Kickin’ It Up … Next Gen Filmmakers Choose Real Film

  • August 24, 2016
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While Kodak works with Hollywood's most iconic filmmakers shooting on film - Scorsese, Spielberg, Tarantino and dozens more - the company also has a deep and long-held commitment to showcasing the burgeoning talents of the next generation of filmmakers. In April, Kodak partnered with Kickstarter to support indie filmmakers, who are realizing their dreams through crowdfunding, to shoot, present and archive their projects on 16mm or 35mm motion picture film. 

Four of those up-and-coming directors - now in various stages of shooting a wide range of genres and formats on Kodak film across the country and in Europe - took time out of their busy schedules to speak with In Camera about why the unique experience and look of shooting on celluloid is so important to the art of independent filmmaking.

The Grasshopper , inspired by the parable of the grasshopper and the ant, is the feature film debut of Chicago-based director Bradley Bischoff , who has helmed 12 shorts to date, including the award-winning films Where the Buffalo Roam and Wet . With plans to shoot on s16mm (likely using an Arriflex SR3 camera), filming is slated for mid-October.

Bradley Bischoff ( The Grasshopper )
Photo by Mike Kunicki
Director Bradley Bischoff and DP Jake Zalutsky - on the Chicago set of their most-recent shoot, Beautiful Me, shot on Kodak Vision3 500T 7219 with an Arriflex SR3 - are now prepping to shoot The Grasshopper on Kodak s16mm film in October.

"Film represents that delicate balance between structure and spontaneity," Bischoff says. "It demands intention, preparation and, most importantly, your presence … which in our generation is a blessing.  Film forces you to understand the process. It's a philosophy, you have to come up with an approach.   You can't just turn on a camera and take thousands of shots.  For a director, it sculpts your entire career if you get to shoot on film."

Joining him once again as cinematographer is long-time pal Jake Zalutsky ( Nick Santore,Where the Buffalo Roam ).  "We talk about this all the time," Bischoff relates. "Film is textural and I don't think it will ever be completely replicated.  There are intangibles, like the way the light hits it.  You're physically burning an image onto something.  It's like a typewriter, when you type the words, you're actually adding weight to the paper.  With film, there's weight to your actions. 

"There may be a hair that brushes past the lens that you didn't plan on seeing … but that's life," he elaborates.  "Movies used to have so much life in them.  Now, things are so scrutinized and uniform.  They call those things imperfections.  But to me, they are the seasons of life.  To live in this world where everything is quote-unquote perfect … I want to challenge what 'perfect' is ...

"People can debate film versus video for hours," he laughs.  "But it's a totally different vibe and experience … even if it's the same footage in the same place.  HD is just content, film is the archival history, the future.  Mediums like film will never die.  It's beautiful and makes everyone look good." 

With several award-winning shorts under her belt ( Callow & Sons , Frayed ), this marks London-based director Georgia Oakley 's first time working with film on Little Bird . "Film is inimitable. Its aesthetic holds the magic of early cinema and the films that made me fall in love with movies in the first place," she says enthusiastically. "Producers say you can replicate the film 'look' and add the grain in editing … but you can't."

Georgia Oakley ( Little Bird )
Director Georgia Oakley shooting The Third Half in India - a doc about the country's besieged transgender community - with Shalu, a transgender woman from Bangalore. Currently, the British filmmaker is gearing up to shoot Little Bird.

Working with cinematographer Nanu Segal ( The Levelling , Old Boys ) from a screenplay by Emily Taaffe - inspired by a true story about her Irish, great aunt who mysteriously disappeared during World War II - the British shoot will begin in late July, potentially utilizing a 5mm lens to enhance the dreamy feel of the period piece.

"We chose to shoot on film partly because our story is set in 1941 and the look we're going for is similar to that of early street photography from that time," Oakley explains. "Shooting 16mm will allow us to get as close as possible in a way that just wouldn't be feasible in digital formats. That undulating grain and light isn't quantifiable.  If you try to add it in post, it's the same in every frame. Film has this kind of romantic quality.

"People say the audience doesn't know you're shooting on film, so why bother?" Oakley shrugs. "But it's like the production design.  If it's done well, it transports you. I feel audiences will look at our film like they did Carol  (shot on Kodak s16mm) and be subconsciously taken on a voyage back to 1941."

Los Angeles-basedJason Wise , best known for his award-winning doc Somm and the follow-up Somm: Into the Bottle , is currently shooting the feature-length documentaryRose Marie . The film traces the untold, stranger-than-fiction story of the iconic, 92-year-old actress best known as the bawdy Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), but whose career began in Vaudeville in 1929 at age 5, spanning eight decades.

Jason Wise ( Rose Marie )
Photo Courtesy of Mike Ryan
Director Jason Wise (left) and DP Jackson Myers at the home of Rose Marie in July 2016, shooting a doc about the iconic actress, utilizing an Arriflex 435 to shoot 3 perf Kodak 500T Vision 3 5219.

"Rose Marie was an avid, hobbyist videographer, shooting hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes footage of the shows she starred on, with 8mm and 16mm film, much of it the only footage like that in existence. She was shooting on professionally lit stages and her footage looks great, so I had to match that quality in what I'm filming now.  Even though it was shot 20-30-40 years ago, I could not match how good it looks if I were recording on video."

Working with DP Jackson Myers ( Somm , Somm: Into the Bottle ), the duo are utilizing an Arriflex  435 to shoot 3 perf, Kodak 500T Vision3 5219. Though Wise has shot both on film and video (sometimes mixing the two), "when you have a choice, film it is," he declares.  "It looks better, stores better and ages better. There is no digital solution to archiving.

"Film takes planning," he says.  "I have an upcoming doc and I'm going to be shooting from the hip in some dangerous situations. That demands the spontanaety of video.  But where I have more control, I will be shooting film, so it looks the best it can be.

"When film is rolling, it's serious," Wise expounds.  "It forces you into a discipline. I try not to get sloppy and just shoot it three ways.  Figure out how you're going to shoot and do it that way, the right way.  Film is taken more seriously because it deserves to be. 

"And film is a very forgiving medium," he continues. "With documentaries, you're struggling to maintain control. Film forces you into lighting and setups, giving you a very wide latitude to deal with that, especially in the highlights.  It often makes post easier."

Houston-based writer-director Daniel Levin - who is experienced working with film and video - will begin shooting his allegorical, arthouse short Bagatelle - inspired by a short poem by Pushkin - in Texas back country in December.

Shooting on film is "essential for the story I'm telling," shares Levin, best known for the environmental short docs Kaltag, Alaska and Kamchatka: The Salmon Country .  Working with Israeli cinematographer Ziv Berkovich ( Another World , Self Made ), he says they are still weighing the advantages of shooting s16mm or 35mm.

Daniel Levin ( Bagatelle )
P hoto Courtesy of Good Hope Films
Writer-director Daniel Levin, left, (with DP Kahlil Hudson) on the set of Moment Théâtral (2007) - shot on Kodak s16mm Vision2 500T with an Arriflex SR3 - which was recognized with USC's Jack Nicholson Directing Award that year. Levin will begin shooting his allegorical, arthouse short Bagatelle in Texas back country in December.

"Film's latitude remains unmatched by any video format," he explains. "My projects are very visual, so nothing renders that detail in a variety of lighting conditions like film.  I'm adamant about keeping the technique and tradition of film alive.  It would be like taking away oil paints from artists and making them use only acrylics."

To read about more projects coming to life through the Kickstarter-Kodak initiative, visit
https://www.kickstarter.com/pages/kodak

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