Back in 2014, Kodak announced that they were considering stopping the manufacturing of film as their sales had decreased by 96% over the last 10 years due to the increase in digital filming. Seeing that the last motion film manufacturer was about to cease to exist, directors who shoot with film banded together to save the company. Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, J.J Abrams and Edgar Wrights are only some of the directors involved in the rescuing of Kodak. In early 2015, it was announced that Nolan and the team were able to convince big film studios like Disney, Paramount and Sony to reach an agreement of buying a certain amount of film from Kodak each year. During this time there was a huge discussion revolving around film vs digital.
Two years later Nolan made some controversial comments about Netflix, saying, “They (Netflix) have this mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed and released.” The director isn’t the first to speak about Netflix and its recent investment in films. Starting with Beast Of No Nation in 2015, Netflix has produced even more films like Bong Joon Ho’s highly anticipated Okja and is currently producing Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The biggest criticism Netflix faces is about their refusal to release their films in cinemas before its release on the website. The 2017 Cannes Film Festival faced a backlash by filmmakers as, for the first time, they featured Netflix and Amazon produced films in competition. The Federation of French Cinemas strongly opposed the featuring of any films that were not shown in French cinemas. The backlash made the festival announce that this year alone they would keep the Netflix films in competition, but starting next year they will not feature any films that are not shown in French cinemas. This automatically bans any Netflix films from appearing at the festival until they change their policy.
These recent events once again revived the digital vs film arguments. So, which is better, if any? The answer is simple: neither is superior. There are pros and cons of both mediums. It’s easy to understand directors like Nolan and Tarantino who shoot with film, for if Kodak had ceased production of film, they would have no choice but be forced to shoot in digital. “The point at which you’re told you won’t have a choice anymore, that becomes an important creative issue,” Nolan argued. On screen, the difference between the two mediums aren’t too noticeable. The real difference lies more in the shooting and pre-production. Many studios have already switched to digital cameras as it’s much cheaper and quicker to produce. A majority of the cinemas have also switched to digital. Unlike film, shooting in digital doesn’t hold a risk of ruining the footage and having to reshoot scenes and is seen as more secure. It also has made it easier for young artists to break into the industry. Being able to shoot with a phone and immediately present your art to the audience online is an incredible tool for young emerging artists.
The argument shouldn’t be around whether film or digital is better, rather it should be about the future. Although filmmakers should have the freedom of choice, isn’t it time to move on? Photographic cameras have all updated to digital, but film hasn’t. It might be better to focus on new technology because eventually film will fully turn digital. However, what I found most ironic and surprising, was how white men of Hollywood banded together and convinced the biggest and most powerful studios to keep film going, yet it’s so hard for them to even lift a finger when it comes to diversity in their films. What I’ve learned is that if it affects white men, then they will do everything in their power to take control and make a difference. There is a Turkish proverb that fits perfectly: let the snake that doesn’t harm me, live for a thousand years.
Author: Busra Mutlu
Editor: Juwairiyah Khan
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.