In just a few years, digital video has overtaken film-based shooting by an overwhelming margin. But in the interest of staving off premature extinction, a group of directors have banded together to keep the Eastman Kodak Co. making movie film.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of directors, led by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams (who is filming Star Wars VII on film) pushed studio heads into negotiations with the film company. These discussions, which the WSJ broke the lid on, revolve around promises to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years, regardless of whether they plan to use all of it.
Kodak’s motion-picture film sales have fallen 96 percent since 2006, from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million. Fujifilm Crop. left the business last year, and Kodak is the only major company left producing the product.
The company’s chief executive, Jeff Clarke, told the WSJ that Kodak initially hoped to enlist studios in a joint venture on its Rochester, N.Y., plant, but that proposal failed. The second solution, involving the purchase of mass quantities of film, became the consensus after filmmakers started to join the discussion (and personally lobby executives).
Tarantino, for instance, appealed to Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of Weinstein Co. “It’s a financial commitment, no doubt about it,” Weinstein told the WSJ, “But I don’t think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn’t do it.”
Weinstein’s claims are supported by comments from other directors. Apatow told the newspaper that both film and digital video are “valid choices” but “there’s a magic to the grain and the color quality that you get with film.” In a separate interview, Abrams argued that “film sets the standard and once it’s no longer available, the ability to shoot the benchmark goes away. Suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, the warmest, the most rich and detailed images.”
In negotiations with Kodak, Weinstein Co. is joined by Warner Bros, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios.