December 16, 2015

Kodak's Film Division Will Likely Be Profitable in 2016 Thanks to Directors Like Nolan & Tarantino

Interstellar Christopher Nolan IMAX Film
Film as a physical format is long from dead.

That's according to Kodak's CEO Jeff Clarke, who expects their film business to be profitable in 2016 after restructures and three quarters of breaking even in 2015 (which comes after losing $100 million a year for some time). Earlier this year, Kodak and the major film studios, along with film advocates like Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese, reached an agreement to ensure the survival of the format, and it's clear that it's working. 

Unfortunately, it's that processing that has been a far bigger issue than the actual medium. While film is in great supply, since labs have been shut down left and right, there's almost nowhere left to process large volumes of celluloid that are produced during a decent-sized feature film. Ed Lachman, who shot the film Carol on Super 16mm, recently spoke about this issue with THR:

If Kodak is going to make film, we also need labs to process the film. Right now, the New York Film Lab [a partnership between Deluxe and Technicolor that was created to respond to film’s shrinking footprint] is closed. They were going to throw out all the equipment. I inquired about it, and the general manager let me have the lab equipment. I have it in storage. We can develop film at Fotokem in Los Angeles, which is a very good lab. ...  But there's a market and [we need] a lab on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

Kodak is working to improve its mobile labs, as one of the major components to keeping film alive is the ability to process it, which is costly to say the least. The company thinks the future is bright for the format, though, especially with so much renewed interest. Films like Star Wars: The Force AwakensInterstellar, and The Hateful Eight have all been shot in part or in whole on 35mm and 65mm, and they've surely spent quite a bit of money on film stock and processing. The most recent Star Wars film bucked the digital trend started by George Lucas and went back to film, and it looks like the next two major releases in the series, Episodes 8 and 9, will also be shot on film.

Either way, from the way Kodak is talking, film is here to stay for the foreseeable future.      

Your Comment

22 Comments

I would love to shoot a short on film. The last time I did was on 16mm in university. It was a wasted experience really, so young and stupid. Has anybody here shot on super 16 recently in the UK? Where did you rent from?

December 16, 2015 at 4:44PM

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I recently acquired a Bolex H16. I've been really wanting to try it but the $60 for 3 minutes of film combined with another $60 for processing has delayed my experiment. I want to try film but I could never afford to make a movie with it like I can with digital.

July 26, 2016 at 6:37PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
687

Here's a wild idea:
If Kodak decided to price stock film very affordably (comparable to SSD drives for example) AND created an affordable workflow to develop the film at home/small businesses, then more and more people would choose film instead of digital for their most demanding and hi-end projects.
If they want to be profitable again, they should learn from the RED business model: revolutionize and democratize the medium. Of course then their profit would be much lower but they will get a huge increase in sales so the result would be on their side.

December 16, 2015 at 6:58PM, Edited December 16, 6:58PM

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Stel Kouk
Filmmaker
3132

Celloid is incredibly expensive to produce hence why I'd imagine why shooting one minute of 35mm film costs $30. Shooting one minute of digital costs probably around $0.10 if you use re-use the media enough times.

I don't know if you can honestly make film cheaper than shooting digitally. I remember there was a movement ten years ago to keep people shooting Super 16mm and showing that it was more cost effective than digital and all the hard drives and backups you need - but I don't really know if that's true with hard drives costing as low as they do per terabyte and media prices coming very far down and cost of good digital cameras coming way down.

Celloid is not going to make a film look better. It's the DP, gaffer, editor, makeup, director, bla bla bla, colorist - to the end. It's just that usually more "experienced" people who know what they are doing would choose nowadays to shoot on celloid, and hence why overall things shot on film look better than on digital.

Of course film does look the best, how it handles motion and the color red, and highlights - I love film. But I would never choose to shoot on it on a limited budget. I rather put that money into crew and a good editor.

December 16, 2015 at 10:48PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1577

You're both right. I think film could see a resurgence on the "indie level" merely because of how cheap used cameras are going for.

Personally I just picked up an Arriflex 435es for the price of a used A7s. That's a 4 perf 35mm camera that can shoot 150fps. Will I use it for everything? Hell no! Will I use it selectively on passion projects? You betcha.

The processing/scanning needs a mini revolution and then it will actually start to make financial sense because (like Ed said) right now it just does not.

December 17, 2015 at 12:53AM, Edited December 17, 12:53AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2432

If you don't mind me asking, where did you pick up a 435es for such a good price?

December 17, 2015 at 2:05AM

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Jacob Floyd
Writer / Videographer
1301

Reduser.net

Ebay has a lot of them too though.

December 17, 2015 at 11:24AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2432

Honestly just the thought of shooting on film gives me anxiety. I would love to do it and I think it would hone my craft but its still terrifying after shooting digital since I bought my first XL-1.

December 17, 2015 at 2:14AM

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How'd that last shot look? Let's play it back, oh right, film doesn't do that.

And if we were to shoot on film the way we shoot digitally, so much footage would go to waste because we're used to capturing everything and deleting what we don't need because it doesn't matter.

December 17, 2015 at 10:16AM, Edited December 17, 10:16AM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
452

Most film productions do have playback via video taps in the film camera, this allows full HD playback. It doesn't look like film but you can get an idea of the framing, performances, movement.

Personally, I don't shoot a lot that I waste even on digital. I learn filmmaking on film, this meant to always be precise and not wasteful with my time.

December 17, 2015 at 11:34AM

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Shooting film isn't about convenience in the way digital presents, but in the simplicity of total practiced skill. Or....a great telecine process to fix badly exposed film. Once the simple workflow of avoiding "chimping" (yes, same habit for video as for stills on DSLRs) is become used to, it's actually EASIER to shoot film than it is to shoot digitally. You just have to be on point w/ your metering and be familiar w/ the celluloid properties, of course.

I was able to nearly replicate that process by shooting Magic Lantern RAW on the 50D and 5DIII, as playback of the RAW files was cumbersome, making us avoid it altogether. A byproduct was that films progressed FASTER and w/ limited card spaces, we only shot when it was NECESSARY. None of this "shoot the rehearsal" or "let it roll" bullshit everyone's so used to.

Personally I like the process better. But I shoot [still] film to this day; Kodak Portra

December 17, 2015 at 7:14PM

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Thats why film is so important. You hire a DP because you trust his eye. You don't need playback.. it was done for over 100 years. There is also something magical about watching dailies from a projector. Digital makes lazy complacent cinematographers as 30-40 years ago you did pre-production and made sure your shot was prefect. Instead people just walk around with a gimbal and an a7s and don't think they need to plan for anything.

December 19, 2015 at 1:16PM

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Brice Pardo
Cinematographer/Film Student/Creative
224

Thats exactly what needs to be made cheaper and easier. Telecine is such a weird field. With all the DIY'ers and post houses with their own setup. Im waiting for a kickstarter for a cheap (at least sub $500) telecine machine but its niche-r than alot of other aspects of film.

December 17, 2015 at 10:07AM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
922

I think the independent video world is going to go through the same transition the music world went through. After the ibsession with digital, a lot of musicians went back to making vinyl records and they have sold in very high numbers.

For only $30,000 (and I do mean only), you can get a Cintel film scanner that will process 16mm and 35mm film.
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/cintel

If people are spending thousands of dollars on digital cameras, why not buy a scanner like that and an old film camera like you did? And maybe a group of people or something go in on the scanner? Maybe even nofilmschool gets a scanner and becomes the place for all independent film makers to process their film. But as I read what I just wrote, I realize that I'm confusing myself with how film works and that scanner isn't processing the film, it's just digitizing it and the film would still need to be developed and color timed somewhere and that's the real issue isn't it?

December 17, 2015 at 10:13AM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
452

Yeah, scanning is just one part of the problem....but the Cintel scanner solves a lot of it.

This was actually part of my idea.

December 17, 2015 at 11:27AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2432

There's also the Vintage Cloud, which is basically a Steenbeck that scans film and outputs a video signal, complete with some cool film analyzer style color correction. Not sure the price, but it is very cool.

December 17, 2015 at 3:15PM

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The thing holding back “home processing” of film neg would be bath size and equipment. I’m not sure how much you can miniaturise that plus disposing of the chemicals is a large problem.

Film is really bad for the environment. Back in the day my old boss bought a lab on the outskirts of the city that had gone out of business. His plan was simple, to make it work he had to move it to the Film making hub in our city, however the local council would’t allow it because of the amount of dangerous chemicals that needed to be disposed of.

December 17, 2015 at 5:40PM

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Andrew Stalph
Editor
253

Did the audience notice? Film is a business and unfortunately only the big studios can afford to shoot on film.

December 17, 2015 at 10:34AM

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Kayode
801

Some of them do, some of them don't. Most also don't notice what lenses you're using, your lighting setup, whether you're using a Steadicam or a Technocrane, or the time it took to make those perfect edits. But a lot of thought goes into all of it, because most people notice when you don't care. Film is just another tool; it has places and there are some places where it's not appropriate.

Any movie over a million dollars could shoot film if they wanted to, but they have to really want to because there would be some major concessions to make. It's probably easier for a low budget indie to shoot film than a medium-budget studio film, because it'd be harder to allocate the money when unions and standardized production methods are involved.

December 17, 2015 at 2:59PM

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Film prints are no more and Kodak Film division still be somewhat relevant as long as certain studios are committed to support "analog guys" like Nolan, Tarantino, Abrams etc. with their money. Digital projection literally killed 90% of Kodak's profits from their film division. Camera neg sales weren't primary sources of the income.

Celluloid isn't gone completely yet, but it is walking dead at this point. I don't care that much about it anymore, because I'm not a part of the 1% elite and the quality of digital is only getting better, plus a lot of what goes into so called "film look", that I very much like, can be emulated pretty easily in post to filmmaker's taste and in completely non-destructive process. I hope the good ole photoemulsion is still an option 10 years from now. I'm not betting on it, though.

December 17, 2015 at 7:42PM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1245

People need to realize that film is a medium, it is a way to capture an image. Just like Alexa, Red, Canon, or iPhone. It depends on what your project needs. Film is wonderful and I wish I could shoot on it all the time. But don't bad talk film if you have never shot it. It really helped me grow as a cinematographer, I learned a lot of valuable lessons and techniques that many of today's filmmakers will never know. Much care and thought is lost when shooting digital... you cant just delete and repeat on film like you can on a DSLR. Film makes you work harder and think a few seconds more before you record, and for that I am very happy I am able to use s16mm, and s35mm at my college.

December 19, 2015 at 1:28PM

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Brice Pardo
Cinematographer/Film Student/Creative
224

I have to slightly disagree with you. While what you said is true for the most part, you can do the same thing with digital. When I got my first DSLR instead of using any of the automatic features I kept it on manual and made myself use it like a film camera.
When I started using it for video I read every book I could buy or borrow on film lighting bla bla and set up my shots like I was using film and the shot had to be right to not waste the effort. You do not need film to learn all those valuable lessons you're talking about but you have to be willing to work without the high ISO and other capabilities and I also tried it with the digital crutches and the lesson I learned is my shots looked far better when I did the extra work and shot like it was film a resource I couldn't afford to waste.

Anyway that is my 2 cents worth of my opinion.
Peace to all and I hope a very good year for all of you.

December 29, 2015 at 2:08PM

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