Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Paula Bernstein
September 18, 2013 8:54 AM
43 Comments
  • |

10 Reasons Why Filmmakers Should Shoot Film (According to Kodak)

"Want the Film Look? Shoot Film" panel IFP

Now that Kodak is out of bankruptcy, it wants to reassure filmmakers that they are still in the business of making movies.

"We will be making film for the forseeable future," Bob Mastronardi, sales and technical manager, Kodak, said yesterday during "Want the Film Look? Shoot Film," a Kodak-sponsored panel during IFP Film Week. "I want to reinforce the fact that film is still here and we are still here."

Despite the prevalence (and affordability) of digital, there are still films being shot on film, including some of the best indies of recent years, such as "Beasts of the Southern Wild, "Fruitvale Station," and "Blue Jasmine."

"In this day of everything digital, it seems like film is never even considered," said Mastronardi. "If you are interested in doing your project on film, you should consider film."

The panelists included cinematographer Brian Rigney Hubbard ("Circumstance"), producer Nekisa Cooper ("Pariah"), cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz ("Daddy Longlegs") and director Andrew Renzi ("Franny").

They all provided some strong reasons why film is better than digital. 

Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why Filmmakers Should Shoot Film:

1. It's simple.

 "When you're shooting digital, you're creating these huge files that go into a hard drive that have to be backed up on a set. Film comes in a can. You shoot it and you put it back in the can and send it to the lab. It's very simple." -- Mastronardi

2. Film provides better color.

 "You're losing all of this information with the digital medium. When it goes big, the shadows won't be comprised of color. With film, it's still actually recording information in there. It still has the granularity and a certain amount of color." -- Rigney Hubbard

3. It forces you to be efficient. 

"If you're shooting on film, your day is going to be more efficient. You have to know the in and out. It's good to have this discipline and limitation which forces you to be efficient. It's almost freeing because you have to work harder ahead of time." -- Jutkiewicz

"Preparation breeds freedom. You have to have a clearly articulated aesthetic and you've got to test that ahead of time." -- Cooper

4. It creates an atmosphere of trust.

"When you can make a case for your film being shot on film, it's almost freeing a little bit because you have that trust. You're probably not getting dailies back every night and being able to watch them. Producers aren't able to make sure everything is going okay at every step up the way...That kind of mindset translates to the work environment and the feeling of a flow that you get shooting on film that you don't always get shooting on digital when you have monitors showing you exactly what the final image is going to look like. Film reintroduces a trust which is a great environment to work in." -- Jutkiewicz

5. It's flattering. 

"A lot of actresses desire to be shot on film. It has that softer look. When you're aging, you prefer that." -- Mastronardi

6. It's easier to edit.

"I hear from editors sometimes if there are multiple cameras on the set, they're up all night trying to figure out what's going on with all the footage." -- Mastronardi

7. It's a safer bet.

"People have been given a lot of PR saying film is expensive, you'll save money if you do it on video or digital. As you go through that process with your producer and start researching what your goals are, you find out very quickly that there are a lot of options. A lot of times film can be an option on a very low budget. It can guarantee a deliverable in the end that isn't compromised." -- Rigney Hubbard

8. You can make changes later.

"I know a really good 'hard drive.' It's film. It's there. It's scannable. You can do stuff with it's later. To have film and to be able to work with it in post-production is really exciting." -- Renzi

9. It looks like film.

"If you want that film look, just shoot film. I don't know of a process that can do what film can. That randomness of the grain is the difference of film. Film has information even in the empty space between your characters – there's something going on all the time."

10. Put bluntly: It just looks good.

"Film looks good, really good." -- Jutkiewicz

43 Comments

  • Cinekam | June 22, 2014 10:48 PMReply

    I'm a cinematographer who started out shooting film, though I currently shoot mostly digital. I still do shoot film occasionally, and I prefer it for many of the reasons posted in other comments. What really bothers me is how digital diehards get angry at people who want to shoot film. It's like with digital music, how fans of digital get genuinely angry that the vinyl LP won't go away. They claimed LP's were dead 25 years ago and they are still here, better than ever, and they are fuming mad about it. Read an article about the continued vinyl resurgence and they troll relentlessly as if the existence of vinyl was a mortal threat. Cinema itself exists because of film, if you love cinema and hate film you must be self loathing. I made it affordable for my self to shoot film 14 years ago when all my friends suggested I shoot DV. I'm damn glad I ignored them. If you shoot a 90 minute $250,000 movie on S16, film, processing and transfer will run about $30,000 then you save at least $5,000 on a less expensive Arri 416 rental over Alexa. Not factoring in any other potential cost savings of shooting film, digital will save around 10% over shooting film. The higher your budget the lower the % cost of film. Isn't it worth the 10% to have your movie look like a film?

  • CINEKAM2 | July 16, 2014 9:03 PM

    The art of film occurs in its composition. As a cinematographer you should know that. The majority of the masses prefer digital due to its accessibility and yes you choosing to ignore the horrendous DV codec was an excellent choice but with the likes of what is available in 2014 it's hardly a talking point. Cameras, digital or film are merely tools to achieve the picture. So long the camera itself is full frame, and has the ability to manually adjust for exposure, there should really be no other reasoning or fretting over "what type of camera should I shoot/film on?" It's all in the composition and the lighting that truly make an image appear "filmic."

  • Thom | October 30, 2013 11:14 AMReply

    I've had the chance to read thru some comments here. Very salient points for digital. But the one overlooked to support film overall is the archive. Do you realize when your unlimited footage is backed up in digital, it gets logged into a crevasse of numbers that make ZERO sense to anyone other than the librarian whom logged it? Good luck if that guy/girl is still with the same company years down the road. I've seen some wretched digital camera reports. So good luck locating any shots if you decide to revisit footage. Also, storage is always updated. Hardware suppliers make it this way to bleed production behind close doors. But who cares...you sure saved some dough during the shoot, right? Meanwhile, after years and years and years, it's a slow trickle of updating, re-copying, shuffling, etc...you don't think these things get lost in this constant ebb and flow? Do you know...that LTO tapes and players need constant upgrading and that they don't have backwards compatibility? Well, they do, but let's say you copy to LTO 1. An LTO6 player will not read it. That means you have to first copy all footage to LTO3 than you can copy to LTO1. That's all the footage shot. Yeah, it includes a great cowboy of the grip eating donuts while they let the camera roll. Atop all this, ALL POST PRODUCTION COMPANIES DO NO SHARE SAME WORKFLOW, EXCEPT when it comes to dealing with film.

    Film sits in a limestone vault ready to be re-scanned at whatever resolution is now up to date. 6K already existed in the film world years ahead of digital's version of 6K. Film is waiting for 12K to catch up.
    Something to consider.

  • smith | October 20, 2013 2:53 AMReply

    You need to understand one thing to see the future of film. Film will never look better then it does today and digital will never look worse .Digital is just getting started and will surpass film on everyone of those points.

  • Gary | November 14, 2013 9:57 PM

    Allessandro you are wrong. Digital will eventually surpass film. But I will not claim when that will happen. I would agree that many have prematurely predicted films demise. But Your comment that they have been saying this since 1988 is as rash as the pro digital camp. One day digital will be able to look exactly like film and then it might finally be dead and we get closer to that day each year. I have nothing against film and at this point it is the more reliable storage medium but digital will conquer that mountain as well just a matter of time.

  • Alessandro Machi | October 31, 2013 8:45 PM

    Smith, actually, that is not true. Everytime a new digital breakthrough arrives, films shot 10, 20, and 30 years ago are re-transferred, and the results tend to look better than before. The other thing that is unintentionally annoying about your comment is that since 1988 digital pioneers have been claiming film was dead. And even more annoying, FILM PROFITS helped drive a ton of Digital R & D.

    One of the qualities I find surprising among the digital comments is the notion that it would somehow be a bad thing if a small percentage of productions going forward were alway shot on film. Just why would that be a bad thing?

  • Thom | October 30, 2013 10:53 AM

    Storage is a nightmare. And will always be. Constantly updating hardware to meet the needs of upgrades opened up a whole new set of problems unforeseen by production hell-bent on having lower overhead during shoot. Not archiving. Media storage of digital files...in any era from this point on, will always need to be backed up beyond backup. There are going to be lost files. You can't lose neg vaulted.

  • Mark | October 3, 2013 9:00 PMReply

    Film is awesome but Digital is the way to go, even more so for Indie film makers! look at all the Major films shot on Reds, and Arris digital cameras! they look amazing, not to mention, the so called film look has changed to the digital red and arri cameras now so that is now the so called film look.

  • john defazio | September 21, 2013 8:50 PMReply

    This is just a marketing scheme for Kodak. each of these 10 points can be argued for Digital/HD as well. Same BS, new day. i learned on film and am glad i did, but film is a dead medium strictly reserved for wine & cheese film-snobs who refuse to adapt to the inevitable changes in this industry.

  • Alessandro Machi | October 31, 2013 8:47 PM

    John, most people who learned on film don't feel it necessary to take such a hostile position against it afterwards, makes me question what it was you that you actually learned from film.

  • Meredith Madri | September 20, 2013 6:40 PMReply

    I use film... Because I LOVE IT!

  • Victor Goss, ASC | September 20, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    Sounds like a sales pitch to me. I happily argue every point made, however, he (who obviously has not spent enough long hours on a film set) left out the fantastic smell of emulsion next to the camera when you have to STOP and RELOAD every 3 and 1/2 minutes. (jk - lol)
    PS: I've shot multiple millions of feet of 35mm and I don't know how much 16, and Su8. It was great fun, and so was my 1965 Shelby Mustang Clone at 9 mpg.

  • Ramnathan | September 20, 2013 2:42 AMReply

    There were arguments when digital media was introduced for recording of sound. And many supported analog recording over digital. But technology was not mature then. Now no body, knows much about spool tapes and its uses. I think same with film. as the digital technology gets mature, films might become obsolete. I tried for those days arguments about analog and digital sound. but could find only this link:

    http://djdtime.com/analog-recording-advantages/

  • Alessandro Machi | October 31, 2013 8:49 PM

    Ramnathan, some think Analog origination (aka film), digital destination is a solid route to take. Others think that starting on digital and ending up on film also works well.

  • Paulina | September 19, 2013 9:01 AMReply

    Get me a 16mm for the prize of a 5D and I will shoot film. It isn't about choice, it's about availability.

  • Zack | April 6, 2014 12:53 AM

    I did that. I rented a 5Dmk3 for a music video, was impressed but the files were the same digital crap. 3 months later bought an aaton XTR for the same price (2k). Shooting with that ever since. Even budgets under 1k can afford for film stock+dev, and we're making money hand over fist, just bought an 8-64 and about to upgrade to an xtera, while all my friends with canon c300s cant find a customer. Having said that, availability is the most serious threat to the way we work. As such, i am trying my hardest not only to keep my own workflow alive but to provide resources to others who wish to shoot 16mm.

  • KOF | September 19, 2013 2:24 AMReply

    Wait, now HOW is the Alexa different from the CineAlta different from the Red different from the Phantom? And just when I shot on that darn DVX they come out with the tapeless HVX which does a, b, c, and d better and then they come out with the HDSLR which can do x, y, and z and then I rent the FS100 only to realize that the some guy says "No, stick with the the 5D and get these lenses; it'll be better than that FS100" but I see that the Canon Cinema Eos line is pretty sexy but I just saw someone shoot with the Black Magic which can do all the things the Eos can - except for this one little thing about contrast in darker areas - but it's soo much cheaper, and his friend told me "No, try out that Bolex Digital" and his friend the Oscar-winning DP told him "it ain't the camera; it's how you use it" and just when I decided to settle on that idea in comes my newbie cousin with his Red Scarlet and he's telling me I'm literally using "Yesterday's" digital cinema camera. A new one came out today and that in two months this whole other thing is coming out, but he's rich so he doesn't care if he sells his Scarlet because he's already gearing up for the 8K and 12K world which will go beyond the limitations of what the human eye can perceive but he's driving me nuts with these questions what are the best FILM lenses to rent with an adaptor so he can get that film look and why is sensor size such a big deal and why would a camera 10 times the cost of another have less latitude than the cheaper one and then he starts about RAW files and what does he need to know about all these codecs and why does each maker have it's own one and some of the editing tables can't take RAW or this or that codec and what is h.264 as opposed to Apple ProRes and why he can't work with it because Avid doesn't read it well and he spent all this money on the Avid software but there's always this thing about Flash on his Ipad to view footage and how it's great that he can now shoot 500 to 1 and figure it out in the editing room, but he took 4 years to cut his 3 minute short because he had so many hours of footage and that rendering stuff took a really, really long time and something about staring at the screen and not even being able to do something else like cutting another sequence while the computer was rendering.

    Just give me a can of raw stock PLEASE! I'll pay more to stop driving me INSANE.

  • A. | September 19, 2013 10:46 AM

    Brilliant comment.

  • Mark | September 19, 2013 5:35 AM

    Kof, that's pretty much exactly how I feel!

  • Sweeney | September 19, 2013 2:06 AMReply

    Those who know, know pro's who demand film: Christopher Nolan (Batman, Interstellar), Zack Snyder (Man of Steel 1+2), Malick, JJ Abrams (new Star Wars, Trek), Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Darabont (Walking Dead), Coens (inside Llewyn Davis), Francis Lawrence (new Hunger Games) and the list goes on... The Butler, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Spiderman 2, Don Jon, Out of the Furnace. BUT I guess none of them know what works best for their projects.

  • Adey J | September 19, 2013 1:37 AMReply

    Film is not vegan. Think of the ickle animals.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 11:55 PMReply

    If you ever want to see how amazing film looks when transferred to video, check out ABC's "The Middle", it's on every Wednesday night at 8pm. Amazingly vivid and colorful, but not by simply amping the chroma.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    I'm surprised that nobody is attempting to meld both film and the Alexa on the same shoot. It seems like the backlit and backlit wide angle stuff would come out better with film and would match up with the less contrasty front lit Alexa shots.

  • Stefan | September 18, 2013 2:59 PMReply

    And the #1 reason... keep Kodak in Business.

    It's wonderful to see this classically arrogant company on their knees, begging.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 7:44 PM

    That's funny, I find your comment completely over the top and arrogant.

    If it wasn't for film transferred to video, video research would have languished because many times video format demo reels touting video format advances were using film projects transferred to their video format, to make their video format look better.

    Now name video cameras from five years ago that people are salivating owning today.

  • Justyn | September 18, 2013 7:04 PM

    That's incredibly on point and astute. It's a company pleading with all these conditions and disclaimers. Well, not having choice means that vanilla or chocolate really tastes better!

  • Dave | September 18, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    I'm an old film guy. Been in Hollywood since '74. Grew up using film and loved it.

    But the last film I shot (which was in 1993), the old-time Hollywood negative cutter I hired nearly destroyed it. Blemishes throughout on my previously pristine neg, thanks to him.

    Now that digital tools have become just as good--especially in terms of exposure latitude--I can no longer justify film as an acquisition medium...on anything. And the Arri Alexa settles it for me--a real Digital Cinema camera, finally.

    Now, we no longer edit on film, nor do we cut negative, and (in most cases) we no longer deliver on film.

    Nice try Kodak. Keep making the sep & print stocks.

    But for everything else, film IS over.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 7:50 PM

    You might want to re-read your comment. When the Alexa arrived, you stated...finally. As in, Finally, all the lies told by digital camera developers over the prior 20 years can be forgotten because the end justified the means. All well and good, but to then go and attack those that still like shooting film is somewhat mystifying and makes me question your character just a tad.

    On top of that, back lit, wide angle shots look FLAT when shot on digital. Everything stated in the article is spot on accurate, and true. Film origination, Digital Destination.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 7:45 PM

    The article gave ten terrific reasons to shoot on film. Rather than refute, them, you choose to simply say, blah, blah, blah.

  • justyn | September 18, 2013 7:07 PM

    12. film is better cause the chemicals can get you high if you smell it cause you'll need that when you get the credit card bill.

    Shooting a 16mm feature killed my credit and moreover it's sitting in my house gathering dust.

    14. It can make a great coffee table and toy for the cat!

  • Rahim | September 18, 2013 12:23 PMReply

    I went to school and learned to shoot film. When I got out I spent every dime I could trying to create a reel with film productions. It was such an expensive format to learn in. I love film but the practical uses for digital has made me a better filmmaker because I can experiment more, shoot more footage and I am not held back by money and film stocks. Bottom line is film has been to expensive for people that are trying to learn the medium. The biggest lesson I always learned from film was the story was the most important thing. If these are the 10 reasons to shoot film you guys better come up with another 10 or it's over.

  • James T | September 19, 2013 1:19 PM

    Alessandro: I don't understand why we have to refute every single point on the list. It's not that we don't agree with (some of) the legitimate points made by Kodak, it's just that there are other reasons why people choose digital over film.

    Yeah, absolutely, film looks better AND has more colour AND is softer. But it's just not economical for most filmmakers who aren't working in Hollywood. And personally, I just like the workflow of digital better, both on set and within the editing room. Not to mention that the format of film is unchanging and digital is simply just going to keep improving. Arri Alexa is one such example, which rivals the image quality that film produces.

    The only thing about film that it has and always will have a true leg up over digital is storage format. Having that risk of digital footage being destroyed is worrisome. Film is just film and will always be in a ready to use format.

    We aren't offended that others use film. But it certainly seems like YOU'RE offended we use digital.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 7:51 PM

    Amazing, another comment that simply glosses over the actual list of reasons and simply makes a sweeping statement about all 10 reasons without taking them on one by one. It's as if digital people are offended that others use film, just shows the arrogance.

  • Derek | September 18, 2013 10:10 AMReply

    In what universe is Argo an independent film?

    Who's in charge of copy-editing this site, anyway?

  • Jordan | September 18, 2013 9:56 AMReply

    Winston--

    The medium isn't the message. Only in film do people still maintain this conceit; a painter who uses acrylic vs. oil doesn't necessarily make them a better or more legitimate painter (which seems to be the suggestion amongst my friends who say "you can't call yourself a filmmaker if you don't shoot film".

    I don't think the distinction needs to be made...its not like one says "I'm an acrylic-maker" or "I'm an oil-maker". Film used to be the only game in town. It's not so anymore. I've used both, and there's no reason to continue shooting film when the cost is so reasonable on the other side of the fence and the difference in quality is no longer stark.

  • Winston C. Dumas | September 18, 2013 9:48 AMReply

    You forgot to put #11: Because you're called "film"-makers for a reason.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 7:55 PM

    "Only in film do people maintain this conceit".

    I would suggest it's the other way around. Rather than see film as a possibility on certain projects, most digital "filmmakers" seem to think that once they shoot with digital, film can never be used again. It's a silly premise. Just use what works but don't assume, as you say, that either oil or acrylic is better all the time.

  • Jordan | September 18, 2013 9:35 AMReply

    Things take twice as long shooting film for no budget/low-budget creators.

    Ultimately, many filmmakers want to "see what they got" which is impossible on film. Technical difficulties are much easier to spot/correct, which is essential. All you need is one pinhole of flashed film, a wonky mechanical part in the camera, etc. and you can ruin one or more days on a film set.

    That said, I like Paula's suggestion. I know if I had the money I would shoot film, but after using the Arri Alexa on my last short, I find even less reason to deal with the risk of film.

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 8:02 PM

    It may take longer to acquire on film, but the point is it may be quicker to actually edit the project specifically because there is less overall footage to sort through. I think people who have seen a lot of reality television and are into non-stop coverage of people winging it can't comprehend the value of film.

    However, if one actually has a minds eye about what they want, and it doesn't involve a gaggle of special effects, film can easily be a logical choice.

    Look at it this way, 100 entries come in to a contest, five were shot on film, who thinks the five films will be the five least liked? The odds are the five films will probably overall have a better result than digital simply because it IS harder to finish a project on film versus video.

    It seems like the argument is being made that, it is easier to shoot on digital than film, therefore the product will come out better, whereas the real argument to be made is... it is easier to shoot on digital, therefore the project might be more affordable to make.

    However, that does not mean it will come out better than if it had been shot on film.

  • paula | September 18, 2013 9:18 AMReply

    It is so much more expensive and you need more people on set. Maybe the "shoot on film" incentive should came in the form of a cheque... or some fund for "indie films that dare". We all love film, the problem is we can´t afford it...

  • Alessandro Machi | September 18, 2013 8:03 PM

    I've read accounts in which film B-crews are much more mobile than their digital counterparts because they can actually shoot in more contrasty situations without having to light.

  • Jackson | September 18, 2013 9:16 AMReply

    11. It's way more expensive

  • Stranger than fiction | September 19, 2013 12:27 AM

    It is probably top secret information but Kodak actually went the wrong way by making huge profits by selling film stock way too expensive when its production cost was not so high plus they did not enter the digital world the right way. This is probably why they probably deserve bankrupcy after all.

    Nevertheless we don´t deserve to be punished as well, I love film and I am probably one of the number 1 fan of film, mainly because all of the above is true + I believe film stocks and film look itself is still today unrivaled by Digital technology ( to my eye not quite good enough, 4k is even worst it is starting to make look my images like came out from a video game). On the other end who is making any new film cameras now??? Arri?? Panavision??? I would use film if the price is right and it makes sense for the project... Anyone has an ARRI SR3 wants to get rid of I have a ton of 16mm footage I want to shoot.