Independent filmmaker and DOP for over 30 years
"When you see the film, you'll see it couldn't have been made with a different camera." With all the new technology we have out there, I have yet to see something which has not been done before on film. It is not about the camera, it is about the creativity of the filmmaker in coming up with an image. This movie could have been made with dozens of different cameras, but they have created a buzz, which is a good marketing ploy.
This is a response to the often expressed opinion out there that “the IMAGE” does not matter as long as the story is good. Although I wholeheartedly agree that a great story is probably the most important aspect of any film, the reality of an image-based marketplace means that story isn’t going to carry everything. There is approximately one film per year, (out of THOUSANDS that never see the light of a projector), that breaks through that “no budget, scrape the barrel” barrier and finds a big audience based on story alone. Because of the incredibly small chance of making the “one film” that breaks that barrier, I refer to it as the “lottery” approach to filmmaking. It is great if you are the one that wins it, but you cannot rely on it (as you cannot rely on a lottery ticket) to make the big win. No investor, distributor or studio is going to bank on a lottery ticket; therefore, many other factors need to be considered to make a film that is COMPETITIVE in the MARKETPLACE. Too many people say that “Blair Witch did it, so can I”, which is no different than saying, “my neighbor won a million on the lottery, so can I”.
By its very nature, film is an IMAGE based medium. I find it very frustrating that so many “filmmakers” seem to have very little concern for the quality of the image and are quite happy to settle with the lowest common denominator. Many fall back on the “if I have a great story it doesn’t matter” philosophy, but we are in a competitive marketplace that is based on story AND image. And the hard reality is that VERY few of us have really great scripts that can carry a film to the marketplace on that alone.
I have been to several major film markets, and I can tell you that initial purchasing decisions are frequently made by looking at a couple of minutes of a film. If they buyer doesn’t see something of interest in that two minutes, they move on. There are HUNDREDS of films competing, and you need to catch the eye. There is not enough time for them to see if you have a great story. And that is for films that are finished and looking for a buyer, which is where most of the super-low budget films end up since they cannot raise the financing and distribution up front.
If image is really not that important in cinema, then we might as well just shoot everything as poorly as we can, as cheap as we can and as fast as we can. Discouragingly, that is what is often happening, but it is a race to the bottom.
If audiences really do not care what they hear or see in a cinema, we would not have had most of the major technological developments of the past 100 years. No cinemascope, no Dolby, no IMAX, heck we wouldn’t even have colour film…we’d all be happy with black and white academy, hand cranked at 18 frames per second. What’s ironic is that every technical development in cinema before the arrival of the digital age was an advancement or improvement; the first real steps backwards were in the digital age, the DSLR being a prime example. If IMAGE is really not important in CINEMA, and it’s only about the story, then why don’t we just make radio plays?
I am not very excited by the prospect of sitting in cinemas (or at home) watching blurry, banding, jello-like images, even if the story is OK, and that is why I am quite vocal in these posts. If the next generation is really going to be happy watching fuzzy, crappy images, then I guess I’ve lost the battle and I really am “old fashioned”, uncool and out of date. Personally, I would like to strive for better on all fronts: Sound, story and image.
This all came back to me last winter, when I took my boys to see Cinderella...not a particularly brilliant film on it's own, but...after two or three years of seeing digital capture presented on the big screen (and getting used to it), it really brought it all home watching 35mm anamorphic cinemascope again. The images were STUNNING, they were exciting to watch, there was a significant thrill, and excitement and and energy in watching that full, bright, colourful, ALIVE image. It brought me back to why I became so excited by cinema in the first place, because it is a magic and exciting world. The digital era has brought a dullness, stasis and flatness to the image which "story" can supercede, but never wholly replace. It is one of those things you can't put your finger on, or point to, but it is a feeling. It is the magic of the silver screen. Digital cinema has blunted that aspect of the silver screen, and I am not sure we'll ever get it back since everything seems to come down to the false perception that "economy" is king; cheap is better (and this in not just in cinema...look at architecture and design). There is a place for all types of films, and we can embrace a film like Tangerine I am sure, but to suggest iphones can replace the 100 year legacy of the silver screen is hard for me to believe, or a sad thing to accept. I do not want to lose that magic