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Shooting on Film Just Got Much Easier

The celluloid renaissance has led Kodak to open their own labs in major production cities.

Todd Haynes’ “Carol” was shot on 16mm film.

In 2014, when the last film processing lab in New York City closed, famed cinematographer Ed Lachman claimed the equipment, which the owners were going to simply throw away. Moving the seemingly useless gear to a storage facility with the hope that one day it would be needed again was, at the time, a quixotic act as the era of shooting on celluloid was all but dead.

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The dramatic turnaround over the last two-and-a-half years is nothing short of remarkable. Prompted by A-list directors like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and J.J. Abrams, studios kept Kodak from going under by promising to buy a set amount of film per year. Soon, a new slate of blockbusters like Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and prestige Oscar films like the Lachman-lensed “Carol” were being shot on film. The resurgence has continued to grow since 2015 and now even TV is coming back to celluloid with shows like “Westworld” and “The Walking Dead” leading the charge.

The problem is the labs never returned to major production cities. Over the last couple of years, one of the biggest obstacles and financial burdens of shooting on film has been that there is no place to develop and process dailies. For most U.S. productions, the answer became a nerve-wracking leap of faith of shipping undeveloped negative to Fotokem in Los Angeles, while for small productions, the cost of expensive courier services alone was often enough of a hurdle to shooting film.

NYU Professor Alex Rockwell

NYU Professor Alex Rockwell

courtesy of NYU

Preaching for the accessibility of shooting on film, Kodak themselves has had to step into the void and form partnerships to open new labs in major production hubs. Today, Kodak announced a new partnership with the famed Pinewood Studios just outside of London – the shooting home of the James Bond franchise and a number of recent large Hollywood productions – where they signed a five-year lease to build film negative processing lab.

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This comes on the heels of Kodak having recently acquired a film-processing lab in Atlanta – where Georgia’s tax incentives have lured a number of TV shows like “The Walking Dead,” and huge blockbusters like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Baby Driver.”

Meanwhile, Kodak has built an entirely new film lab in Queens, New York, which isn’t officially open yet, but has been able to accommodate a few recent productions.

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