The end may be soon or it may linger for another decade, but the writing is on the wall. Film is quickly passing into obsolescence. This year, the only two manufacturers of motion picture film revealed how close the medium is to the precipice. Fujifilm announced the end of the line and Kodak filed for bankruptcy while reducing the available camera stocks. It’s a heart-breaking moment for those like me who can’t separate the inspiration to make movies from the tactile experience of handling film and film cameras. Here is a list of the things I enjoy most about shooting 16mm film.
10. The smell of Dektol and fixer – Hand-processing motion picture film is a wonderful experimental technique. Although my neighbors might not care for the smell as it drifts from my bathroom to theirs.
9. The cryptic language of Kodak film catalog numbers – 7231, 7279, 7246, 7217, 7285, 7363… each one tells a story.
8. Feeling joy when a box of film stock arrives – It’s a little box full of potential, just waiting to be turned into something beautiful.
7. Cleaning out hair from the gate with an orange wood stick - Filming requires meticulous patience.
6. Black and white stock – Nothin’ but nothin’ looks like black and white film. Long live Plus X.
5. In-camera effects – Using a boring old green screen isn’t nearly as much fun as shooting front screen projection, or backwinding a camera, or making mattes and reverse mattes, or rubbing petroleum jelly on a lens, etc.
4. That little rush of adrenalin when calling action - LIke most indie filmmakers, when film is actually rolling through a camera, I’m acutely aware of the passage of money from my bank account. It adds just a bit of anxiety to a film set and brings out heightened performances from myself, actors and everyone involved. It’s magical.
3. Putting all my faith in a light meter reading - Sekonic Studio Deluxe II, you’ve never let me down.
2. Happy accidents – Watching the dailies from a weekend of shooting and finding everything out of focus is never an enjoyable experience. But some of the best visual moments happen without purpose. With film, a sense of humility to the gods of fate is healthy.
1. The purrring of a bolex camera – It’s what got me hooked on filmmaking in the first place.