A new video essay espouses the glory of shooting 16mm.
In a new video essay, The Royal Ocean Film Society's Andrew Saladino offers a defense of the virtues of 16mm filmmaking based on a few bedrock-solid points that filmmakers would be wise to keep in mind.
A Grainy Warmth
There's something about the look of 16mm that's inviting: perhaps it's that, as you gaze at, say, one of Rooney Mara's long, desirous stares in Carol, or Jesse Eisenberg's wondrous peering at the whale in the American Museum of Natural History in The Squid and the Whale, you can see each grainy pixel in the image, and what you see when you look at those millions and millions of grains is, ultimately, yourself. It could also just be easy on the retinae.
A Grainy Timelessness
Part of the persuasiveness of 16mm for the essayist might be its association. Since the advent of anything that looked like a personal computer, the idea of ease of use has been linked to the word digital. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, I can remember an editorial asking the somewhat provocative question, "What if Robert Frost had an Apple?" The implication being, of course, that digital instruments of any kind—computer, camera, phone—make things much easier, without any compromise in quality. We all know, of course, that neither part of that assumption is entirely valid. What Saladino is suggesting is that because knowing a film is shot in 16mm implies that the filmmaker jumped through a certain set of hoops that he or she might not have had to jump through when using a digital camera, the 16mm film acquires a certain patina that it might not possess otherwise.
Just as Much Bang for Your Grain
Saladino does a cost analysis and shows that, while neither digital nor 16mm is necessarily a cheap method of making an artwork (by comparison with, say, writing a poem), the costs of film vs. digital are not really that far apart. Take a look at Saladino's numbers. Do they match your own experience?