I’m currently working on a new indie feature, about to shoot in Los Angeles, and setting up the workflow as I write this. The project is really different from most in that it’s shooting on film – almost a dirty word these days. Coming from a deep history of film (after working for Kodak for 15 years), it’s something that I’m familiar handling and excited to work with again. But when I tell vendors and other industry folk that the project I’m working on is actually shooting on film, I’m met with a confused and bewildered look that is almost priceless.
Why, one might ask, are we shooting on celluloid? Besides the fact that it’s the director’s and cinematographer’s first choice, it’s because it offers the right look for the story. The texture and feel of the images will really make this project stand out amongst others. It’s interesting, despite the digital movement, there seems to still be many people shooting on film, if they can make it happen. I’ve heard of three other projects about to lens in Los Angeles that are shooting on film. We decided on s16mm, an economical option to be able to capture on film, for less cost than 35mm. Money was certainly a deciding factor with this project, but at the end of the day, the numbers came really close to what it would cost to shoot on the Red or Alexa. It’s not an ‘apples to apples’ budget comparison, the costs are moved around to different line items. For example, with digital acquisition, you’ll need to hire a DIT or data wrangler to manage the files, which could be an expensive crew position. With film, you’ll need to add film processing and transfer. With digital, weekly camera rental costs are much more expensive, whereas with film cameras — that are mostly likely sitting on shelves — deals can be made. There are also other costs to consider that differ for both sides. You really need to look at the big picture in order to make the best decision about what format makes sense for you.
I’ll be talking more about the low-budget workflow on this film project as production gets underway. With film, there are places to cut costs and areas that you need to decide where to spend your money. You could opt for a 2K scan, or a telecine transfer workflow. You can finish to HDCAM, or do a film out, it all depends on your budget. Whatever you decide, originating on film is a great way to set your project apart and give you a distinctive look that just might be right for your story.