Shocking no one paying attention to Jurassic World or for that matter to The Force Awakens, Colin Trevorrow confirmed today that he’ll be filming Star Wars IX on film, appropriately enough during the Sundance “Power of Story: The Art Of Film” panel. The reason, however, comes down not to a burning desire to prove the superiority of film over digital but, as he puts it, to “all artistic choices, they’re creative choices,” and to his personal feeling about how a “period film” should look.
Starting with a brief discussion of his upcoming film The Book of Henry, also shot on film in 35 mm, Trevorrow said such a decision comes down to how he wants the audience to feel. “If we’re going to have any kind of conversation about film versus digital, the only place where I tend to not be able to attach myself to something shot digitally is when that’s a period film,” he said. “There’s something in my brain that says ‘well they didn’t have video cameras then, they couldn’t do that.’… We found as we were cutting [The Book of Henry] that there’s a sense to the importance of every shot, there’s things that if they were digital maybe we might allow but because they’re on film we have to honor it and make it filmworthy. That’s where it comes for me, not so much how film looks but how film feels and how it tends to remind us of our memories, of our childhood, the way we used to see films…”
“In the end these are all artistic choices, they’re creative choices and I feel what is most important to me about film is that people have the choice to use it,” he says. “It’s not that I would say one should do this one shouldn’t do the other. You don’t go to the symphony to hear the Stradivarius, you go to hear the violinist. The violinist is going to choose the best possible violin, of course they will, [and] I choose to make films with the best possible violin.”
So how does this play into Star Wars? “Star Wars gets back to my issue about shooting digital for period films,” says Trevorrow. “I could never shoot star wars on anything but Scope 35 and 65, because it’s a period film, it happened a long time ago.”
That was the biggest revelation to come out of the panel discussion, also attended by Christopher Nolan and Fruitvale Station DP Rachel Morrison and moderated by Alex Ross Perry, but the discussion proved an interesting look into the reasons each filmmaker chooses film over digital, the state of film as a medium, and its future. Throughout the discussion, the trio made it clear however that the choice wasn’t about some kind of battle between digital and film as the one true way to make a movie, but about how to best serve the story they’re trying to tell.
Of course Nolan, who has long made a point of shooting on film, was particularly bullish about the quality of stock available to filmmakers today. “They’re kind of the best they’ve ever been… I have a bit of the nostalgia for some of the older stocks… but I think I’d have to say now the stocks [Kodak makes] now are the best they’ve ever been in 100 years of cinema, it’s incredible,” he says. “It’s an incredibly versatile medium for mocking the way the eye sees nature.”
Trevorrow meanwhile concedes that digital as a format is breaking down certain barriers to entry in the film world. “Something that frustrates me a little bit is how film has sort of been pushed into the realm of the elite, where no one has access to it,” he said. “When you talk about the Super 8 camera, I was looking at that, I got all excited, ‘I’m gonna get one of these for my kids,’ and I looked at the cost of each one of those reels of film and it’s like, OK, there’s a democratization that digital brought to filmmaking, where anyone anywhere can get their hands on an iPhone, on a video camera, and make a film. And there is something, I think that’s part of the struggle with film right now, because of the costs that are incurred by trying to shoot, even for a kid at home who wants to learn, it makes it that much more difficult for everybody to have the opportunity to do it.”