Never shoulda passed out next to a pair of fabric scissors. Just saying…
BY SHAWN WHITNEY
Overall this is an interesting little canape on directing your film. But it struck me as I was reading it just how much filmmaking is an art form in transition. There has been a lot of debate recently about the studios in Hollywood forcing theatres to convert to digital projection – and how that will force many indie & repertory cinemas to go under (though I suspect that the “sky is falling” panic that has set in is overblown and the problem will by solved by some relatively cheap hack innovated by some enterprising nerd). There’s also been the outcry by Christopher Nolan about the death of film.
Well, first off, let’s be honest, film was always an exclusive medium. The arrival of high quality video means that a whole new layer of people, previously excluded because of lack of access to resources (as opposed to talent) can now make high quality films for relatively small amounts of money. When you consider that, at the low end, mumblecore made its mark by producing films for well under $20K and even at the higher end of the ultra-low budget indie food chain, Monsters made a spectacularly beautiful science fiction road movie for about $500K, this is truly a new age. It also ought to remind us that what is important, ultimately, is not just the “look” of the film but the story that is being told. If I may be so bold, Christopher Nolan is beyond over-rated. The Batman movies are trite, cookie cutter garbage that lack “darkness” in any true sense. Want to see true superhero “darkness”? Check out the Watchmen. It’s a flawed movie but it really is dark. Batman just has lots of night scenes – that’s not dark. So, if the arrival of video means that over-rated and overpaid directors who make over-priced movies whose special effects are a cover for emptiness then I say bring it on.
Rant aside, this brings me back to Eliot Grove’s article. So much of it is still relevant but I wonder how many microbudget filmmakers out there have ever even thought about shooting ratio. Grove dedicates a lengthy section of the article to this once-important aspect of filmmaking. Whether or not you remained on budget usually came down to shooting ratio and shooting schedule. For most filmmakers now this is no longer the case. Digital storage on HDD and SSD is literally 1/1,000,000th the cost of analog storage on film negative. Now, as long as you stay on schedule you are free to shoot as much as you want (well, depending on the tolerance of your editor, I suppose). This has opened up new vistas in terms of shooting, performance, etc. Filmmakers like Lyn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister) can write a scriptment (half treatment/half script) that permits extensive improvisation and leaving the camera rolling for 45 minutes at a time – and not worry about burning through the budget in film stock. As we plan for our own shoot in June we literally have not even considered shooting ratio. It’s a non-question. And behind the disappearance of that little ratio number is a revolution in filmmaking.