Cinematography : Could this generation get a new film experience? by Amanda Toney

Amanda Toney

Could this generation get a new film experience?

This article makes me feel extremely hopeful for the future of film. I firmly believe that in order to be a great storyteller in the medium of film, you need to know what it's like to shoot on film. You need to hear the film stock running though the camera. You need to know the pressure of being near the end of roll as your actors are giving you their best performances of the day, of the shoot, and you only have enough film for one more take. It forces you to make critical decisions on your direction, the camera, everything in order for you to capture the magic. This is something young filmmakers don't have much experience with as they have the flexibility and never-ending ability of digital filmmaking. This article makes me hopeful: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/ces-jj-abrams-backs-kodak...

CES: J.J. Abrams Backs Kodak's New Prototype Super 8 Camera
CES: J.J. Abrams Backs Kodak's New Prototype Super 8 Camera
While there will be plenty of digital cameras on display this week at CES in Las Vegas, Kodak has selected the venue to debut a prototype of a new Super 8 camera that combines the classic features of…
D Marcus

When you limit your belief to "the medium of film" then you get no argument from me. But when one expands the discussion to "the medium of the motion picture" then knowing what it's like to shoot on film isn't as relevant. One can be a great storyteller in this medium commonly called "film" while using analogue video capture or digital capture of images. One can be a great storyteller without using any of these capture media's; words on paper, the stage. One doesn't need to hear film stock running through a camera to write, producer and direct a wonderful novel or stage play. And we all have many examples of amazing storytelling in the motion picture medium without using any film stock at all. I agree, film is wonderful. I'm thrilled that vinyl is making a strong comeback and that film is also. I don't buy your argument that a good storyteller or good acting (or directing or cinematography) needs film stock.

Amanda Toney

It's not about just storytelling in a general sense. Of course there are other storytelling mediums that don't involve film. I'm not arguing that. What I am saying and what I truly believe is that if you are going to be a filmmaker, someone who tells stories on the screen through moving images, you would benefit a great deal from shooting on film. Being on set, how you make your decisions, everything is different when you shoot on film. Young filmmakers today don't have easy access to that opportunity and I feel this amazing development that JJ is sponsoring would give the filmmaking community that access. This is all great stuff and I think could lead to an even higher level of filmmaking and storytelling.

Parker Reeve

I love film. But I don't believe that at all. Good storytelling on screen is good storytelling on screen. the medium doesn't change that. Not everything is different when you shoot film. Storytelling is the same. Framing is the same. Lighting is very,very similar. The creative aspect of editing is the same. You say shooting on film could lead to a higher level of filmmaking and storytelling. Are you saying the level of filmmaking and storytelling has dropped since film became less used? Of course there are good and bad movies shot digitally. But there are good and bad movies shot on film. I guess I'm not seeing your point. I don't believe that "The Empire Strikes Back" was good because it was shot on film while "The Attack of the Clones" was bad because it was shot digitally. The medium is a minor part of good storytelling and good filmmaking. Help me understand how the medium can elevate the level of storytelling.

Mark Cabaroy

I shot on film exclusively all through the 70's because that was all we had. I've worked with DP's who go on and on romanticizing, the beauty, and color saturation of film and it is nice. But the digital age has allowed me to tell stories I simply would never been able to do on film. Back in the 1970's and 80's you shot something on film and you had to have your shit together. Because it was all analog, motors and sprockets and technical. There was a lot of bad film technique going, it was cumbersome to move the camera smoothly and you never knew what you were going to get (whether that shot came out right ) Until you processed the film and saw the dailies. Sometimes it was nerve racking. People bitch about the esthetic from silent films to sound then from black and white to color. Now it HD, 1080, 4K as opposed to film. For me I've alway been a broke ass filmmaker and for decades I couldn't afford to tell the kinds of stories I wanted to tell and there were some years any stories at all. I've owned mine equipment, and I've rented but the cost of film stock and developing, having a MOVIOLA or KEM or any type of film editing equipment was always a daunting task to achieve and pain in the ass to maintain. There will always be filmmakers who can afford to shoot on film, and good form them, unfortunately i'm not one of them. I say make cameras smaller with higher definition and make them available to people who normally would not have a voice and let them tell stories that aren't dependent of making back their profits or a bottom line. Because that's what making film on film is it forces ever decision you make to be an economic one instead of a creative one. And when you're a broke ass filmmaker like me, one who cant seem to get "grants" or raise a budget of millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars then that makes the difference between being able to make something or not.

D Marcus

If it's not about just storytelling in a general sense then it's about storytelling in a specific sense; I truly believe that if you are going to be a filmmaker, someone who tells stories on screen through moving images, the medium is not relevant. Storytelling is storytelling. A good filmmaker uses what ever media is available. One is not more beneficial then another.

Amanda Toney

In response to Parker: What I am arguing is that a filmmaker who has endless takes, endless amounts of hard drive or card space perhaps doesn't fully develop the skill set to prioritize what is shot and how it is shot in the same way he/she would if they were shooting on film stock. It's just a different way of thinking which can lead, potentially, to a more well-rounded filmmaker/storyteller. And overall, lets not forget, the original point of the post. This new super 8 camera is just another avenue for filmmakers to learn and grow in a digitally dominant space. You can't deny that there's something romantic about being on set and hearing film clicking through the camera.

Amanda Toney

In response to Mark: I agree with you that digital has given us an abundance of flexibility and freedom to tell stories you may not have been able to do so back in the 70s/80s and that's a great thing! Woo for filmmaking! However, I know young filmmakers who have never shot on film because they don't have the access. This camera, seemingly, would give them that access and would give them that nerve racking feeling, give them those anxieties and would help them think about filmmaking/storytelling in a new way. This is something I feel would create a better filmmaker, a more critical thinking filmmaker. And, on top of that, this camera doesn't appear to give the economic burden you refer to that shooting on film has at the moment. Win-win.

Amanda Toney

In response to D Marcus: You're right, a good filmmaker uses whatever medium is at his disposal to create a story on the screen. I whole-heartedly agree. All that I am saying with my post is that this new film camera would give a new and different experience to young filmmakers at a seemingly affordable rate; an experience that could very well teach them new ways of thinking about how they make their films and tell their stories.

Amanda Toney

One hundred percent agree William!

Amanda Toney

product page: http://www.kodak.com/ek/us/en/Consumer/Products/Super8/default.htm pretty great stuff! super pumped for Fall!

Andrew Sobkovich

Perhaps the issues here should be the different results in shooting on film versus an electronic camera but this article is about Super 8. Kodak is bringing out a new Super 8 camera and some support with processing and post. Great. Nostalgia is all warm and fuzzy. So what. Super 8 was not a professional medium. It had uses in some places in some pictures and it was fine, but it is not a professional medium. Please recall that Super 16 did not meet the BBC technical standards for HDTV broadcast origination, Super 8 certainly will be the same. Yes it has had and will have specific uses in some music videos or as a specific look in other venues but most certainly not for current professional imaging. Some info has leaked about the camera, including a flip out LCD viewfinder as opposed to an optical eyepiece but wait and see what actually gets sold. Super 8 invokes a Kodachrome memory which could be interesting but the currently available colour stocks are all negatives. Tri-X might be a saving grace since B&W makes it easier to accept lesser image quality. The currently available film stocks work in existing Super 8 cameras. I adore much of the process of shooting film from the visualization that includes absolutely knowing what will be seen in rushes to directors more closely directing the actors on the set and not on the monitor. It is an amazing creative process that demands imagination and knowledge in all areas to achieve professional results. For mainstream production the images from Super 8 will not be even minimally adequate. As a learning tool for students I suppose there might be some merits.

Amanda Toney

Great input Andrew! I agree with everything you bring up and I hope that they will include an optical eyepiece. I will be following this camera's release very closely. As far as the argument that it's not a professional medium... you're right, it's not going to be a medium used to shoot the next BMW commercial but I look at it this way, when polaroids and instant cameras came back into popularity in these past few years, they didn't get released to be a professional medium, did they? The next cover of the Hollywood Reporter won't be taken by an instax camera, right? I see this Super 8 rerelease as a way to give filmmakers an affordable option to relive and rediscover the appreciation for shooting film and to learn tools like I stated above. Regardless, there is absolutely no downside to this camera being released and I will certainly be picking one up.

Stage 32 Staff - Julie

Great share, Joe. You had me feeling the passion for film - and the anxiety of getting the actors best performance getting towards the end of your roll. Stylistically, I think this Kodak camera is an artistic choice and a nice change for some creativity. Andrew, I see your point, too. Just out of curiosity, have either of you shot on film before?

Andrew Sobkovich

Julie I've shot millions of feet of 16 & 35 film. Sounds like more than it is in terms of actual running time :-)

Stage 32 Staff - Julie

@Andrew - Oh, I bet! I'm sure there's nothing like the adrenaline you feel getting to the end of the film knowing you have to nail the shot before the film runs out!

Andrew Sobkovich

On most film cameras the operator cannot see the footage counter so it can be a worry if some bit of action takes longer than you thought. The anxiety involved in waiting for the sound of the end of the film roll flapping around in the magazine is no different than the anxiety of running out of any recording media or battery power for that matter. Adrenaline is reserved for other things. There is a scene about this in one of my favourite movies that involve making movies, "The Stunt Man". An AD calls cut having thought he heard the film run out in the camera. I wanted to see it again so found it at 1:19:30 here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xLWvYNUJgM I went to see escapist crashing pick-em-up-trucks and got an astounding performance from Peter O'Toole along with great subtle portrayals of everyday life on a picture. Well worth watching. The poster tagline says it all.

Mark Cabaroy

What would be nice is if they make a super negative stock for these new camera.

D Marcus

Kodak has been offering negative stock for years. 7219 and 7213

Andrew Sobkovich

If it matters, Kodak also offers the excellent 7203 daylight stock and of course what might actually be useful, 7266 Tri-X reversal. Anyone looking for fine grain had best shoot at least Super 16 or much better, 35mm.

Jesse Cardoza

Going off andrew. The new kodak camera will be for a small hobby productions/ college. Unless these cameras have some favorable quality to the image, something unique. Also may open more experimentation with form using super-8. But the industry standard will remain super35 three perf( correct if wrong). Digital or film, will become driven by financial and creative. These are technologies that are used to tell stories. A D.P should know which to use based on the project no?

Amanda Toney

Well said Jesse and I think you're right on the money about this being a camera that is used to learn and experiment.

Rik Carter

Everything old is new again. This generation isn't getting a new film experience. This generation may be rediscovering an old film experience. This generation doesn't need a new Super 8 camera (although I'm thrilled that Kodak is offering one) because there are terrific Super 8 camera available right now. Great film stock is available along with a few labs that do terrific work processing and digitizing. I hope more young filmmakers take this opportunity to rediscover film.

Amanda Toney

I don't know of any easily accessible Super 8 cameras and film stock. Can you give me some insight to what you are referring to?

Rik Carter

Glad to give you some insight. Type "super 8 film" into Google. You'll find that B&H Photo in NY sells super 8 film stock. Right here in Los Angeles Pro8 and Spectra Film and Video sell super 8 film stock. Pro8 sells cameras. They sell beautifully refurbished Canon's and a terrific rebuilt Beaulieu 4008. And eBay is a great source for used super 8 cameras. There is a wonderful, thriving world of Super 8 out there. It's great that you in "this generation" are being reintroduced to it. But it never, really went away.

Amanda Toney

Where do you get it developed and or scanned to digital?

Rik Carter

In Los Angeles Pro8 and Spectra Film and Video offer those services. When I typed "super 8 film processing" into Google I discovered there were a few more places right here in Los Angeles. Add "NYC" to the search and you'll find Pac-Lab and Cinelab. There are even more places that just do digital scanning. Not so easy to our fellow filmmakers who don't live close to those production centers but all places ship. Super 8 has been available to "this generation" but you have all overlooked it. Maybe Tarantino will inspire more of "this generation" to pick up the tools that have always been right there. Got a question for you Joe; You are passionate about shooting on film. As a film school graduate why don't you know about these film options? Is "film" no longer taught at Chapman? I'm passionate about Super 8 (as you can see) and thrilled that "this generation" might discover it again. One more question; are you going to shoot on film in the future?

Amanda Toney

I will certainly shoot on film in the future but I don't quite have the experience level yet to where I'm comfortable shooting a large scale project on film. That is exactly why more personal projects, my small scale ideas where I can experiment with a super 8 camera is what I want to start doing more of. Chapman did offer film as an option and I shot a few films on 16mm while I was there but you have to remember that I was a directing student. I spent a lot of my time learning to work with actors, collaborate with my team, and writing my projects. I'm sure that my cinematographer friends knew about this from their cine teachers. Another reason maybe I wasn't given that information from Chapman is because we have a film development system in our building that scans and digitizes the film so there wouldn't be a need to go to an outside source.

Andrew Sobkovich

Joe, the issues of Super 8mm images aside, what is it that you think there is to gain in shooting on film? Which parts of the process will add to your knowledge and skills? In what way? Cinematography at Chapman means exposure to my friend Johnny Jensen. A good starting point. Did you mean that Chapman has a film processing lab or that they have a scanner system that can transfer film to electronic formats?

Amanda Toney

I love Johnny! He’s one of my favorite people not just in the business but in life! He’s told me so many on set stories. Great guy and also the only person I know who can pull off sandals with literally any outfit. True story. We have a scanner system at Chapman. I apologize if I misspoke. In regards to what I learned from shooting on film, since I am a director, what I specifically gained was the experience of only having so many takes to make my film. It made me think about the importance of each of my directions, blocking, composition etc. Up to that point, I had only shot on digital and would get as many takes as possible. Ever since my first experience with film, every take, even on digital, I think a little bit harder and more critically about the importance of each aspect of the shot. Now, you can chalk that up to simply growing as a filmmaker but I really do give the credit to shooting on film.

Andrew Sobkovich

Thank you, an interesting point. Assuming you had a video tap, would you have been forced to think harder, know more and learned more if you hadn't had a monitor? Would that have ultimately been better? The cost of the stock running through the camera is minuscule compared to the total cost of everyone and every thing on working set and yet it is a tangible everyone knows intrinsically. The level of proficiency at all levels needed to be trusted with the costs of shooting film has been diminished or lost due to "democratization" which hasn't made for better pictures nor a better process of making them.

Royce Allen Dudley

The key benefit to learning on film was expense. If there is a huge incentive to turn the camera off, you learn intentional shooting and turn it on only when you should. The video trained shoot too much material that is mediocre. Another benefit to learning on film was no video playback, no monitor and a lag of a day or more before viewing footage; you had to understand what you were doing and why. When you screwed up, no one knew til later- so you got proficient or unemployed. The romance of sprocket holes, the smell of emulsion and the sound of the whirring noise by your head is so much crap... at least to someone who has exposed millions of feet of movie film and loves where digital is today.

Curt Apduhan Cinematographer

What an interesting point of discussion Joe! You are definitely an old soul in a young body. As for me, I feel blessed to have started in the industry when camera negative was the standard for motion picture production. On every level and in every department film demanded a high level of craft from each and every crew member. Lets face it, running a 1000 foot mag is the equivalent to going to your local ATM and maxing out your allowed withdrawals for the day. And that's just for one mag not including processing the neg and telecine costs. You had to have your act together or else your name would be not be on the next day's call sheet. Today there are very competent crews both in camera and lighting departments who perform wonderfully and with great passion. But what I find is that in this digital age the bar is quite a bit lower in regards to basic knowledge in camera, lighting, and grip crafts. When digital first came about it was awful. Everyone was trying to figure out how to get a "film look" with technology that simply would not allow it. Flash forward to today and the digital technology has finally reached the point that camera negative is a consideration but not the standard - digital is. With digital's advancement professional camera, grip, and lighting crews have now crossed over to digital production full time and with their craft the digital age of image capture is truly amazing. But as I mentioned earlier, the base line level of skill and knowledge of newly minted crew members who have not been mentored by camera negative era crew members is not up to par. During the camera negative era, I could count on everyone on set including the nubbies to have the basics down. Today I find more often than not new crew members have to be taught basic grip, lighting, and camera department functions and skills. Heaven forbid I have to turn to my gaffer and ask what stop my key light is because for some reason he read an article that states light meters are superfluous and he could throw his light meter away. So my fear is when the camera negative era crew members retire and fade away, our craft will have lost a vast knowledge base replaced by youtube tutorials and preprogrammed "looks" that can be applied in post. Some have said the romance of film is crap. This may be so. But for me it was a wondrous part of what I loved about making movies. The tick tick tick of the mag. The orange cast of the 85 filter. The ritual of "check the gate". All of this was part of our process. The process of slowing down and becoming expert at your craft. The absolute confidence my focus puller is spot on with her marks. Being elated that the production designer integrated practical lighting fixtures that matched my film stock rated at my ASA with perfect placement in my 1:85 frame. And the most special of all, witnessing the performance of talented actors through the viewing tube creating what will be an iconic scene and being the only one to truly know how magical that moment was. No video village. No camera assistant monitor. Only you and the actors doing the dance. Crap some say? I just know it was pure joy...

Royce Allen Dudley

Curt, the "film was better" nostalgia is whats crap to me. What is not crap was the autonomy of the DP and camera crew, because of the very waning craft you mention. The film disciplined experience was decidedly superior- I was there too and agree with almost all your comments regarding the film experience and crews and mentoring and craft or lack of it. How do you get newbs to learn film discipline when they for the most part have mere hipster nostalgia and romance that is imagined ( see also Polaroids and Lomogaphy), vs our expertise to counter their tutorial fed DIY short attention span mentatlity? Not from a new Super 8 camera with an LCD. Rik- if not for you and 8mm and Super 8mm, I'd likely not have been in this business. But you know that. Spring in the Bolex still wind up ? ;)

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