Film is NOT Dead: Scorsese Releases Statement, Joining Nolan, Abrams and Tarantino in Fight for Film

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Martin ScorseseLast week The Wall Street Journal reported filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow and J.J. Abrams appealed to film studios including the Weinstein Company, Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures have agreed to buy an unspecified amount of film stock from Kodak each year in an effort to help preserve the format.

Bob Weinstein is quoted in the article saying, “It’s a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don’t think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn’t do it.”

Another filmmaker joined the fray today as Martin Scorsese issued the following statement in support of the announcement of Kodak’s decision to continue its production of film stock:

We have many names for what we do – cinema, movies, motion pictures. And…film. We’re called directors, but more often we’re called filmmakers. Filmmakers. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the obvious: HD isn’t coming, it’s here. The advantages are numerous: the cameras are lighter, it’s much easier to shoot at night, we have many more means at our disposal for altering and perfecting our images. And, the cameras are more affordable: films really can be made now for very little money. Even those of us still shooting on film finish in HD, and our movies are projected in HD. So, we could easily agree that the future is here, that film is cumbersome and imperfect and difficult to transport and prone to wear and decay, and that it’s time to forget the past and say goodbye – really, that could be easily done. Too easily.

It seems like we’re always being reminded that film is, after all, a business. But film is also an art form, and young people who are driven to make films should have access to the tools and materials that were the building blocks of that art form. Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry? Of course not. In the history of motion pictures, only a minuscule percentage of the works comprising our art form was not shot on film. Everything we do in HD is an effort to recreate the look of film. Film, even now, offers a richer visual palette than HD. And, we have to remember that film is still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital information will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for.

Our industry – our filmmakers – rallied behind Kodak because we knew that we couldn’t afford to lose them, the way we’ve lost so many other film stocks. This news is a positive step towards preserving film, the art form we love.

As of right now, we know Nolan shot Interstellar on film, Zack Snyder is shooting Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice on Kodak and Abrams is shooting Star Wars: Episode VII on film. Abrams, in fact, had this to say in a previous Wall Street Journal article:

I’m actually a huge fan of digital as well. I appreciate how that technology opens the doors for filmmakers who never had access to that level of quality before. However, I do think film itself sets the standard for quality. You can talk about range, light, sensitive, resolution — there’s something about film that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real.

I would argue film sets the standard and once it’s no longer available, the ability to shoot the benchmark goes away. Suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, the warmest, the most rich and detailed images.

Tarantino is fully expected to shoot his next film The Hateful Eight on film (and I don’t think he’d ever make a movie on anything but film) as a first advertisement for the picture recently came online suggesting he’ll be shooting in 70mm Super CinemaScope and only recently I got in a back-and-forth with a commenter regarding the merits of film vs. digital as well as with someone else on Twitter.

I do think there’s a difference in film vs. digital and I think it is becoming more and more prevalent as images in film become more and more “perfect”. There’s a texture to film is lost and Abrams gets to it in that quote above when he talks about “range, light, sensitive, resolution”. Look at a film like Gangster Squad and any classic movie shot on film depicting the same era. I will say Michael Mann has done a great job with his use of digital, even though I think Miami Vice has distinct moments of ugliness, but there are few that have been able to capture a movie on digital and deliver the same textured appearance we get from film and I love seeing the support studios are showing the format.