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Thoughts on the Film versus Digital Divide, as Tarantino Hopes Latter’s Momentum Stops

Thoughts on the Film versus Digital Divide, as Tarantino Hopes Latter's Momentum Stops

Immediately below are words from Quentin Tarantino, speaking to Deadline exclusively, about his upcoming (and maybe final, as he suggests) feature film, “The Hateful Eight.”

“If we do our jobs right by making this film a 70 mm event, we will remind people why this is something you can’t see on television and how this is an experience you can’t have when you watch movies in your apartment, your man cave or your iPhone or iPad […] You’ll see 24 frames per second play out, all these wonderfully painted pictures create the illusion of movement. I’m hoping it’s going to stop the momentum of the digital stuff, and that people will hopefully go, ‘Man, that is going to the movies, and that is worth saving, and we need to see more of that.”

His words echo fellow prominent director Christopher Nolan, whose comments, earlier this year as you might recall, reignited the long-running “film versus digital” debate – one that continues as the so-called ongoing “digital revolution” (production, distribution and exhibition) asserts itself (certainly in *IndieWorld,* and catching on in Hollywood).
 In recent years, there’ve been numerous editorials by various industry insiders and outsiders, declaring a shift in the way audiences are consuming content, and thus, how content creators are, or should be delivering their content.

Some have even been so bold as to predict the death of celluloid cinema as we’ve known it. Others have pointed towards a future in which the mobile web dominates, rendering the theatrical and television experiences near-obsolete.

I don’t think anyone really knows where we’re headed with absolute certainty. It seems that, right now, we’re all scrambling, throwing darts at ideas, hoping to land on something that works. I don’t think movie theatres and television are going to suddenly disappear; and I don’t know if the web is indeed the final frontier, as some have called it. I’d like to believe that all (and whatever is coming) can and will co-exist, with each serving some purpose that the other 2 can’t, or can’t quite as well.

But we simply can’t deny the effect the information superhighway and overall “digital revolution” has had on the way the world distributes and consumes media.

Maybe it s because I’m of a certain generation, but I don’t quite understand the divide. I really don’t think that content creators have to make a choice between one or the other. Both (film and digital) are simply tools in an ever-expanding toolbox, as technology continues to astonish us with what’s possible, and with increasingly lower amounts of money. 

Who knows what filmmaking will look like in another 50 to 100 years, when most of us alive today, will be dead and gone. I wish time travel were possible, so that I could take a peek at what lies ahead.

So let’s put this *fight* between celluloid purists and digital enthusiasts to rest. As a filmmaker, I embrace both. I grew up in the late 1970s, into the 1980s, watching movies shot entirely on film, and primarily in theaters, and I appreciated (and still very much do appreciate) the experience it provides. Going to the movies used to be an event for us, when I was a kid, and even through my college years. But I’m also flexible, and I’m not averse to change, and I appreciate what each form has to offer.

I say, if you’re a filmmaker, use whatever works for your project – essentially, whatever you can afford, which is ultimately what it comes down to for most of us, especially those who aren’t lucky (or unlucky, depending on your POV) enough to be working within a system in which financing is at the highest levels, and pockets are deep.

The same goes for how you choose to consume your cinema, whether in a theater, or at home, or on your iPad. It’s your money and thus your choice, when it’s all said and done, and you shouldn’t be derided for it. For some, the theater-going experience today just isn’t the most attractive, given rising ticket prices ($15 to $20 here in New York City), unruly or disruptive crowds, and more. For many, it’s far more cost-effective, and less anxiety-inducing to stay home with the family, and rent a movie, whether streaming on Amazon, or via Netflix, and other platforms.

In short, as the saying goes, do you! 

Filmmakers like Tarantino, Nolan, and others who are steadfast in their decisions to shoot film exclusively (and who’ve expressed contempt for the reality that audiences today aren’t married to any one particular screening platform – specifically film, in a theatrical setting), can certainly continue to bark against what are obviously shifting trends in the way audiences watch film and TV content today – especially younger viewers, who were born into this ongoing so-called “digital revolution.” But it just seems like a waste of time, in my opinion. The change that they don’t seem to want to come to terms with, is already here and happening. They certainly don’t have to embrace it fully, but it just seems useless to continue to rally and fight against it, because I don’t think it’ll make any difference, other than frustrate.

So, no, one film won’t suddenly change the course we’re currently on – at least, I don’t believe so – and, as Tarantino hopes in his quote above, that audiences will *see the light* and that it’ll “stop the momentum of the digital stuff,” as he put it. I don’t think film or the theatrical experience are dead; there certainly are enough of us who still prefer to shoot with it than any other format, and I’d say, the majority of us still prefer to watch movies in theatrical settings – each with their own personal reasons. But the reality is that, new technology will always disrupt old technology (especially if it’s just as comparable, but cheaper, allows for more efficiency, democratizes a process, etc). It’s been happening since the beginning of time. As I said, who knows what lies ahead, 25, 50, or 100 years from now. What will the film production, distribution and exhibition landscape look like in the future, given how rapidly change is happening? 

Read the full Deadline/Tarantino piece here (in it, he also talks about retiring after “Hateful Eight”).

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