The Fight for Film

Lately we’ve been talking about the transition from film to digital, and  I recently came by an article that said that The Lost City of Z, (a new movie about a hidden city in the amazon) was shot on 35mm and that the footage had to be flown from Columbia.


Having watched the trailer, I do see how a lot of the colour of the Amazon comes through on the film stock. But for James Gray, the director, he felt the need to shoot on film in order to achieve a certain look– but that came at the cost of production. The movie was shot on location, in both Columbia and Peru and Gray stated in an interview, “To be candid about it, a certain madness kind of sets in. There’s no way to avoid it.” With scorching temperatures and a lack of hot water, shooting on film was an added challenge. Lead actor Charlie Hunnam had to take a day off of filming because a bug had crawled into his ear and he couldn’t remove it. Talk about tough. It also added $750,000 dollars to the production budget.


James Gray said that it changed the process for him too, and in a way he was experiencing the story through Percy Fawcett, the real-life adventurer the movie is based on, because he had no way of seeing the footage immediately after it was shot, and that it became an immersive experience. But, he did get shots like this:



These shots feel (at least, to me) like they benefitted from film. The hazy look, the slightly grainy texture, all create an image that makes you feel the heat, the dampness of the jungle, the tension in the air. But, it does beg the question: is it worth it? With the progression of digital, our capability to manipulate an image whether it’s in camera (with a lens, gel, or filter) or in post (through colour correction and editing) is reaching a point where we can (sorf of) recreate the effects of film. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.



One thought on “The Fight for Film

  1. I think this is a good film to look at because it really calls attention to one of the few things separating film and digital these days – the practice. Video and film look pretty similar at present, so the quest for the “film look” with digital is much less pressing than it once was. The physicality remains, though, and much like with our discussion of IMAX, working with film kinda sucks. It’s difficult, especially when you’re in the Amazon. It was funny to hear Candace talking about this in the Jaunt lab – how we often look to the analog with such romantic nostalgia, but many of the practitioners are like, “Digital is way easier.” Still, as you point out, some of the physical, practical differences undoubtedly affect the ways in which people can use the medium and the films they make with it.


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