Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and More Band Together to Keep Kodak Film Alive; Deal Being Struck with Studios

     July 30, 2014


Though the rise of digital photography only began a little over a decade ago, the switch to digital has been on an exponential rise in the past few years, which has seen traditional film violently sidelined.  One might think it’d be beneficial to all to have a choice between shooting on digital or on film, and it is, but the final say really comes down to a business decision on the studio’s part.  Shooting digitally is now far cheaper than shooting on film, not only because you’re not paying for film prints, but because shooting digitally actually makes the production move at a faster pace.  However, there are a few highly regarded filmmakers who have been lobbying hard to keep film alive, and it appears that their activism has led to a serious deal between studios and Kodak that will keep the film company (the last of its kind) from going out of business.

Hit the jump for more on this deal, which was championed by the likes of Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams.

the-dark-knight-rises-christopher-nolan-imageYou may be asking just how dire a situation Kodak—the only major company left producing motion-picture film—is in.  Well, their film sales have fallen an astounding 96% since 2006.  In that year, they were pulling in $12.4 billion.  This year, they’re estimated to make a mere $449.3 million, which just isn’t enough to justify staying in business.  Subsequently, Kodak reached out to the major studios to see about striking a deal, initially asking for investments in their manufacturing plant.  That offer was rejected, but their next proposal involved soliciting long-term film stock orders, and it began to gain traction when some notable filmmakers became involved in the cause.

These negotiations have been secret until now, but the WSJ reports that Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, and Judd Apatow lobbied the heads of studios to find a solution to film going extinct, which has now led to a potential deal.  If these negotiations pan out like they’re expected to, the movie studios will agree to buy a set quantity of film from Kodak over the next several years without knowing how many of their productions will actually be shot on film.  This keeps Kodak afloat, and allows filmmakers like Nolan, Abrams, and Co. the choice of shooting on film or digital.

No one here is saying that digital is evil or that it’s a far inferior way to produce films, but to lose the choice over which medium you’d like to use to bring your story to fruition is a depressing prospect.  Despite its sci-fi setting and heavy reliance on digital effects, Abrams is currently shooting Star Wars: Episode VII on film, and even though digital would allow him to shoot as many alternate takes as he wants without changing magazines, Apatow is filming his new comedy Trainwreck on film as well.  It’s a matter of taste and choice and what’s right for the film, and to deny filmmakers all of this is to lessen the filmmaking community as a whole.

quentin-tarantino-death-proofSpeaking with the WSJ, The Weinstein Company co-chairman Bob Weinstein—who also said Tarantino lobbied him personally—admitted that digital is financially preferable, but they’re making this deal with Kodak because of the filmmakers:

“It’s a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don’t think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn’t do it.”

Abrams, meanwhile, tells the WSJ in a separate interview that keeping film alive is an issue of quality control:

“I’m actually a huge fan of digital as well. I appreciate how that technology opens the doors for filmmakers who never had access to that level of quality before. However, I do think film itself sets the standard for quality. You can talk about range, light, sensitive, resolution — there’s something about film that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real.

I would argue film sets the standard and once it’s no longer available, the ability to shoot the benchmark goes away. Suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, the warmest, the most rich and detailed images.”

He went on to talk about how film grounds movies that are digital effects-heavy:

“Especially on movies like Star Trek and Star Wars, you have so much that will be created or extended digitally, and it’s a slippery slope where you can get lost in a world of synthetic. You really have to keep away from that, especially with Star Wars, which I wanted very much to feel like it is part of another era.”

As someone who loves digital when done right (David Fincher is a genius in this regard) but was dreading the death of film, I’m highly relieved to hear that a deal is being struck to keep the choice alive.

If you’d like to learn more about the film vs. digital debate and what filmmakers themselves have to say about the issue, I highly recommend the documentary Side by Side, which is currently available on Netflix.


  • Person

    Seems risky to just buy a pre-determined amount of film without knowing how many projects each year will actually use it. Also, most of these directors have ties to specific studios (Apatow/Universal, QT/Weinstein, Nolan/WB, etc.), so what happens with studios who don’t have film-happy directors in their “stable,” so to speak?

  • jay

    excellent news, i have no problem with digital either but i hate that filmakers are being left without the option to choose. now another deal has to be struck with the major chain theaters as well to keep at least one or two 35mm projectors in each of there cinemas. I live in the Northern Virginia (Washington DC area) where there are still plenty of smaller boutique arthouses and a couple of Alamo cinema drafthouses to go to where you can see 35mm even 70mm prints of movies. but your Regal’s and AMC’s, are all digital projectors.

  • Stronger

    Nolan abrams tarantino and apatow are the biggest fucking hacks in hollywood. no one cares what the fuck they think.

    • Stronger

      and that picture shows that tarantino is a fucking creep.

      • Noomba

        No it doesn’t, you dumb son of a bitch. I bet you don’t even know what movie that is.

    • DNAsplitter

      Don’t “like” your own comments bro. Comes off pathetic.

      • Stronger

        what the fuck? i don’t fucking know what your talking about. i didnt fukcking vote myself

      • gar216

        Hey, c’mon buddy, don’t censor yourself.

      • DNAsplitter

        Yes the fuck you did!!!

    • Philip Joseph

      they;re hacks? How so?

  • Andy

    I really prefer seeing film over digital, although that might be a little hypocritical of me because i love using digital cameras for my side film business. Editing programs are so quick and easy to use these days, but don’t tell that to my clients, or I’m out of the job.
    Also, that is a weird, creepy picture of Tarantino.

  • MCP

    The last 70mm print movie I saw was “Pink Floyd’s: The Wall”. Let’s just say I left the theater in a different state of mind.

  • Pk

    Makes me wonder if kodak stops making film, will Nolan give up filmmaking or settle with digital eventually?

    • World’s Finest Comments

      Scorsese eventually did. =l

  • bidi

    Side By Side was a really interesting documentary. it wasn’t as objective as i had hoped though. really everyone Keanu spoke with preferred digital, with the exception of Nolan and Wally Pfister. still very educational though. and i have to agree with Nolan and Abrams, i think the best image quality is on film, but there are certainly some people who have mastered the use of the new digital cameras (Fincher, Cameron, etc.)

  • Pk

    Also what is Tarantino doing to that poor girl?

    • Strong Enough

      making her star in his movie Death Proof. horrible torture

    • Werefon

      Holding her hair, so it won’t cover her face in that specific shot!

  • Guest

    With all of today’s technology is it not possible to just make digital look like it’s film?

    • lord jim

      no it´s not.don´t know what it has to do with today´s technology it´s a different medium, just take a look at analog photos, they are deeper than anything digital.

    • Math

      Yes they can and often do.

      • Werefon

        The only movie shot digitally that looked similar to film was Skyfall (but not 100%). But the DP on that film is a legend so.

    • randommale7

      No, with film each frame is full of constant variation with the way each frame reacts with being exposed to light, the fact that it’s a chemical process also makes a different. With digital it only adds variation if the is variable information on what the sensor is capturing and creates an entirely different aesthetic as it is 0s and 1s not different chemicals reacting. It’s also very hard to fake film grain on a digital image. This is a really rough way of saying it…

  • grapes9h5

    So happy about this. Outside of Fincher and a few others, I think digital is used horribly, and that film’s survival really is the only thing keeping quality in line. That being said, its inevitable that digital overtakes film in this regard, but we are so much further away from that than most people want to admit.

  • Math

    I understand why some filmmakers like the medium and it’s not a bad thing that it stays alive and good for them to have the choice. I still think this is mostly whiny directors who threatens to stop making movies if they don’t get their way. I don’t believe for a second that film quality is better then where digital is at the moment. It’s simply a matter of taste and film gives you that perceived natural grainy look because we have all been conditioned to see it that way for years. So directors try to recreate that nostalgic feel. It’s one of those things, like the sound of a punch in a movie that really doesn’t sound at all like a real punch should, but we’ve been conditioned to ear it that way for years, so it doesn’t feel natural if you actually use the real thing. It’s the same feeling for film, but in the end, it’s still a lower quality image. But it’s a choice, like a painter might decide to use a certain type of paint over another.

    Keeping that film feeling is a valid point, but I don’t understand their obsession with trying to prove that film is of better quality. It’s not. It just gives the results they are expecting out of the box instead of having to pass that perfect digital image through a process that dirties it up so it looks like film.

    And please stop using the argument that film lasts longer then digital. Film quality diminishes over time and over multiple copies of the original medium. Digital storage might be a little less reliable in the long run, but there is so much available digital space for so cheap that keeping multiple copies ensures you never lose anything and copying the data never diminishes the quality as it always is an exact copy. Sure, every once in a while there might be corruptions while transferring data, but it’s far less likely to happen and that’s why you keep multiple copies of that data anyways, to make sure if there’s a corruption along the way, you can always pull a new copy of the un-corrupted data. I don’t mean any disrespect, but those who are using this terrible excuse to explain why film is superior are simply uninformed and slightly leaning towards moronic. If I don’t back-up my data and my system crashes, I only have myself to blame for loosing that data.

    New technologies will always be resisted by certain people who got too comfortable working with an old medium. After working a certain way for years, you become an expert and fully master that old technology. Using something new is scary because you are not an expert anymore. You have to re-learn how to work with it. But it’s been proven over and over again that once you actually invested enough efforts to master that new medium, it can become highly superior to the previous one. I’m sorry, but I will always see Nolan, Tarantino and all these film purist as lazy people who simply don’t want to invest the necessary time to learn how to master this new technology. If they would really take the time to learn and experiment with this medium, they would eventually understand how to get exactly what they want out of it.

    • Werefon

      It is not the matter of nostalgia but choice of end result.
      Digital looks digital and it is really hard to make it look like it.
      Digital has video quality to it.
      Film looks like Grand Cinema. It basically looks like Film. And that’s the problem. You even can compare Nolan’s movies with a digital movie of a same genres. It just doesn’t looks like film just a very high quality video. For some cases it’s OK.

      Lazy? You know it’s a DP that should know the technology, right? Directors sets the shots and DP makes everything to get that shot. They don’t need to master the technology.

      It’s always good to have a choice in everything isn’t it?

    • Werefon

      It is not the matter of nostalgia but choice of end result.
      Digital looks digital and it is really hard to make it look like it.
      Digital has video quality to it.
      Film looks like Grand Cinema. It basically looks like Film. And that’s the problem. You even can compare Nolan’s movies with a digital movie of a same genres. It just doesn’t looks like film just a very high quality video. For some cases it’s OK.

      Lazy? You know it’s a DP that should know the technology, right? Directors sets the shots and DP makes everything to get that shot. They don’t need to master the technology.

      It’s always good to have a choice in everything isn’t it?

  • animesh agrawal

    biggest difference between film vs digital…LOTR vs Hobbit.

  • Jim El

    Who cares if they manage to put their movies on real film?
    Cinemas are still going to use their DLP projectors, which makes it all redundant.

  • Tim

    I’m shooting 6×7 and 35mm with Portra so I hope Kodak never truly goes under. Film is beautiful.

  • theseeker7

    I can’t help but feel it a little bit ironic with JJ being one of the main players in this, now that he’s been given the keys to the Star Wars universe, meanwhile George Lucas has been one of the biggest advocates of going digital.

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