Martin Scorsese Abandons Celluloid In Favor Of Digital For ‘Wolf Of Wall Street,’ But It Won’t Shoot In 3D

Martin Scorsese Abandons Celluloid In Favor Of Digital For 'Wolf Of Wall Street,' But It Won't Shoot In 3D

The egress from celluloid to digital is becoming a mass exodus in Hollywood. Theaters that still project film are becoming an endangered species, with film houses like the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles going as far as to launch their own "Save 35MM" campaign and petition in order to keep screening movies from film prints (they've won their battle for now). And right in step with theaters moving towards the inevitable future are the filmmakers themselves.

Christopher Nolan is one famous auteur holdout who favors the quality of film over digital, but he's quickly being outnumbered by other auteurs like David Fincher, James Cameron, Steven Soderbergh, and frankly, most of the film industry. To see this celluloid vs. digital discussion and debate take place, one should definitely watch the upcoming documentary on the very subject, "Side By Side" produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves. In it, many famous filmmakers espouse the virtues of film or digital or both, but definitely in the minority are those that still champion film.

To that end, one more famous holdout, Martin Scorsese, seems to have fallen from the side of digital, which is interesting, if not, a total surprise, given that in the "Side By Side" doc, Scorsese is one of the few filmmakers who sees the value in both (most of the directors interviewed are either/or). 

In a recent Empire interview with Thelma SchoonmakerScorsese's longtime editor and friend says the "Hugo" director is likely making the switchover. "It would appear that we've lost the battle," she said, confirming that Scorsese's next film "The Wolf Of Wall Street" starring Leonardo DiCaprio would be shot digitally. "I think Marty just feels it's unfortunately over, and there's been no bigger champion of film than him."

Thelma, his name is Chris Nolan, but we suppose that's beside the point now. She continues: "It's a very bittersweet thing to be watching films with him now that are on film. We're cherishing every moment of it. The number of prints that are now being made for release has just gone down, and it would appear that the theatres have converted so quickly to digital."

Also of minor note in case you believed Marty when he said he'd like to shoot more dramas in 3D, well, he's not. Or at least "The Wolf Of Wall Street," which begins principal (digital) photography in August, will be shot in regular old 2D. Or rather, regular old digital 2D. A shame? Inevitable? Discuss.

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Marla Thornton

WEll then Jon, you never saw Interstellar projected in 70mm IMAX. The greatest cinematic exerience I’ve ever had in my life. And for the record, it makes no sense to say ‘it’s a tool’ as though it’s as good when it blatantly isn’t!! We are only up to 4k projection and filming at around 8k. You’ll have to reach 12k to even equal 35mm film! 24k to equal 70mm. So you switch to an inferior format, and spend over and over on constant updates. At least when a film is shot it can be put into storage and you know it will last over 130 years minimum and it won’t fade or go brittle. On the other hand there will also be huge costs in storage of digital files and you will have to constantly keep an eye on them to make sure that this is done. More than one copy is a must too, as I don’t have to tell you that hard drives crash. This is the stupidest trend I’ve ever seen and the digital revolution is based on media propaganda. To top it all everything shot on digital today will never look any better than it does today, whereas with film, you’ll be able to scan a 100 year old film in 10 years and it will look better than it ever has done. I rest my case now

Brian wright

Then there is this… "We ended up preferring the skin tones of film. Most of it was shot on film." -Rodrigo Prieto by THR. Stop talking about "Abandon" and start embracing what technicians and artists choose to use to best execute their craft. So it happens to be Film, so it happens to sometimes be digital. Who cares. If their work is great they made the right choice (usually film). But that scene talked about in the link, an great example of using an inferior format to best execute the vision. This article needs to be retracted or amended.

Brian wright

Just watched The Wolf of Wall Street tonight, and I have to say, that FILM would have not been the same without FILM. The digital formats were mainly used for scenes thy were meant to be infomercials (not a spoiler) and key tv feed shots. It's interesting that he used canon for the aerial shots when films like WWZ (shot on Alexa) used 35mm for aerial shots. He did shoot FILM on The Wolf of Wall Street!!! Tell me that is a digital camera and I'll say you are an idiot. The point being made on your quote is not that it was shot on film, but that it was projected 4K. The Alexa isn't even that. Get your facts straight fool. Digital needs no champion. It's posts like this that deceive people into thinking film is dead. It is not. Look at Kodak's credentials last year and this year. The best film are almost always made on FILM.


Digital film can't hold a candle to celluloid. The resolution and depth of field on traditional film is still far and away superior and it looks so beautiful.
I suppose that digital is cost effective and very easy for editing and implanting special effects so I do understand why it's used BUT I am sorry to see it not used much anymore.
Kudos to Chris Nolan and a few others for holding out. Nothing beats real film!


Analogue film prints look like crap when they get old. And then they have to be DIGITALLY restored. Oh the irony. Digital movies look the same as when they get old. You just have to update the storage medium once in a while.


Making films today is easier than ever. I consider myself lucky to be living in an age where I can pick up my DSLR and shoot a film, and cut it on the same day. However, I definitely lament the death of celluloid. There's an artistry to the chemical process, and there's a texture to film that you can't achieve with digital cameras.

With BluRay now, you can see that texture more than ever. For the first time you can study a high-def version of a film in the comfort of your home, and see the grain structure of the stock they used, and wonder what it was and why they chose that particular stock to shoot with. It's ironic that we have access to a new and great study tool like BluRay, but you won't be able to use what you can learn about stocks on your own production. Those stocks simply don't exist anymore, or are in the process of being discontinued.

It isn't about digital vs. celluloid. That's as absurd as trying to argue that oil paints are better than acrylic paints. Or that horse-hair brushes are better than synthetic. It depends solely on what's appropriate for your project. Celluloid is just another tool in your kit, another brush or another variety of paint – however you want to look at it. Why would you want to limit yourself to just one way of working?


Is the medium really what matters here? I enjoy both film and digital. A badly made movie on film is not inherently better than a well made movie on digital. This will still be a Scorsese picture!

I understand there are concerns with directors "switching over" and the changing of the landscape, but luckily movies will still be made.

The preservation issues and such will be dealt with by those concerned enough to deal with them.

Voice of Reason

everyone who is crying about the disappearance of film get over yourselves. 99.9% of the people who are actually the end consumers of the product (therefore essentially pay for it) don't care and don't even notice the film/digital difference. It's only a precious few (..see people commenting below) who care. You cant stop progress. Long live digital


I would like to point out that those who think shooting digitally is so awesome and makes everything cheaper and easier, Avatar was the most expensive film ever made and took years to complete. And it was shot on digital. There's this myth that shooting on digital will save all this money, and it won't.


Never thought I would say this, but Marty's a goddam idiot.


I see importance in both film and digital….both have the pros and cons, and both look beautiful if used to it's fullest degree (if that makes any sense, y'all)……this is sounding like film is vinyl and digital is cd's / mp3's……


Bravo, Ursus and D.G. Brock! The quality of film can't be measured in pixels the same way digital can because it's an organic medium. The studios are pushing digital film production because A) they are greedy and B) you probably think paying to watch a film is an inconvenience when you can download it for free. Something like 90% of American films made before 1929 are lost forever. You know why? Because it was a format in it's infancy and these pictures weren't properly cared for. Preserving a movie on celluloid is a sure bet today. The same thing is going to happen with so many films shot and preserved digitally in the next 25 years. Read the LA Weekly article on this subject. Only the blockbusters will be safely preserved. Those of you with little to know money or a distributor who doesn't give a shit? Good luck.




Regardless of whether you're pro digital or pro film (and if you are WHY do you need to be anti towards the other format? In an ideal world filmmakers would always have a choice) you have to admit it's a sad day when you realize Scorsese will never make another movie on film.


I'm not a professional filmmaker so I'm not qualified to speak on this subject but it seems that films shot on digital have better image quality than films shot on film (unless, of course, you're shooting on IMAX film, which seems to be the very highest in quality).

Ian Grey

There's nothing you can do on film that you can't do on digital. Arriflex's ALEXA system looks much better than film. Check out Michael Mann's LUCK to see things you just could never do with 35mm for a zillion reasons. Check out THE AVENGERS to see FX that would cost a zillion dollars more were it not for ALEXA. Check out DOCTOR WHO for scope and imagination you could never pull off on a 8 day TV series budget on film.

Film is over. It was nice and now it's too damned expensive and can't do the things digital can do.


I like going for rides in a horse and carriage but I drive a car when I need to get somewhere.


Good luck preserving anything shot on digital unless you do a YCM or at least a film neg. All the electric engineers will tell you that the digital files on drives degrade over time and of course eventually the drive will die or the format won't be supported anymore. Shot my last pic on Red, but only because of low budget. Now trying to get the money together to output it to neg for preservation. All that work for something that will be gone in a decade or maybe two. No way for this director.


A question for anyone who knows a lot about movie preservation. Thelma said that "The real problem is going to be preservation. Because If you don’t preserve these things every five years digitally, they’re going to vanish. And who’s going to have the money to do that?”." Why do they need to be preserved every five years and why is it so expensive?

When digital becomes the dominant format I hope there are more movies that look like Hugo or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo than Soderbergh movies. All his recent movies that I've seen have looked terrible.


While sad, this news is rather unsurprising. Scorsese's last movie, Hugo (which looked great, I might add), was shot digital on the Arri Alexa. As long as the master keeps making movies, I'm not going to complain ;-)


Its a shame that there is so much pressure to shoot on digital that filmmakers hardly have any real choice anymore. I worry about the number of movies, especially small low budget movies that will still exist decades from now. If I'm not mistaken digital preservation is more expensive and complicated.


It's not a shame. I didn't hear anyone griping about how Drive looked, and that was shot on digital. It's a tool. When used well, there's no reason it can't be aesthetically pleasing. Even Malick is open to mixing film and digital.

I will say, however, for my money, I've never seen anything look better than TDK projected in true IMAX. The size, depth and clarity of that opening sequence literally caused a sold-out crowd to gasp. That's something I haven't heard with anything shot digitally or in 3D — even Avatar did not evoke that reaction. I think Nolan is absolutely right that there is no better image available than true IMAX — but it is an encumbrance on a production and out of the question for any independent production.


Why god why?!


Isn't Quentin Tarantino still a huge champion of film. I think PTA is as well but I'm not su e on him

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