“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Film, paraphrasing Twain.
In case you missed it, yesterday, Kodak announced that it has finalized new film supply agreements with all 6 major Hollywood studios – 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony.
“Film has long been – and will remain – a vital part of our culture,” said Jeff Clarke, Kodak CEO, adding, “With the support of the studios, we will continue to provide motion picture film, with its unparalleled richness and unique textures, to enable filmmakers to tell their stories and demonstrate their art.”
Per the press release announcement, Kodak has been engaged in broad discussions with prominent and indie filmmakers, as well as studios, production companies, and film processors, to enable film to remain a “fundamental medium” – a movement that the major studios have apparently committed to lead.
These new agreements make it possible for Kodak to continue to manufacture motion picture film, while also pursuing new opportunities to leverage film production technologies in new areas, like touchscreens for smartphones and tablet computers. This also positions the company to remain the premier supplier of camera negative, intermediate stock for post production, and archival and print film.
“With the support of the major studios, the creative community can continue to confidently choose film for their projects,” said Andrew Evenski, Kodak’s President of Entertainment & Commercial Films. “We’ve been asking filmmakers, what makes a project ‘FilmWorthy.’ Their responses have varied from the need for its exceptional depth to its distinctive grain, but overwhelmingly, the answer is ‘the story.’ They need film to tell their stories the way they envision them, and hold a strong desire for it to remain a critical part of their visual language. Enabling artists to use film will help them to create the moments that make cinema history. The agreements announced today are a powerful testament to the power of film and the creative vision of the artists telling them.”
Prominent Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan have all essentially sworn unwavering loyalty to film, pissing on the so-called ongoing “digital revolution” (production, distribution and exhibition).
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 sticks. 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.
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, I don’t think film or the theatrical experience is 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, and 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?
For now, Kodak and film, are still alive and well…