Film Shot First: ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Will Be Shot on Film, Not Digital

     January 28, 2016

colin-trevorrow-star-wars-sliceTongue in cheek, that’s how director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) described Star Wars Episode IX during a press conference at the Sundance Film Festival today. But it turns out that he was hinting at some major news he shared regarding the film:  Episode IX will be shot on film rather than digital.

As Variety reports, Trevorrow revealed the news as part of a panel discussion on the desire to preserve film stock in an era dominated by digital filmmaking and digital projection. Before diving into the discussion, which also featured celluloid-savior Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Fruitvale Station), it’s worth diving into Trevorrow’s decision.


Image via Universal Pictures

On one level, some may say this decision is not a huge deal due to the fact that most audience members won’t recognize the difference or won’t give much thought as to what a movie is shot on. And that may be true, because if for most people the result is the same, what difference does it make?

However, I think this is great news, because while the audience may not be aware of it, this has been an ongoing debate in the industry for the past few years. And while the advent of digital filmmaking isn’t necessarily unwelcomed, it’s domination of the industry and near-killing of celluloid stock most certainly is. Directors should have the choice to use whatever technology they want. It would be a shame if film was taken away as a choice, beyond just the historical desire to preserve it along with its representation as an art form. The more filmmakers advocate to make movies using film, the more people will want to preserve it, and the best way to advocate on behalf of film is to actually use it. Trevorrow’s decision to use it on a huge movie, and one that has the potential to be one of the biggest movie of all time, drives home that point.

Regarding the panel itself, Variety points out how studios prefer digital to film due to the difficulties film presents, specifically its cost and the need to continuously halt production in order to change the film cannister. Nolan, who has utilized film stock for all of his movies, would disagree with that assessment. He called the oft-cited claim that digital is cheaper as a “corporate conspiracy” motivated by “a culture around wanting to kill film.”


Image via Paramount Pictures

Nolan went on to cite Quentin Tarantino’s foray into 70mm with his latest film, The Hateful Eight, as an example of this culture. The media was quick to report on any technical glitches associated with the 70mm roadshow presentation. Nolan thought this unfair, due to the fact that digital projectors face similar issues on occasion as well, but that doesn’t receive the same kind of attention. He summed up his feelings on film this way:

“There needs to be a choice. As a medium it will continue to exist. It has to continue to exist. It’s pointless to pretend it has to go away.”

Morrison addressed the other argument made for digital: it increases accessibility to the world of filmmaking due to it being cheaper and more readily available. She argued celluloid could be used for such lower-budget films as the cost of production is cut through better management and financial sacrifices are applied to other areas.


Image via The Weinstein Company

As Tarantino hoped to demonstrate, film can provide an experience unrivaled at home, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated with better entertainment centers and better content through streaming services like Netflix. Rather than try to compete with these trends by adopting digital and going head-to-head. these artists would argue that the movies are unique precisely because of their ability to shoot on film and showcase it accordingly. Regardless of what you thought of the film. the presentation of The Hateful Eight was very impressive and most definitely unique. Nolan echoed this sentiment by saying:

“My hope is the screens are going to be bigger, the seating is going to be better, and the premium idea of the experience is going to be enhanced.”

Help us, Colin Trevorrow, you’re (one of) our only hopes!


Image via Lucasfilm

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