If you love hearing filmmakers talk about their craft, you'll definitely want to check out the new documentary Side by Side, which features producer/narrator/interviewer Keanu Reeves talking to an incredible cast of directors, producers, cinematographers and actors contributing to the debate on digital vs. celluloid. Actually, aside from The Dark Knight Rises helmer Christopher Nolan and DP Wally Pfister, the participating experts -- which also include Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, James Cameron, George Lucas, Greta Gerwig, Lena Dunham, David Fincher, David Lynch, Danny Boyle, Joel Schumacher, Robert Rodriguez, Lars Von Trier, the Wachowskis, Vittorio Storano, Michael Chapman and Vilmos Zsigmond -- mostly defend or at least seem okay with the evolution and revolution of digital cinema.
I just recently watched the film, which is directed by Christopher Kenneally (Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating), and now can highly recommend it. Hardcore film geeks might find some of the overall history and exposition rather elementary, but it's a great primer for the layman, and those hardcores will still get some terrific insight and stories from the who's who of filmmaking that Reeves and Kenneally have compiled. At the end, I wanted more, not just in terms of a necessary update or sequel considering the debate isn't over (anyone notice there's only one title shot on video included in the Sight & Sound list of 50 greatest films ever made?), but even lengthier conversations from each interviewee.
Fortunately, Tribeca Film is catering to our needs and releasing a new outtake or deleted scene from Side by Side daily, and calling them "Side Swipes," as we appproach the release date (in theaters August 17; on VOD August 22). As of yesterday they had shared clips starring Scorsese, Soderbergh, Chapman and Pfister who describes how his shooting process with Nolan and focus puller Bob Hall is like a documentary unit. Watch the following video to hear of the low-tech simplicity of filming Nolan's movies, notably Inception:
The latest is my favorite and features Lana and Andy Wachowski, with the former doing most of the talking on the subject of actors' performances being constructed in editing. Lana actually makes a ton of great points throughout the film, and if there are any more bits with her on the cutting room floor I hope we get a chance to see them too. Watch the video for good reason why actors shouldn't complain about digital filmmaking:
In Soderbergh's outtake, he defends going digital by discussing how it's just the next step in an infinite journey of filmmaking and how we're always at the beginning. It kinda goes along with and reiterates statements from Cameron in the actual film about how he never wants to feel like "we've arrived." These filmmakers like knowing that they're not at the end of cinema even if they might be at the end of the line with celluloid.
Chapman, an Oscar nominee for Raging Bull and The Fugitive, has a similar scene, in which he confesses to not being sentimental about the death of film.
Lastly (for now), here's Scorsese's clip, in which he says that celluloid will always be a choice, likening it to just one of many types of paints, and raises the issue of digital as a cheap and fast medium from a businessman's perspective, which makes it more about a quickly consummable product rather than preservable art.
As I said, Tribeca will be uploading more and more of these in the next couple weeks, so bookmark their "Side Swipe" playlist on YouTube for more. And watch Side by Side when it hits theaters and video later this month. Check out the film's website for information on both releases.