"It's not about Film versus digital. It's about preserving this medium for future generations." - Christopher Nolan
While talking about his experience as a member of 'Save film', a movement to preserve the medium, Director Christopher Nolan said, "We spent the last few years perfectly explaining that Film is here to stay and it is a wonderful medium that we can all enjoy. We have continued to work in the same way we have been working for many years."
There’s nothing quite like filming a movie on Film, according to Nolan. His recent WWII film, Dunkirk, was shot entirely on epic 65mm, as opposed to digital. And it receivied the widest release of that Film format in recent history.
In a conversation with Jeffrey Ressner (Directors Guild Of America), Nolan was asked what attracts him to the medium. "You and your cameraman, Wally Pfister, are—along with Steven Spielberg—among the last holdouts who shoot on Film in an industry that’s moved to digital. What’s your attraction to the older medium?".
"For the last 10 years, I've felt increasing pressure to stop shooting Film and start shooting video, but I've never understood why. It's cheaper to work on Film, it's far better looking, it’s the technology that's been known and understood for a hundred years, and it's extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. We save a lot of money shooting on Film and projecting Film and not doing digital intermediates. In fact, I've never done a digital intermediate. Photochemically, you can time Film with a good timer in three or four passes, which takes about 12 to 14 hours as opposed to seven or eight weeks in a DI suite. That’s the way everyone was doing it 10 years ago, and I've just carried on making Films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven't seen that reason yet."
Long time friend and Film supporter, Tacita Dean said, "it isn't really about Film versus digital. it's about preserving this medium for future generation of filmmaking to be able to use it."
“I tend to compare that to painting, right. What would be the point of going to see a Turner – a beautiful picture of a Turner. It’s exactly the same. DCP is extraordinary in terms of the technology and the quality but it’s comparing an oil panting with a fantastic picture of the painting for simple reasons that – I’m not going to go extensively into the descriptions why – but one of the most important examples is: with Film the blacks are created by the obstruction of light, whereas in digital the blacks are created by light going through a spectrum of colours so black is still made of light. Another thing is that Film, as you know, is made of 24 frames per second which means that you have a little strip of black in between each image. You can’t perceive it, it’s not possible – but it creates rhythm, it creates an imperceptible rhythm which is lost with digital. There’s no frames as such. There’s a beam light and that’s that.
“So there’s all these elements that makes Film, Film: its texture, how it feels, its fabric and this can be only experienced once one is watching the film. People coming here watching the John Cassavetes films were absolutely amazed by the fact that it was 35mm, and they could tell. There is this myth as well when you talk to anyone in general, they’re going to say, ‘Well, I couldn’t tell the difference between DCP or digital and 35mm it’s like, ‘Yeah, you could.’ If we were to screen the two films side-by-side it would be so obvious it would be almost like watching a colour Film versus a black and white Film. There’s this obviousness or contrast. It’s a complete different medium all together. I think that is being gradually lost in terms of the understanding because people are just used to seeing DCP. Most cinemas if not all cinemas now are equipped with DCP.”
As we progress in an age where the rise of Film is becoming much like the boom in Vinyl, we see more and more directors shooting on Film, resurging the medium and bringing it back to the big screen. Started off by the likes of Nolan and Tarrantino, this is more than just a 'trendy' statement. In 2017, 31 Films were shot on 35mm, and in 2018, the figure rose to 45 titles shot on 16mm, 35mm and 65mm.