With the advent of digital cinema and photography technologies, and subsequent restructurings of celluloid production at Fujifilm, Kodak, and Polaroid, for years it seemed as if analog photography had all but gone the way of the buffalo. Sure, big-budget productions including Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel still shot on 35mm (our Collaborators series on Daft Punk was shot on 16mm), but if Quentin Tarantino's pessimistic take on "digital projection and DCP's" was any indication, this would be a brave new world of (primarily digital) filmmaking. But the situation may not be as dire as the many "film is dead" prognostications suggest—while the Golden Age of silver nitrate may be gone for both still and motion photography, a number of new products and efforts just might keep celluloid alive and burning:
In crowdfunded documentary Out of Print, filmmaker Julia Marchese features interviews with Joe Dante, Kevin Smith, Rian Johnson, and Richard Kelly on the importance of the preservation and proliferation of 35mm film. Says Marchese, the creator of the Fight for 35mm petition, I don’t think as many people realize they have a choice, that they can voice their preferences to their local cinema and help their local theaters keep their 35mm projectors. But that’s kind of the goal of the film – to let people know that they do, indeed, have a choice." Lucky for her, she's not alone in her sentiment.
Recently, it was announced that Kodak, in particular, is getting a lifeline from Tinseltown. Thanks to "lobbyists" including Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, J.J. Abrams, and, of course, Tarantino, studios have agreed to "buy a set quantity of film for the next several years," regardless of whether or not they decide to use it. Explains Weinstein Company co-chair Bob Weinstein, the deal is "a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it." While its long-term future still remains uncertain, this move allows Kodak's legendary Rochester, NY film manufacturing plant to keep its doors open, at least for a while longer.
Across the pond, in fact, one film manufacturing plant has announced their plans to reopen its doors to 35mm and 120mm still formats, as well as Super 8 and 16mm cine film production. In a countdown blog post entitled, "The Countdown Begins," Italy's Film Ferrania presented a documentary filmed by legendary production company, LUCE Cinecittá, that shows their factory film production way back in in the 1940's. It's been a few years since Film Ferrania ended production for many of their celluloid products, and we have to say it's good to have them back.
That's not the only big Super 8 news, either: combining techniques culled from both old and new camera technologies, a father-son team in Denmark has announced the Logmar S-8. The first new Super 8 camera to debut in decades, the sleek device boasts not only its own side-mounted LCD display, but audio recording with 48V phantom power, variable speed, and even timelapse support. While the beta line is already sold out, fret not: with even stars like Ben Affleck using Super 8 in Argo, you can bet your bottom dollar on a Logmar S-8 V.2. Check out some sample footage here.
Unfortunately when it comes to instant film, the market has yet to experience its rebirth. Best depicted in Grant Hamilton's Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film, the loss of the click-and-flap photo format was bemoaned from casting couches to college dorm room walls everywhere. Now living on through The Impossible Project, Polaroid 600 cameras were recently introduced to their special edition "Poisoned Paradise" films, which offer a colorful alternative to the white-box borders of traditional instant film. Plus, this film features both three styles of emulsion (cyan, magenta and sepia), and the familiar comforts of an expiration date.
So for those of us considering the new 1-Hour Photo app to be one of few options when it comes to that "old-school" film feel, consider this your analog wake-up call. Film might be buried in the backyard, but if there's one thing the recent surge in zombie flicks has shown us, history loves a comeback.