Monday, June 23, 2014

Shooting on 35mm Does Not Equal 'Cinema'


I want to be really clear about something: a lot of really shitty, forgettable, unbelievably terrible movies have been shot on 35mm. 

There seems to be this suggestion out there that storytelling and cinema are only possible by shooting on 35mm and/or projecting on 35mm and it just couldn't be further from the truth. 

Is the RED or Alexa better than 35mm? I don't know. Maybe? Not yet? That's for other people to argue over. But we've only been shooting moving pictures for 120 years. Of those, digital has been used for only what? 10? Maybe a little more. That's less than 8% of the entirely of "cinema's" lifetime. Where will digital be in 110 years?

Some of the greatest films ever made were shot on 35mm simply because THAT'S ALL THAT WAS AVAILABLE AT THE TIME. It wasn't a divine gift from God. Digital is in its infancy and 50 years from now we'll probably be saying that some of the greatest films every made were shot on digital.

Now, I'm not against 35mm. I'm not one of those digital prophets who speaks about the "death of film." Fact is, I've never had the opportunity to shoot on 35mm, yet I've been making films for 12 years and have worked on a huge variety of projects. Why is that? It's simple. I've never been able to afford it. If I could have, I would have definitely done so. (I tried many times to make it work for the budgets I had but to no avail.)

It would have been much harder for me to develop my talent and skillset and experience without the low/no cost of shooting digital. I always held out hope that I would one day be able to shoot a film on 35mm but in the past decade that opportunity has become less and less likely. Not because I don't want to but because the wind has shifted during that time.

Honestly, I'm thankful for it. I appreciate the fact that I can shoot really great looking films for very little. I love that fact that I have a wide variety of cameras to choose from based on my budget. LAYOVER would have never been possible without the 5D. 

I'm honestly passed the point of lamenting the death of 35mm. I really appreciate that there are filmmakers trying to keep it alive and my hope would be that it remains a viable format for years to come. And I still have hope that I might be shooting a project of my own on film. 

But we're no longer dealing with VHS or 60i digital. The cameras today are incredible and have their nuances, just like films stocks. 

'Cinema' is to experience something profound -- a story and/or characters that move you, take you beyond the dark room you're sitting in. It is not the method by which that story is created. I'm not trying to dismiss the work of cinematographers who have created indelible images using film -- but I also don't think it's right to discredit the work being done in digital by (many of the same) incredible cinematographers. 

A novel is no less moving or profound if it was written on a computer vs. a typewriter. A photograph is no less important whether it was shot on digital or on film. The method by which a story is 'produced' does not add to or subtract from it's quality. 

There is so much more to 'cinema' and storytelling than the format and to suggest that it's only possible on 35mm is both narrowminded and wrong. 

But that's me. Leave your thoughts below.

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