Film Is Dead, Long Live Film
There’s a new project at the Tate Modern entitled Film. Artist Tacita Dean has created it to draw attention to the imminent death of film – ie. 16mm and 35mm celluloid – as a medium, and belatedly it’s become a media talking point. Here, heavyweights like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and that mischievous scamp Jean-Luc Godard rhapsodize about film:
As all filmmakers, students and cineastes are aware, film as a medium is rapidly becoming extinct. HD digital formats are vastly cheaper and have become the preferred option for the majority of film and TV projects, including megabudget studio productions. The fact that the next Bond film will be shot digitally says it all.
It will be a short time – 5,10 years? – before film as a medium is finally dead. Manufacturers like Kodak and Fuji will no longer produce it, the laboratories won’t process it, it will cease to be projected in cinemas.
I mention this because for six years I worked as a negative cutter on features such as THE QUEEN and BREAKING AND ENTERING, cutting and splicing film according to the editor’s specifications. From there I graduated to making my own films, shooting a short entitled UNMOTIVATED (co-directed with my esteemed neg cutting colleague Chris Andrews) on 35mm, and then my debut feature DON’T LET HIM IN on Super 16mm.
The decision to shoot these projects on film when working with a brutally lean budget seemed deranged to many, but then their only concern was the bottom line.
I knew the truth:
There is no format more beautiful than film.
Even now, for all its forensic sharpness, no digital format – not the Red Epic or the Arri Alexa – compares with the richness, the softness, the beauty of film.
When lovers of film, whether critics or craftsmen, describe its qualities, they invariably resort to the poetic. They talk of its lustre, its sumptuousness, its romance.
There is no romance with digital.
Like those other diehards, Messrs Spielberg, Tarantino and Nolan, I’ll fight to shoot my future projects on film until it’s physically impossible.
Soon this beautifully engineered, essentially Victorian process of capturing images will be gone. And for all the democratization of digital formats, I won’t be able to help feeling that a big chunk of cinema’s soul will be dead.