stated today:

Film has long been -- and will remain -- a vital part of our culture. With the support of the studios, we will continue to provide motion picture film, with its unparalleled richness and unique textures, to enable filmmakers to tell their stories and demonstrate their art.

Even if you don't have plans to shoot your next project, or any of them for that matter, on film, Kodak's agreement with the Big Six keeps that option secure for many years and many filmmakers to come.      

Your Comment

9 Comments

This is kind of funny considering film history. Technically Eastman Kodak (part of Edison Trust) tried to control the film industry but the studios fled to California to get away from Edison and Kodak in New York. Now the studios are helping Kodak... Oh the irony.

February 4, 2015 at 11:28PM

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Zachary Will
Cinematographer
859

True, but Kodak was also the first member to modify their contract with the MPPC (Edison Trust) and sell raw stock to unlicensed independents, which was a major blow to the trust.

February 5, 2015 at 10:56AM

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The "Purple Dragon" has already been found what with the vast choices of genuine film scanned LUTs and celluloid grain sources, physical film is more a rich-man's game now. A worthwhile one, but an expensive one for the most part (unless it's 2-perf or super 16).

February 5, 2015 at 12:52AM

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It's rather sad that an important article written about a deal that extends film's relevance doesn't detail, describe, or clarify what the arrangement actually is. What's even more dispiriting is that the embedded link barely provides any more information than this article. One has to look up other sources like Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Kodak's own press releases before a complete picture emerges. I am wrong to expect the canons of journalism be represented in all venues of information?

February 5, 2015 at 12:53PM

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Luis Bohorquez
Cinematographer
127

"We make, see, and love films, not digitals"

That's an odd statement and doesn't really make sense. The word "films" is really synonymous with "stories" and in the audiences mind at least has nothing to do with the material it's shot on. Keeping film available just keeps the pallette wide rather than narrow.

February 5, 2015 at 1:13PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1470

I'm still a student and working with kodak film has been amazing...! short ends...super 16mm..keep it cheap

February 5, 2015 at 2:00PM, Edited February 5, 2:00PM

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Stephanie Mahalis
graduate film student
235

We need to keep a few laboratories open .
We also need to train technicians in film work flow and how to pull focus without monitors.
As to cost implications ," All you need is Kill " released as " Edge of Tomorrow "
(Tom Cruise ) did a budget analysis and worked out that they would save £1 million using film which is the medium the movie used .

February 6, 2015 at 4:59AM

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I have a question.
Considering any film shot on celluloid is the type of film that would definitely go through a DI.. Meaning it will be digitally scanned to a DPX/OpenEXR file..
What is the measurable difference between the scan process of the film scanner and a high quality digital cinema camera?
This is the main reason I consider this all a little absurd. Celluloid-Film is simply a process by which light still reaches a digital sensor of some kind. Celluloid-Film introducing a certain aesthetic look over the purity of going directly to a sensor in camera.
Now I can imagine some reasons for this myself, but I would appreciate some input from the learned pundits that read this blog..

February 7, 2015 at 4:31PM

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James Gardiner
CineTechGeek
138

I've wondered about this myself. I think the film is better at capturing the image directly. like with highlights, dynamic range, etc. then when it is scanned some of that quality increase remains perhaps due to the film normalizing and rendering that detail in a range the scanner can deal with. Kind of like a HDR digital photo combining two exposures, I don't know, I'm just guessing.

July 26, 2016 at 6:33PM, Edited July 26, 6:33PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
643