Christopher Nolan Continues to Fight for Film


Christopher Nolan fights for film

Back in early February it was announced Kodak had reached a deal with the major movie distributors — Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. — to keep film alive, at least for the near future. The studios agreed to purchase undisclosed amounts of film over “a few” years that would be enough to extend Kodak’s film manufacturing business. The details are rather vague and there’s no further information on just how much would be purchased over these few years, but Christopher Nolan who, along with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, may be the most vocal filmmaker in support of keeping film alive, is at it again, speaking Sunday at an event presented by the Getty Research Institute.

Quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan said, “We need film projectors and film prints — forever… If you want the choice, it’s very important to support film now. Filmmakers are going out of their way to shoot film and talk about it. We want to see a world where there’s a choice; it’s important to preserve it for future generations.”

Nolan also stressed the archiving value of film saying, “We don’t have a uniform standard for preservation and archiving for the studios, at the Academy, or at archival institutions. There’s no stable digital archiving medium, [at least not] in the immediate future. If there is, it would need to be tested for decades.”

While there are moves to preserve films digitally at 4K resolution and upwards of 8K in the near future, Nolan adds, “Preserving films photochemically is essential, resolution independent, and future proof.”

As for film projectors, while most North American theaters have converted to digital, Nolan argued that quality “35mm projection can be a selling point for a theater.” That certainly was a selling point for his latest film, Interstellar. As I mentioned at the end of February, I’ve begun work at the local Cinerama where they have five film projectors and two digital projectors, and this weekend I was back there to get a little additional footage and while there I learned Nolan reached out to the Cinerama specifically in hopes of showing Interstellar there. It didn’t work out, unfortunately, as the theater was in the midst of a complete overhaul, but it goes to show the lengths he’s going to make sure his film is seen as he intended it to be seen.

Personally, I like the approach Nolan is taking here, stressing a world not where it has to be one or the other, but one where it can be both. Of course, not all theaters can operate the way Seattle’s Cinerama does and install two Christie 6P digital laser projectors and keep on hand five film projectors. So how is it even feasible to continue to shoot on film when most theaters can’t even show the format? Hell, Interstellar was the last film that will ever be shown on IMAX film at the Seattle Pacific Science Center’s true IMAX screen as they have even gone 100% digital at this point.

I look forward to seeing movies on film, films such as Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight, J.J. AbramsStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and whatever Nolan churns out next. And based on this list, not even in 2014 did film entirely go away with movies such as Boyhood, Edge of Tomorrow and The Imitation Game, but when projected on digital are the pains filmmakers taking to create a movie on film even evident?

I’m not saying Nolan should give up on his crusade. Film, as he mentions, is certainly important to the archival process and I personally loved sitting down to watch Yojimbo and Seven Samurai on film a week ago, even though both were far from pristine prints and Seven Samurai even had a damaged spot throughout all three hours of its running time. But would today’s audiences, used to HD television and Blu-ray, be accepting of such flaws? It’s an uphill battle for sure, especially since the industry is so clearly moving away.