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10 Filmmaking Heavyweights Predict the Future of Cinema

From Cameron to Coppola, 10 industry experts weigh in on filmmaking in the technological age.

by Emerson Rosenthal
May 5 2014, 9:50pm

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It seems like long ago that Francis Ford Coppola was waxing poetic on the Warholian notions of what the filmmaking landscape might look like in the prosumer era. This was in 1991, a year before I was born, of course, into a budding world of DIY-CGI DSLR filmmaking, but the idea that there were once prohibitive barriers to both saying what you want to say, cinematically, and finding an audience, sounds as silly as the title of this Onion article, "James Cameron Says Future Of Movies Will Be Watching Them Sitting On His Lap."

"It's really a space that you can hardly guess where those stories and where those experiences are gonna take us," World Media Lab director Alex McDowell says about the future of cinema, in our documentary Leviathan: The Future Of Storytelling. "We're really moving rapidly into a new narrative space." 

Filmmakers are often the bellwethers of the zeitgeist, but that noble position often comes with a desire to make sweeping predictions about what the future of filmmaking will be. In many cases, including, in the case of critic Roger Ebert's predictions in 1987, these prognostications can turn out to be both right and wrong. What's important, though, is that an educated public is taking note. 

A number of filmmakers have taken to seminars and trades to weigh in on the future of filmmaking in our ever-increasingly digital world. Below, we've collected ten of our favorite directorial divinations so that you can decide for yourself where you stand:

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George Lucas, in conversation with Steven Spielberg:

"You're going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks, like what Broadway costs today, or a football game. It'll be an expensive thing. … (The movies) will sit in the theaters for a year, like a Broadway show does. That will be called the 'movie' business...

"There'll be big movies on a big screen, and it'll cost them a lot of money. Everything else will be on a small screen. It's almost that way now. 'Lincoln' and 'Red Tails' barely got into theaters. You're talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can't get their movies into theaters."

Spielberg: "I believe we need to get rid of the proscenium," Spielberg said. "We're never going to be totally immersive as long as we're looking at a square, whether it's a movie screen or whether it's a computer screen. We've got to get rid of that and we've got to put the player inside the experience, where no matter where you look you're surrounded by a three-dimensional experience. That's the future."

David Lynch, in an interview with The Independent

"It's a very depressing picture. With alternative cinema—any sort of cinema that isn't mainstream—you're fresh out of luck in terms of getting theater space and having people come to see it.

"Even if I had a big idea, the world is different now. Unfortunately, my ideas are not what you'd call commercial, and money really drives the boat these days. So I don't know what my future is. I don't have a clue what I'm going to be able to do in the world of cinema."

Steven Soderbergh, in his "State-of-Cinema Address":

"You can take a perfectly solid, successful and acclaimed movie and it may not qualify as cinema. It also means you can take a piece of cinema and it may not qualify as a movie, and it may actually be an unwatchable piece of shit. But as long as you have filmmakers out there who have that specific point of view, then cinema is never going to disappear completely. Because it's not about money, it's about good ideas followed up by a well-developed aesthetic."

James Cameron via

James Cameron to Smithsonian Magazine:

"I think there will be movie thea­ters in 1,000 years. People want the group experience, the sense of going out and participating in a film together. People have been predicting the demise of movie theaters since I started in the business."  

Martin Scorsese, in an open letter:

"The art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema—moving pictures conceived by individuals—appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you'll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can't predict."

Keanu Reeves, writing for The Guardian:

"The rise of digital technology has prompted a lot of debate about the 'death of film.' If you'd asked me six months ago if we were at that point I'd have said the situation was dire. Fuji announced it was not going to produce commercial stock any more, companies such as Panavision and Arri have stopped making new film cameras...

"But it's unlikely that film will completely vanish, at least in the near future. I wouldn't call it a backlash against digital, but there is a significant body of directors still using film for image acquisition. It's important that they have the tools to make films in the way they want to. I'm certainly much less worried about the fate of celluloid than I was when I started making the documentary [Side by Side]."

Creator Chris Milkon working with Oculus Rift

"At the beginning of cinema they were shooting trains coming at cameras and everyone was freaking out. This is a language that has been established over many, many years. I don't know what these new stories are going to look like … but I'm creating the tools now to hopefully figure out what the language and narratives of this new evolving storytelling canvas eventually will be." 

"Drone-wielding filmmaker" Caroline Campbell, on working with drones:

"We feel that it is no more intrusive than something like Google Street View," and on using them to peer inside the Facebook offices: "Our argument is that Facebook has no expectation of privacy as their founder Mark Zuckerberg at one stage said privacy was no longer a social norm."

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Whatever your position may be, it's no small feat for the imagination to decipher what'll happen in five years time, let alone tomorrow. Then again, that's why they're filmmakers. 


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Steven Soderbergh
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James Cameron
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Roger Ebert
Francis Ford Coppola
Future of Film
Caroline Campbell
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