I don’t know what the future of film is any more than the average movie and television watcher does.
However, I do know that ever since the invention of fire, there have been storytellers and audiences. Being a huge fan of stories told onscreen, it was always a safe bet to find myself in this profession in front and behind the camera. Both my parents were movie buffs. They knew every actor, actress, and movie from the 1940s up until their deaths. They instilled in me, and my younger sister, this love, admiration, and knowledge of the silver screen, and for this I will always be grateful.
The last time I worked as an actor on a movie that was shot on film was 2017. It was an independent feature shot on super 16 mm film using an ARRI SR3 Camera.
The director was quite insistent on shooting on film as opposed to shooting on a HDSLR or a digital Cine Camera. Obviously, the crew was bigger and the setting up the lights took a wee longer than on other sets. The thing that stood out for me on that shoot was that the stills photographer was a young fellow who was studying the ARRI SR3 as if it were an exhibit at the Smithsonian. I started my acting career in 1989 and everything was shot on film.
However, when I directed my first short film in 1999, I chose the Sony DCR-TRV900. Instead of film, the camera recorded footage on a MiniDV tape. It was small, fit in the palm of my hand and the setup was fast and easy.
Digital tape was far cheaper than film at the time and the digital revolution was a perfect fit for me. Even though I am old enough to have been in front of the film camera, my tenure as a director has always been on digital.
What does any of this have to do with the future of filmmaking? Well, that brings me back to the crux of it all, storytelling. As long as there is a compelling story with interesting and relatable characters, shot in a manner that reflects not only the visual style of the director, but one that holds the emotional content within the frame, it really doesn’t matter what its shot on. A colleague of mine once said, “Every frame is a picture in a museum.” For me, what happens in the frame whether it be ones or zeroes, or a chemical reaction exposed to light, the story is the thing. Bringing ideas, feelings, beliefs, and the unique way a visual storyteller tells their story, may not be so concerned with the delivery mechanism as much as the emotional content of the human condition presented on a screen of any size.
If I think about my favourite movies of all time; “The Godfather I & II,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “West Side Story,” “Star Wars (episode IV-VI),” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” they were all shot on film.
As another friend of mine told me recently, “Your iPhone has more dynamic range and better resolution” than all the movies I just mentioned. No matter the future of film, it will always be about the story, the characters that live in the story and the way it is told to us, no matter what camera you are shooting on or film equipment you’re using. Where and how we watch films is another adventure for another day. Everything was already changing. The pandemic merely sped it up. Who knows if movie theatres will survive or if we will all be watching everything on streaming services or what a possible blend of the two would be like. I think, in the end, the audience will decide.