January 30, 2016

Watch Christopher Nolan and Colin Trevorrow Talk Film vs. Video

The debate over Film vs. Video is one that has reached a tipping point. Although the discussion stems back into the late 80’s, the advances in digital camera technology within the last 10 years have poised digital to give film a real runs for it’s money as the dominant medium in filmmaking. If you follow the world of filmmaking in any capacity, you’re probably aware that Christopher Nolan, along with a group of other high profile filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, J.J Abrams, and Quentin Tarantino, were instrumental in helping Kodak form shutting down the production of film stock.

This year’s Sundance Film Festival has plenty of panels that provide insight into the creative process of both established and up and coming filmmakers. Of all the panels, the one that has received the most attention is the “Power of Story: the Art of Film”. Not only does Trevorrow announce that the tradition of shooting Star Wars movies on film will continue with Episode XI, but he and the rest of the panel (which includes the aforementioned Nolan, Rachel Wilson, and Alex Ross Perry) discuss why shooting on film is important to them and their storytelling process. Check out the full 90-minute discussion below, along with my thoughts on some of the points argued in the discussion.

I think that all of the filmmakers have very valid and solid points here, and that there is a lot to learn from this conversation. As a student filmmaker who is trying to make a name for himself, I find it very encouraging to see them championing the use of film, even on an indie level. Of course half of the pleasure of this panel is getting a chance to pick the mind of Christopher Nolan for 90 minutes, but the biggest piece of insight that I felt Nolan offered was the idea that Film and Digital are two different Mediums.

We often group the two together, when in reality this is like calling charcoal and pastel the same thing when each, while similar, requires a different way of working and composing to give a unique feel. As a person who has made movies on both digital and film mediums, I can say without a doubt that the choice of format is really dependent on the story you’re trying to tell and how to best serve the characters.

Wilson, who was the cinematographer on Fruitvale Station, makes a really substantial point about this, and is honestly my biggest complaint about Nolan’s view on film. I feel that he wastes so much energy making sure that his movies are shot on film, completely bypassing the question of what medium best serves the story. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker, and I love what he’s done for the industry, but at a certain point you have to let go as an artist and let the story dictate these choices as opposed to your own personal indulgences as a filmmaker. While I do agree with all of the panel about film’s ability to force limitations on the filmmaker as far as shooting ratio goes, I do think that that same mentality can also be applied to shooting digitally.

Regardless, I still believe that film is not dead, and will never die. The most important, fundamental element to be learned form this discussion is that shooting on film is a choice, not a luxury or a burden, but rather a tool to create your canvas. Regardless, the debate over film vs. digital will continue to rage on.

About the Author

Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan is a independent filmmaker who currently resides in the San Fernando Valley. Since childhood, Taylor Salan had a fascination with movies. Although he was an avid fan of film as a child, it wasn’t until his years as a young adult that his passion for the art of filmmaking truly came to fruition. A current student of the film production program at California State University Northridge, Taylor studies Cinematography but ultimately has plans to direct full time if afforded the opportunity. In his spare time, Taylor produces audio podcasts and blogs about film for ageofthenerd.com. He is also a longtime musician, playing drums for over 8 years.



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