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Category:    Home > Essays > Filmmaking > Industry > Arts > Debate > Celluloid Motion Picture Film Never Went Away, Its Comeback & Why So Many Were (And Are) Wrong On Its Demise.

Celluloid Motion Picture Film Never Went Away, Its Comeback & Why So Many Were (And Are) Wrong On Its Demise.

Creativity and authorship are vital to the arts and entertainment, as the recent case over the Marvin Gaye/Blurred Lines lawsuit has shown, but it points to a uglier situation in the art about authorship and disposability that is the opposite of great work and giving credit where it is due. We'll soon address that case, but first, I wanted to deal with a different kind of artistic fiasco in movies and it has to do with film itself.

Yes, the industry has switched to mostly digital projection and most features, fir better and definitely the worst, are shooting (and not always well) on high definition video cameras. Digital is here to stay, but it comes with the myth that film is dead, gone and not used. In real life, feature films, TV shows, concerts and even music videos have not ceased using film, the only format proven to be archival. Despite Kodak's troubles, they never stopped making motion picture film, even if Fuji recently quit. Kodak just finalized a great contract with the Hollywood studios and some if the greatest filmmakers of all time to make a half-billion feet of 35mm negative film annually no matter how much gets used... but it will get used.

This is great news for serious film fans as film always offers visual HD video cannot, no matter how good its gets by its very nature; it's a different format. Some even know how to combine both (the great DP Robert Elswit on the underrated Nightcrawler) to effect. Yet, oddly, there has been a sudden, shocking hatred of and even war (highly unnecessary as it is) against celluloid film that makes zero sense until you realize why. For studios, it mechanically has been about cutting costs, but digital productions cost more long-term to preserve than film and when you get into huge budgets and how much the latest HD cameras are to buy or rent, savings narrow.

More important is what is has unintentionally revealed about lesser filmmakers (who in many cases, never really belonged in the business), writers (especially quote whores who are among the biggest cinematic illiterates around) and others who simply cannot handle mature, intelligent, challenging cinema that has something to say. As a result, we have seen many articles telling us mindlessly that film was dead, too expensive (from people obviously not buying and shooting any), pointless to support (from people who are mostly not about anything but apathy and worse), a pronouncement a few years ago that it would be the last Oscars with Best Picture nominees using film (wrong!) and other extravagant statements by those who like to hear themselves talk, thinking they will not be called on/challenged on what they say.

That in itself would have not happened in the 1960s and 1970s when the serious, smart, real school of thought on film was around, a fact which would inspire such miserable killjoy naysayers to write film off as nostalgic or a fetish. This only shows desperation and an admission of not being a fan or really knowing much on the subject, even extending to major newspapers, TV shows, websites, magazines or any combination thereof. I can guarantee, whether the writer is nice or not, you will continue to see these kinds of articles and comments for the next few years at least, showing how bad film journalism has dropped.

A great recent example was one of the reports (minus all the excitement and some of the following details) that The Weinstein Company and Quentin Tarantino were not only going to make his Western Hateful Eight and shoot it in 70mm, but they are actually going to shoot it in the wider Ultra Panavision 70 format (aka MGM Camera 65) where an anamorphic widescreen lens takes the 2.20 X 1 image and expands it to a Cinerama-like 2.76 X 1. Only 10 films were ever shot this way making the new film #11 and the first of its kind in 50 years!

Serious film fans consider this a great, exciting development, the transfers will look great on film AND HD projectors and we'll see images, shots and visions like nothing in any film before, especially in Tarantino's hands. Yet one major site, not explaining all the details and great implications (if said writer even got it) essentially wrote it off as anomaly for old filmmakers (including producers) and should anyone care. The let film die attitude was embarrassing, disrespectful, ignorant, immature and made the site trashy, one that is supposed to me major and apparently is not.

Well we will be among those with the opposite, positive, progressive, pro-film, pro-art approach agreeing 100% and then some with Martin Scorsese (obviously far more credible than the naysayers) that the Kodak contract is great news, that too many key film stocks have been discontinued, (plus) that filmmaking is visual and not merely about being an infantile storyteller as we have heard too often since the 1980s and why only settle for electronically-generated images?

Fortunately, people are going back to film and bringing back film where it was missing. The last 2 Star Trek films were shot on 35mm and 70mm film (including actual IMAX), the new Star Wars will be the first film in the series since 1983's Return Of The Jedi to go all film including IMAX 70mm, The Walking Dead is shot in Super 16mm in a way that puts it far above the current glut of usually bad zombie productions, Listen Up Philip with Jason Schwartzman was also shot in Super 16mm and looked great and more indies are shooting on film than you'd think.

Kodak not only also continues to make 65mm, 16mm and Super 8mm film, but Agfa continues to make 16mm and Super 8mm film, Ferrania in Italy is back with a new film factory set up making still camera film, 16mm and Super 8mm film starting in April 2015, plus ORWO, FOMA and ADOX never stopped making 16mm and Super 8mm film. Some would even like Ilford to start making movie film again. Adding to all this, 65mm, 35mm and the more upscale 16mm and Super 8mm film cameras still cost serious money, but many quality 16mm and Super 8mm movie cameras are out there inexpensively that work well. The new Logmar company is releasing a Super 8mm film camera in 2015 (the first in over 20 years) that will be one of the most advanced cameras ever made, film or video, and it has HD, digital audio and smart computer technology in it.

No, film is not dead. Independent filmmakers (including a special nod to those making music videos) for keeping the smaller formats alive. If anything, HD has made people realize its limits along with its own possibilities and with film's long-proven, unique and special visual possibilities, HD had helped spur this new movement on. Let's hope it translates into great filmmaking.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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