Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Addressing the Rumors" by Kodak's Kim Snyder

This article is copyright Kim Snyder and Kodak.

When a New York newspaper reported that Mark Twain had been lost at sea, he is said to have replied, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

We know the feeling.

There has been much speculation about the fate of Kodak motion picture film over the last few weeks. We at Kodak refuse to let the volatility of the market or the rumors distract us from our mission – to provide the highest quality tools to tell your stories.

We are still making film – billions of feet of it! Sure, digital technology has impacted how filmmakers approach their work. But Kodak is a company with a long and brilliant presence, all built on ground-breaking science and technology. We are committed to continuing to do so, even in today’s landscape where film and digital coexist.

Something else that seems to get lost in the hype: We are more than a film company; we are the innovators who understand image making more than anyone else. We possess critical expertise from our past which we draw upon for our future. We have some of the brightest and most innovative researchers and scientists in the business working on our products – film and otherwise – to carry us into the future.

For example, our laser projection technology was recently licensed by IMAX (view the release). Laser projection technology offers a multitude of benefits to the viewing audiences, and features that help bring your vision to the big screen in better ways. IMAX and Kodak understand the need for this innovation. We are delighted to be working with them to assist with the implementation of the technology into the IMAX product family.

That’s not all. We are leveraging Kodak technology and intellectual property to bring an innovative digital asset management solution to market. It’s designed for content owners with assets of all formats created over the years.

And we will soon be introducing a new film! A new member of the VISION3 family of color negative films will be added to your film choices. With the latest film technology in the can, you can keep rolling in the most challenging production situations – on set or on location – and maintain a high resolution image through post and distribution.

Furthermore, with film still maintaining its archival leadership role in preserving the memorable images of the past centuries, we continue R&D towards expanding our archival film products to create a platform of choices for a variety of needs.

We’ll have more news on these new offerings soon, so stay tuned!

The bigger picture is: We have a great depth of experience and possibilities for turning 125-plus years of imaging technology and inventive product development into new solutions. Our KODAK DIGITAL ICE technology in scanners are being used to restore some of the most memorable images from cinema and television history; and our subsidiaries continue to make inroads on preservation and restoration (FPC/Pro-Tek) and visual and physical effects (Cinesite).

Our goal is to continue to show you that Kodak is the go-to resource for the best in image quality and workflow solutions that support your creative intentions – because we know you care.

We invite you to view a list of projects whose filmmakers are choosing Kodak film.

We know we can help you accomplish your filmmaking dreams, so contact us. Our worldwide team of Kodak representatives and experts are at your service.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Film Fading To Black by Debra Kaufman

This article is copyright Debra Kaufman and Creative Cow.

While the debate has raged over whether or not film is dead, ARRI, Panavision and Aaton have quietly ceased production of film cameras within the last year to focus exclusively on design and manufacture of digital cameras. That's right: someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.

"The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared," says ARRI VP of Cameras, Bill Russell, who notes that the company has only built film cameras on demand since 2009. "There are still some markets--not in the U.S.--where film cameras are still sold, but those numbers are far fewer than they used to be. If you talk to the people in camera rentals, the amount of film camera utilization in the overall schedule is probably between 30 to 40 percent."

At New York City rental house AbelCine, Director of Business Development/Strategic Relationships Moe Shore says the company rents mostly digital cameras at this point. "Film isn't dead, but it's becoming less of a choice," he says. "It's a number of factors all moving in one direction, an inexorable march of digital progress that may be driven more by cell phones and consumer cameras than the motion picture industry."

Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala notes why. "Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world?" he says. "We wouldn't survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera."

Beauviala believes that that stereoscopic 3D has "accelerated the demise of film." He says, "It's a nightmare to synchronize two film cameras." Three years ago, Aaton introduced a new 35mm film camera, Penelope, but sold only 50 to 60 of them. As a result, Beauviala turned to creating a digital Penelope, which will be on the market by NAB 2012. "It's a 4K camera and very, very quiet," he tells us. "We tried to give a digital camera the same ease of handling as the film camera."

Panavision is also hard at work on a new digital camera, says Phil Radin, Executive VP, Worldwide Marketing, who notes that Panavision built its last 35mm Millennium XL camera in the winter of 2009, although the company continues an "active program of upgrading and retrofitting of our 35mm camera fleet on a ongoing basis."

"I would have to say that the pulse [of film] was weakened and it's an appropriate time," Radin remarks. "We are not making film cameras." He notes that the creative industry is reveling in the choices available. "I believe people in the industry love the idea of having all these various formats available to them," he says. "We have shows shooting with RED Epics, ARRI Alexas, Panavision Genesis and even the older Sony F-900 cameras. We also have shows shooting 35mm and a combination of 35mm and 65mm. It's a potpourri of imaging tools now available that have never existed before, and an exciting time for cinematographers who like the idea of having a lot of tools at their disposal to create different tools and looks."

Do camera manufacturers believe film will disappear? "Eventually it will," says ARRI's Russell. "In two or three years, it could be 85 percent digital and 15 percent film. But the date of the complete disappearance of film? No one knows."

From Radin's point of view, the question of when film will die, "Can only be answered by Kodak and Fuji. Film will be around as long as Kodak and Fuji believe they can make money at it," he says.

Neither Kodak nor Fuji have made noises about the end of film stock manufacture, but there are plenty of signs that making film stock has become ever less profitable. The need for film release prints has plummeted in the last year and, in an unprecedented move, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group and Technicolor--both of which have been in the film business for nearly 100 years--essentially divvied up the dwindling business of film printing and distribution.

Couched in legalese of mutual "subcontracting" deals, the bottom line is that Deluxe will now handle all of Technicolor's 35mm bulk release print distribution business in North America. Technicolor, meanwhile, will handle Deluxe's 35mm print distribution business in the U.S. and Deluxe's 35mm/16mm color negative processing business in London, as well as film printing in Thailand. In the wake of these agreements, Technicolor shut its North Hollywood and Montreal film labs and moved its 65mm/70mm print business to its Glendale, California, facility; and Deluxe ended its 35mm/16mm negative processing service at two facilities in the U.K.

"It's a stunning development," says International Cinematographer Guild President Steven Poster, ASC. "We've been waiting for it as far back as 2001. I think we've reached a kind of tipping point on the acquisition side and, now, there's a tipping point on the exhibition side."

"From the lab side, obviously film as a distribution medium is changing from the physical print world to file-based delivery and Digital Cinema," says Deluxe Digital Media Executive VP/General Manager Gray Ainsworth. "The big factories are absolutely in decline. Part of the planning for this has been significant investments and acquisitions to bolster the non-photochemical lab part of our business. We're developing ourselves to be content stewards, from the beginning with on-set solutions all the way downstream to distribution and archiving." Deluxe did exactly that with the 2010 purchase of the Ascent Media post production conglomerate.

Technicolor has also been busy expanding into other areas of the motion picture/TV business, with the purchase of Hollywood post house LaserPacific and a franchise licensing agreement with PostWorks New York. Technicolor also acquired Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp., expanding their North America footprint in Digital Cinema connectivity to 90 percent. "We have been planning our transition from film to digital, which is why you see our increased investments and clear growth in visual effects and animation, and 2D-to-3D conversion," says Technicolor's Ouri. "We know one day film won't be around. We continue to invest meaningfully in digital and R&D."

Although recent events--the end of film camera manufacturing and the swan dive of the film distribution business--makes it appear that digital is an overnight success, nothing could be further from the truth. Digital first arrived with the advent of computer-based editing systems more than 20 years ago, and industry people immediately began talking about the death of film. "The first time I heard film was dead was in 1972 at a TV station with videotape," says Poster, ASC. "He said, give it a year or two."

Videotape did overtake film in the TV station, but, in the early 1990s, with the first stirrings of High Definition video, the "film is dead" mantra arose again. Laurence Thorpe, who was involved in the early days of HD cameras at Sony, recalls the drumbeat. "In the 1990s, there were a lot of folks saying that digital has come a long way and seems to be unstoppable," he says.

The portion of the film ecosystem that has managed the most complete transition to digital is post-production. According to Technicolor Chief Marketing Officer Ouri, over 90 percent of films are finished with digital intermediates.

But the path to digital domination has also taken place in a world of Hollywood politics and economics. A near-strike by Screen Actors Guild actors, the Japanese tsunami and dramatic changes in the business of theater exhibition have all contributed to the ebbing fortunes of film. Under pressure, any weakness or break in the disciplines that form the art and science of film--from film schools to film laboratories--could spell the final demise of a medium that has endured and thrived for over 100 years.


Until 2008, the bulk of TV productions and all feature films took place under SAG jurisdiction, which covers actors in filmed productions. In the months leading up to the Screen Actor Guild's 2008 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG leadership balked on several elements, including the new media provisions of the proposed contract. Negotiations stalemated. Not so with AFTRA, the union that covers actors in videotaped (including HD) productions, which inked its own separate agreement with AMPTP.

"When producers realized they could go with AFTRA contracts, but they now had to record digitally, they switched almost overnight," recalls Poster. Whereas, in previous seasons, 90 percent of the TV pilots were filmed, and under SAG jurisdiction, in one fell swoop the 2009 pilot season went digital video, capturing 90 percent of the pilots. In a single season, the use of film in primetime TV nearly completely vanished, never to return.

The Japanese tsunami on March 11, 2011, further pushed TV production into the digital realm. Up until then, TV productions were largely mastered to Sony's high-resolution HD SR tape, but the sole plant that made the tape, located in the northern city of Sendai, was heavily damaged and ceased operation for several months. With only two weeks worth of tape still available, TV producers scrambled to come up with a workaround, leading at least some of them to switch to a tapeless delivery, another step into the future of an all-digital ecosystem.

The third, and perhaps most devastating blow to film, comes from the increased penetration of Digital Cinema. According to Patrick Corcoran, National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) Director of Media & Research/California Operations Chief, at the end of July 2011, "We passed the 50 percent mark in terms of digital screens in the U.S. We've been adding screens at a fast clip this year, 700 to 750 a month," he says.

He notes that the turning point was the creation of the virtual print fee, which allows NATO members to recoup the investment they have to make to upgrade to digital cinema. (Studios, meanwhile, save $1 billion a year for the costs of making and shipping release prints.)

To take advantage of the virtual print fee, theater owners will have to transition screens to digital by the beginning of 2013. "Sometime, in 2013, all the screens will be digital," says Corcoran. "As the number of digital screens increase, it won't make economic sense for the studios to make and ship film prints. It'll be absolutely necessary to switch to Digital Cinema to survive."


Can the continued production of film stock survive the twin disappearance of film acquisition and distribution? Veteran industry executive Rob Hummel, currently president of Group 47, recalls when, as head of production operations, he was negotiating the Kodak deal for DreamWorks Studios. "At the time, the Kodak representative told me that motion pictures was 6 percent of their worldwide capacity and 7 percent of their revenues," he recalls. "The rest was snapshots. In 2008 motion pictures was 92 percent of their business and the actual volume hasn't grown. The other business has just disappeared."

Eastman Kodak, Chris Johnson, Director of New Business Development, Entertainment Imaging, counters that "I don't see a time when Kodak stops making film stock," noting the year-on-year growth in 65mm film and popularity of Super 8mm. "We still make billions of linear feet of film," he says. "Over the horizon as far as we can see, we'll be making billions of feet of film."

Yet, as Johnson's title indicates, Kodak is hedging its bets by looking for new areas of growth. One focus is on digital asset management via leveraging its Pro-Tek Vaults for digital, says Johnson, and another is investigating "asset protection film," a less expensive film medium that provides a 50 to 100 year longevity at a lower price point that B&W separation film.

Kodak has also developed a laser-based 3D digital cinema projector. "Our system will give much brighter 3D images because we're using lasers for the light source," says Johnson. "And the costs of long-term ownership is much less expensive because the lasers last longer than the light sources for other projectors."


As more than 1 million feet of un-transferred nitrate film worldwide demonstrates, archiving doesn't get top billing in Hollywood. Although the value of archived material is unarguable, positioned at the end of the life cycle of a production, archivists have unfortunately had a relatively weak voice in the discussion over transitioning from film to digital.

Since the "film is dead" debate began, archivists fought to keep elements on film, the only medium that has proven to last well over 100 years. "Most responsible archivists in the industry still believe today that, if you can at all do it, you should still stick it on celluloid and put it in a cold, dry place, because the last 100 years has been the story of nitrate and celluloid," says Deluxe's Ainsworth.

He jokes that if the world's best physicists brought a gizmo to an archivist that they said would hold film for 100 years, the archivist would say, "Fine, come back in 99 years." "With the plethora of digital files, formats and technologies--some of which still exist and some of which don't--we're running into problems with digital files made only five years ago," he adds.

At Sony Pictures Entertainment, Grover Crisp, Executive VP of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering, notes that "Although it's a new environment and everyone is feeling their way through, what's important is to not throw out the traditional sensibilities of what preservation is and means.

"We still make B&W separations on our productions, now directly from the data," he says. "That's been going on for decades and has not stopped. Eventually it will be all digital, somewhere down the road, but following a strict conservation approach certainly makes sense."

Crisp pushes for a dual, hybrid approach. "You need to make sure you're preserving your data as data and your film as film," he says. "And since there's a crossover, you need to do both." LTO tape, currently the digital storage medium of choice, is backwards compatible only two generations, which means that careful migration is a fact of life--for now at least--in a digital age. "The danger of losing media is especially high for documentaries and indie productions," says Crisp.

Hummel and his partners at Group 47, meanwhile, believe they have the solution. His company bought the patents for a digital archival medium developed by Kodak: Digital Optical Tape System (DOTS). "It's a metal alloy system that requires no more storage than a book on a shelf," says Hummel, who reports that Carnegie Mellon University did accelerated life testing to 97 years.

"Though reports of its imminent death have been exaggerated, more industry observers than before accept the end of film. "In 100 years, yes," says AbelCine's Shore. "In ten years, I think we'll still have film cameras. So somewhere between 10 and 100 years."

Film camera manufacturers have walked a tightrope, ceasing unprofitable manufacture of film cameras at the same time that they continue to serve the film market by making cameras on demand and upgrading existing ones. But they--as well as film labs and film stock manufacturers--clearly see the future as digital and are acting accordingly.

Will film die? Seen in one way, it never will: our cinematic history exists on celluloid and as long as there are viable film cameras and film, someone will be shooting it. Seen another way, film is already dead...what we see today is the after-life of a medium that has become increasingly marginalized in production and distribution of films and TV. Just as the last film camera was sold without headlines or fireworks, the end of film as a significant production and distribution medium will, one day soon, arrive, without fanfare.

Philip Bloom's "Booths & Bodies: The Life And Work Of Anthony Vizzari

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jonathan Sterkenburg's "Vincent's Daydream"

DVD - That Evening Sun

There is a genre I have grown to love. I wouldn't quite call it Southern Gothic, but definitely Southern... something. It usually takes place in the back woods, usually during the stereotypically hot summer sun, and involves very back woods kind of folk. That Evening Sun, the debut feature by Scott Teems, fits nicely into it, and is one of my favorites of the genre.

Sun concerns Abner Meecham (Hal Holbrook), an elderly man taken from his land, by his son, and put in a nursing home. When Meecham escapes the nursing home, he heads back down to his farm to find it leased out to Lonzo Choat (Ray McKinnon) and his family. Meecham despises Lonzo, probably even more than he despises Lonzo's father. He refuses to leave, and, eventually takes residence in the sharecroppers cabin down from the main house. Meecham won't let up, and neither will Lonzo, and, eventually, the slight jabs turn into bigger hits, then into violent reactions.

That Evening Sun is one of Holbrook's best. Barry Corbin, who plays Meecham's friend, is also great, even though he doesn't get a lot of screen time. McKinnon is seething as Lonzo, and you have to wonder where he's pulling that intense rage from, because it's extremely believable. Teems does a great job at using the environment and world of the old south to create a brooding, sweaty, dirty film.

DVD - Fright Night (1985)

I saw the remake for this before I saw the original, and I'm kind of glad I did. The original Fright Night is such a stereo-typically 80's film. Focusing on the lead, Charley Brewster (played by William Ragsdale), who is trying to get into his girlfriends pants (Amy, played Amanda Bearse), until a man moves in next door, who, Charley is convinced is a vampire. The man, Jerry Dandridge (played by Chris Sarandon), is caught by Charley, through an open window, about to sink his teeth into an unsuspecting girls throat. From that point on Charley, Amy, and Charley's friend Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) are on Jerry's bad side. Charley approaches TV actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), who plays a vampire hunter on the late night show Fright Night. Vincent plays along, after Amy agrees to pay him, but then he's in for real when he discovers Dandridge really is a vampire. It's up to the group to try and take Jerry down.

I didn't enjoy this version. I thought it was slow and cheesy. Very 80's. While the 2011 Fright Night has its ridiculous moments, it seems to do a better job at not being as cheesy as this one. A lot of people like this version, but it wasn't for me.

The Monster Squad

I've seen The Monster Squad a million times. When I was a kid, my mom used to rent the VHS for me from the grocery store, and I'm pretty sure I wore that tape out. When it was released on DVD, my brother got it for me for Christmas. Many more views. This time, though, I got to see it on the big screen for the first time.

The film is, basically, a step-brother to The Goonies. Produced two years later, and with the same spirit of "group of friends band together to face a challenge greater than them", Monster Squad may not have lived up to the success of Goonies, but it remains as endearing. The film focuses on a group of friends who, when the classic Universal Monsters* show up (Dracula, Wolfman, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and Creature From The Black Lagoon), they must defend their town, and themselves, from the ghastly group and its plans to take over the world.

I love it, but I'm not sure how much of that is nostalgia, and how much is that it is legitimately good. The acting is what it is (kids are always hit or miss), and, it was the 80's, so a lot of those movies were being churned out with less focus on quality and more focus on whether or not they could get an audience to show up for the premise. I love it, though, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

* I recognize that Dracula, etc, were not invented by Universal Pictures, but their visual portrayal in this film seems highly influenced by those classic films.


Moneyball is the adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name, originally to be directed by Steven Soderbergh, who was dropped after coming to the table with a vision that the producers didn't feel fit the film. Enter Bennett Miller (director of Capote), and, with Brad Pitt still signed to star, Moneyball, the story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane and his use of stat's and mathematics to build a winning team for Oakland out of overlooked and forgotten players, all of whom had individual strengths that led to a strong team, versus building a team around a few stars.

Pitt is always perfect, but the real stand out in this film was Jonah Hill, as Peter Brand, a Yale graduate who turns Beane onto the concept of using stat's and math to pick players. This is Hill's first "serious" role, and he does a great job at it. It would be nice to see him in more stuff like this, as opposed to just playing "Jonah Hill" over and over again. Everyone else feels like they have such small roles that it's hard to even talk about performance here. Even Philip Seymour Hoffman, a power house actor, has very little screen time, and spends most of it scowling and silent. This film was about Beane, though, his tribulations and eventual triumph, and you really feel like you've experienced it by the time it's over. Moneyball is one of my favorite of the year. Understated, with a great story and great acting, with equal amounts drama, and humor.

The Ides Of March

There are a lot of actors that try to make the transition into directing, but very few of them pull off being really good at both. George Clooney is one of those. When he finally broke out of "pretty boy" leading man status and developed "respected" leading man cred, he began to move into the directors chair, and hit it out of the park with his debut feature Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. His newest, The Ides Of March, gathers some of the best talent in the industry and creates a hard look at politics in the wake of the wins and losses of the Obama administration.

Ryan Gosling is Stephen Meyers, a young and idealistic campaign manager for Clooney's Governor Mike Morris, who is running for president (notably under many of the same ideals as Obama, and even sports a knock off of the Shepard Fairey designed "Hope" poster). Meyers teammate, and boss, is Paul Zara (played by Philip Syemour Hoffman). The two are unshakeable in their belief that Morris is the man to lead America, but when a key element of support from another politician isn't forthcoming, Stephen takes up an offer to meet with the manager of the opponents campaign, Tom Duffy (played by Paul Giamatti), against his better judgement. This begins a string of events that could potentially ruin a lot of people's career's, including Stephen's, and derail Moriss' campaign.

Gosling brings his trademark intensity to the role, and Clooney uses it to great effect. In fact Clooney seems to play on all of the strengths of his actors, from Hoffman's quiet and serious nature, to Giamatti's ability to play good cop/sleazy cop, to Evan Rachel Wood's seductiveness, He has picked all of his actors with great consideration. While Ides can sometimes move at a snails pace, it never seems to bloated. The slowness just comes off as a necessary part of the story. Ides doesn't really bring much of anything new to the genre, either, but as a zeitgeist film, focusing on what it means to be an idealistic political candidate or part of the support staff for said candidate, and the reality of how dirty politics is, Ides is a fantastic watch, especially as candidates are already gearing up, heavily, for a race that will be incredibly heated (and possibly messy) in 2012.

Mission Statement

If you've come here, and you're wondering what this blog is all about, who this guy is, and why he thinks he can write what he writes, here you go -

How this blog came to be - I used to work at a video game company, and, when it was time to leave, a co-worker of mine (who had similar taste in films) told me that I should start a blog so that she could check it and see what I was watching and what I thought about it. This way we could continue the discussions that we so often would have on the films and tv that we watched.

Who I am - I am a Watkins Film School graduate, working in the industry, and watching as much as I can, when I can. I don't get to see everything I'd like, but a lot of what I do see, I take some sort of inspiration away from.

Why do I review films on this blog? - Put simply, I do it as a record of what I saw and what my opinions of it were.

Why do I feel I have the right to pass judgement (aka review) other people's work? - Put simply, I'm not a reviewer or a critic. Like I said before, I do this blog to record my own thoughts and feelings about what I watch. I encourage everyone out there to watch films themselves and make their own informed opinion. My blog does not exist to tell you what to watch and what not to watch. It just exists as part of the conversation. Everyone has different tastes. Don't watch or not watch something simply because a critic said it was good or bad. If a critic who's taste you highly respect say's something is awful, and you question the idea of wanting to see it, then don't. If they say it's amazing, and you weren't excited about it, maybe check it out. It might surprise you.

You post shorts and documentaries, why not music video's? - There's a lot of music video's out there. Some are good, a lot of them are bad. But, ultimately, I feel like if you like music, you're going to see these video's anyway. I try to post the stuff that you might not see. The stuff that I, maybe, came to on Vimeo by accident or through someone else, and I think is really cool. Hopefully, you will too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"PHX" Teaser

This is a thirty second teaser I put together for PHX. Andrew House, the film's editor, will have a proper trailer, but it will be another month or two. We're trying to finish the first assembly before we dive into the trailer, to make sure we've seen the whole film and can, then, make an informed decision on what we want to put in the trailer. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sean Dunne's "American Juggalo"


Based on writer Will Reiser's true life account of developing cancer, 50/50 stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a late twenty something who is diagnosed with the illness and who's life changes heavily afterwards. He is joined on the journey by his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen), his mother (Anjelica Huston), and a grief counselor, Katherine, played by Anna Kendrick.

50/50 is genuinely funny, and, honestly, is one of Rogen's least annoying roles in the past couple of years. Gordon-Levitt is effortless, as usual, and Kendrick is endearing as a young counselor who develops a crush on her patient. Honestly, I can't really think of any complaints that I have about this film.