Tony Earnshaw: High-profile film makers championing the cause of celluloid

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Call me old-fashioned – an analogue guy in a digital world – but I’m a big believer in film.

That’s celluloid, folks. The sort of film that goes through a projector. The invention that gives movies depth and realism and which provides a marked lack of artificiality.

So imagine how buoyed up I was when news broke earlier this week that Kodak has struck a deal with the big American studios to keep manufacturing film. Companies including 20th Century Fox, Disney, NBC Universal, Sony, Warner Bros and Paramount have all committed to buy film for future projects.

How much and for how long has not been made public. But it staves off extinction a while longer.

Among the high-profile film makers championing film and its traditional aesthetic are Christopher 
Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and JJ Abrams. All are passionate about what film offers them.

And all have used it in their recent movies, notably Nolan on Interstellar and Abrams on Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Just last year Nolan told me he was fighting a rear-guard action against the swamping of cinema by digital technology. “It’s not really a question of whether film should or shouldn’t have a future. It has to,” he said. “It’s very important to preserve its place in the filmmaking process.”

Nolan and Co – supporters include Edgar Wright, Judd Apatow and Bennett Miller – are partly reacting to the imposition of digital technologies and the attendant conditioning process that aims to persuade filmgoers and practitioners alike that film should be cast aside.

Kodak’s decision to continue manufacturing film, at least in the short term, can be attributed to the crusade spearheaded by Nolan and his contemporaries.

Kodak’s stance is made more impressive when one recognises that it was made in the light of plunging film sales, which are at just four per cent of what they were a decade ago.

It is now the only company to make motion picture film with Fotokem, based in Burbank, California, the last lab in Hollywood.

The bottom line is, not unusually, just that: hard business. Kodak has been reported as setting a ceiling on its manufacturing costs of $50 million a year. If demand is there then film will be made.

That means Nolan, Tarantino, Abrams and others like them continuing to swim against the prevailing tide. They are significant filmmakers with a shared voice that is growing ever louder.

Whether it will continue to be heard above the deafening roar of the digital avalanche is another thing entirely.

The tide hasn’t turned yet but there are several kings on the beach and none are named Cnut.

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