Film has had a good run, it seems. Since the origins of the medium, it’s held a special place in filmmakers’ and film fans’ hearts. Even today, there are some who refuse to accept that film is on its way out, no matter how great the strides in digital technology. Christopher Nolan continues to champion the format in all his films, and Quentin Tarantino even went so far as to have a 70mm roadshow, where the movie was projected in 70mm film.
Unfortunately, between the cost of the format, as well as how difficult it is to work with compared to digital, more and more filmmakers are committing wholeheartedly to digital. Even acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards in his career, recalls the difficulty he had working film for his latest movie, HAIL, CAESAR!
“We did have some problems. We had some stock issues and stuff like that, which was really disconcerting. And Iâ€™ve heard thatâ€™s happened to a lot of people lately, you know, stock and lab problems. Thatâ€™s unnerving. I mean I never really remember having those kind of problems before. But it makes me nervous now. I donâ€™t want to do that again, frankly. I donâ€™t think the infrastructureâ€™s there.”
Many purists find the look of film to be irreplaceable. Unlike digital, there is a bit of a timeless quality to it, and if you convert from the film source (which by nature is of higher quality than any current resolution digitally), you’re able to remaster the movie to whatever resolution you need–unlike digital, which is essentially stuck in the era in which it was shot (which is one of the reasons why films from the early to mid-2000s look so dated). All that aside, Deakins says that no matter the era, there have always been options for cinematographers to debate over.
“Well, again, itâ€™s just like any other tool, isnâ€™t it? In the old days it was choice of stock. When everybody was shooting film you still had the choice whether you shot 16 or anamorphic or, you know, the 65 or whatever. Those choices have always been there. I think thereâ€™s always been that kind of range.”
In regards to the Coen Brothers deciding to shoot HAIL, CAESAR! on film instead of digital:
“They felt we had to shoot film just because of the content really.
…but apparently Ethan at some point was talking about shooting the next film digitally. And then it turned around. Theyâ€™re really debating it. I was in Albuquerque shooting SICARIO and they were talking about it and they said, ‘I donâ€™t know how you feel about it, but I think we want to go on film.’ And I said, you know, ‘I donâ€™t mind. Iâ€™ll shoot it on a cell phone if you like. I donâ€™t mind. I really donâ€™t.'”
When asked whether or not he thinks the Coen Brothers would ever shoot digitally, Deakins’ response was quite blunt.
“Oh, I think they will. As I say, just the technical problems with film, Iâ€™m sorry, itâ€™s over.”
This isn’t the first time the doomsday bell has been rung for film, but when someone of Deakins’ talent and experience starts talking like that, one really does have to wonder.
Do you think the film format is on its last legs? Let us know in the comments down below!
HAIL, CAESAR! hits theaters February 5, 2016.