Steven Spielberg seemingly might be following in the steps of his old guard peers — James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott – veteran filmmakers jumping headfirst into 3D and new technologies. After all, his upcoming adventure film "Tintin" is his first digitally shot motion-capture film in 3D, and it’s employing state of the art technology all around.
And while Spielberg seems happy to experiment with these new tools, during a recent sneak preview screening of his latest live-action film, "War Horse," in New York this past weekend, the 64-year-old director called himself decidedly "old school" and lamented the vanishing of the classical ways of filmmaking. While a 6-minute video recap of the conversation is below, the Q&A hosted by writer Mark Harris went on for almost an hour.
One thing’s certain: Spielberg wants to keep shooting on 35-millimeter film, even if he’s acutely aware that burgeoning digital technology may make the medium extinct in the near future.
“I’m still shooting on celluloid; I’m still shooting on 35mm film,” he said. “I love film and I’m not planning any time soon to convert to the Red Camera [or] to shoot a digital movie. I guess my first digital movie was ‘Tintin’ because ‘Tintin’ has no film step. There is no intermediate film step. It’s 100% digital animation but as far as far as a live-action film, I’m still planning to shoot everything on film. I guess when the last lab goes out of business, we’ll all be forced to shoot digitally and that could be in eight-to-ten years. It’s possible in ten years' time there will be no labs processing celluloid.”
While some see the film as influenced by John Ford, Spielberg says that’s just one small piece of the visual puzzle, and said the film contained no direct homages to Ford.
“I just shot with wide lenses and that’s not something that’s shot today. And some people who see ‘War Horse’ think it looks old fashioned because I shot it the way a lot of the directors from the ‘30s and ‘40s shot their movies: by giving the audience the respect of being editors.”
Spielberg said if he chose to shoot wide enough and put seven characters in the shot, audiences could choose to concentrate on who they wanted to. “That was a philosophy that was used for 75 years of filmmaking and then with television everything got [small], and we lost the ability to shoot wide. So it’s old fashioned in that sense, because I just opened up the screen and made it larger.”
With that widescreen shooting in mind, asked if he would prefer that audiences saw the movie in a theater over DVD or some small-screen technology, Spielberg vehemently agreed. “Yes! I would love that,” he exclaimed. “Please see it in a movie theater. We made it for you that way.”
Keeping with the idea of old school cinema, when asked what kind of genres of films he still hopes to make, Spielberg did not hesitate. “I would love to do a musical. I would love that,” he said enthusiastically, noting he currently had no specific musical in mind, but it’s on his wishlist of genres to tackle. “I would have to find the right book, the right story, but some day I’m going to make one. I would really like to go off and direct a musical. That’s what I would really like to do when I grow up.”
While "proper" reviews haven't quite hit yet, there's been enough written about "War Horse" to glean that some are calling it a surefire Oscar contender while others are describing it as heavy treacle (which still probably still makes it a big contender). Divisive, potentially? Sounds like it, but a “serious” Steven Spielberg picture is always something to at least take notice of.
“War Horse” stars Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell and lands in theaters on Christmas Day.