This is the fight of the generation. The proliferation of technology, the cost and the spread of “democratic filmmaking” have propelled digital to the forefront, threatening to end 35mm as a platform. As more theaters convert wholly to digital projection and “projectionists” only understand how to press a button to make the movie work, the 100-year-old medium of preference is losing out.
Which is why Christopher Nolan gathered the most prominent filmmakers together to watch 6 minutes of The Dark Knight Rises. As Gendy Alimurung writes in an absolute must-see article in LA Weekly evocatively titled, “Movie Studios Are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital are Vast, and Troubling,” Edgar Wright, Michael Bay, Bryan Singer and a host of other notable names were brought in for the “ulterior motive” of Nolan’s plea to save 35mm.
Now, he’s fighting with ink. In the latest edition of the DGA Quarterly, the master filmmaker has some lofty words for 35mm and a strong dismissal of change for change’s sake.
Why he only shoots film:
“For the last 10 years, I’ve felt increasing pressure to stop shooting film and start shooting video, but I’ve never understood why. It’s cheaper to work on film, it’s far better looking, it’s the technology that’s been known and understood for a hundred years, and it’s extremely reliable. I think, truthfully, it boils down to the economic interest of manufacturers and [a production] industry that makes more money through change rather than through maintaining the status quo. . . . I’ve just carried on making films in the way that works best and waiting until there’s a good reason to change. But I haven’t seen that reason yet.”
The Limits of 3D
“I find [3-D] stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect. It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life … I feel that in the initial wave to embrace [3-D], that wasn’t considered in the slightest.”
Jeffrey Ressner’s feature interview with Nolan is an excellent, stirring appeal to the beauty of 35mm filmmaking, but it also covers topics like CGI, creating the hallway action sequence in Inception and the benefits of not going to film school.
Not that he was rejected or anything (he chose University College London so he’d have access to first-rate film equipment).