Good Guy Scorsese Speaks Out For Film

"Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry?"

Last week a big piece of news broke that we totally didn't cover on this site: with the support of major filmmakers like JJ Abrams, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino the Hollywood studios negotiated a deal to help Kodak continue producing film stock, staving off the death of movies shot on film. There's no going back when it comes to projection - these movies will by and large all be converted to digital for your experience in the theater - but you can tell the difference between a movie shot on film and a movie shot digitally*. What this means for the future is uncertain, and it probably doesn't help smaller filmmakers who wish they could shoot on film - I'm imagining that getting film stock isn't going to be cheap anymore. But it will continue to exist.

Today Martin Scorsese unsurprisingly spoke out in support of this deal, and his statement is wonderful and beautiful and I wanted to share it with you:

We have many names for what we do – cinema, movies, motion pictures. And…film. We’re called directors, but more often we’re called filmmakers. Filmmakers. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the obvious: HD isn’t coming, it’s here. The advantages are numerous: the cameras are lighter, it’s much easier to shoot at night, we have many more means at our disposal for altering and perfecting our images. And, the cameras are more affordable: films really can be made now for very little money. Even those of us still shooting on film finish in HD, and our movies are projected in HD. So, we could easily agree that the future is here, that film is cumbersome and imperfect and difficult to transport and prone to wear and decay, and that it’s time to forget the past and say goodbye – really, that could be easily done. Too easily.

It seems like we’re always being reminded that film is, after all, a business. But film is also an art form, and young people who are driven to make films should have access to the tools and materials that were the building blocks of that art form. Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry? Of course not. In the history of motion pictures, only a minuscule percentage of the works comprising our art form was not shot on film. Everything we do in HD is an effort to recreate the look of film. Film, even now, offers a richer visual palette than HD. And, we have to remember that film is still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital informaton will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for.

Our industry – our filmmakers – rallied behind Kodak because we knew that we couldn’t afford to lose them, the way we’ve lost so many other film stocks. This news is a positive step towards preserving film, the art form we love.

There's a lot in there, but this is the best part:

Would anyone dream of telling young artists to throw away their paints and canvases because iPads are so much easier to carry? Of course not.

The future, as Scorsese says, is here. But that doesn't mean everything from the past is without value. And I'm glad that he addresses the huge elephant in the room: physical media is the only guaranteed way to archive movies. Digital formats change, and nobody is going to spend the time bringing every single movie ever made to the newest format. Every time we change formats movies disappear - there were fewer films released on DVD than VHS and fewer on Blu than DVD. And we don't even know what the long-term storage issues are with digital hard drives. We know the chemical reactions that happen in film, and we know how to preserve film for thousands of years. I'll take a physical copy of Wizard of Oz in storage over a lossy, cloud-based copy as the eternal archive version. 

* for now. The gap shrinks annually.