Sundance: In a World Gone Digital, Indie Filmmakers Reach for 16 mm

“Happy Christmas,” “Listen Up Philip” and “Low Down” are part of an indie trend that bucks Hollywood’s move toward dumping film. Says one cinematographer, “[I don’t want to be] part of the generation of a–holes that sent film up the river.”

TV has all but abandoned shooting on film.  A growing majority of Hollywood blockbusters are 100% digital, with only directors like JJ Abrams and Christopher Nolan insisting their movies still be shot on 35 mm.  Even the self-proclaimed “analog” Coen Brothers have speculated that Inside Llewyn Davis will be their last movie shot on film.  And, in what might be a sign of things to come, this weekend the LA Times reported that Anchor Man 2 would be the last release for which Paramount makes 35 mm prints for the 8 percent of movie theaters still using film projectors.

So why are a handful of films at Sundance 2014 bucking the trend and choosing to shoot on 16 mm film?

Writer-director Alex Ross Perry (The Color WheelListen Up Philip) rejects the premise of the question. Quoting his cinematographer Sean Price Williams, the filmmaker tells The Hollywood Reporter that  “shooting on film isn’t a choice, it is the default decision and video is a choice.” For Perry, it’s a choice he wasn’t willing to make with his new film: “We wanted Listen Up Philip to not look of this crummy era we live in. None of the films we love or were inspired by are from after 1993. Shooting Super 16 mm was an easy way to spiritually connect us to the type of film that made us want to make this film.”

Aesthetics were also the reasoning behind Lowdown director JeffPreiss’ decision to shoot 16 mm. “I made the argument that film was required to suit the period feeling,” says Preiss, whose film is set during the 1970s jazz scene in Los Angeles. “But really it was the intangibles that tipped it for me: an organic surface where the image and story both nest. Surprisingly, every actor expressed tremendous gratitude, as if it honored the time they spent within the take, absorbing their performances more organically.”…

Read the rest of Sundance: In a World Gone Digital, Indie Filmmakers Reach for 16 mm, originally found on The Hollywood Reporter.