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Film Is Dead, Long Live Film

17 10.11

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:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/oct/10/steven-spielberg-martin-scorsese-celluloid?intcmp=239

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.

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2 Comments
Maurice 07:57:44, 18/10/11

I guess your problem will be when they stop making the film stock. However, take heart – they are still making 9.5mm film for enthusiasts in France – so I guess someone somewhere will keep making film stock you need.

Maurice Mindel

Your producer’s Dad and supplier of his first 8mm Movie Camera

Veronica 08:55:55, 19/10/11

I so much agree with you. Film must already be dead as those in the know already are starting to speak with a romantisiced view of the medium. I also worked as a Negative Cutter, and forever will miss it’s touch and its smell.

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