Last week, the showbiz trades were abuzz with reports on the negotiations between Kodak and the major Hollywood studios to keep celluloid alive for the handful of directors—like Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino—who still insist on shooting their films on film. The Hollywood Reporter cited Nolan, Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and Judd Apatow as among the filmmakers who campaigned to coerce Kodak and Hollywood to work together to develop (so to speak) a plan to fund the ongoing production and processing of film. Ultimately, a tentative agreement was put in place for the studios to subsidize Kodak’s currently unprofitable celluloid business.
Today, noted preservationist Martin Scorsese released a statement backing this cause, writing:
“We have many names for what we do—cinema, movies, motion pictures. And… film. We’re called directors, but more often we’re called filmmakers. Filmmakers. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the obvious: HD isn’t coming, it’s here. The advantages are numerous: the cameras are lighter, it’s much easier to shoot at night, we have many more means at our disposal for altering and perfecting our images. And, the cameras are more affordable: films really can be made now for very little money. Even those of us still shooting on film finish in HD, and our movies are projected in HD. So, we could easily agree that the future is here, that film is cumbersome and imperfect and difficult to transport and prone to wear and decay, and that it’s time to forget the past and say goodbye—really, that could be easily done. Too easily.
It seems like we’re always being reminded that film is, after all, a business. But film is also an art form, and young people who are driven to make films should have access to the tools and materials that were the building blocks of that art form. Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry? Of course not. In the history of motion pictures, only a minuscule percentage of the works comprising our art form was not shot on film. Everything we do in HD is an effort to recreate the look of film. Film, even now, offers a richer visual palette than HD. And, we have to remember that film is still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital information will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for.
“Our industry—our filmmakers—rallied behind Kodak because we knew that we couldn’t afford to lose them, the way we’ve lost so many other film stocks. This news is a positive step towards preserving film, the art form we love.”
Well said, Mr. Scorsese. And this is a great idea overall, for the artists who insist that they need these tools—and can afford them—to fund their manufacture. However, it’ll be interesting to see how this shift in celluloid’s use affects the overall perception of it. When color became the standard for mainstream Hollywood, black-and-white film became the medium of choice for B-movies, making black-and-white movies seem inherently cheap; and later, when even exploitation films were shot in color, black-and-white became emblematic of artiness. What associations will moviegoers attach to celluloid, when only the top of the A-list has easy access to it?