Star Wars Episode 7 is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Bob Weinstein is among the Hollywood suits who have been working with Kodak to commit to long-term orders for film. Simon Usborne wonders what all the fuss is about

One thing unites the films Argo, Django Unchained and The Dark Knight Rises beyond their critical and box office success: they were shot using film. This makes them rare in the digital age but, as part of a campaign to reverse a precipitous decline, studios have entered secret negotiations in a desperate attempt to save celluloid.

Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of Weinstein Co, is among the Hollywood suits who have been working with Kodak to commit to long-term orders for film. As recently as 2006, Kodak was selling 12.4 billion feet of movie film a year. This year, it expects to sell 449 million feet, or just one 25th of the amount. It became the last big company making film after Fujifilm canned its production last year.

"It's a financial commitment, no doubt about it," Weinstein told the Wall Street Journal. "But I don't think we could look some of our film-makers in the eyes if we didn't do it."

Quentin Tarantino is among those directors who have lobbied Weinstein to act, alongside Judd Apatow and Christopher Nolan, the British director of the recent Batman films. J J Abrams is now shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film, partly in a move to distance the work from the 2002 sequel Attack of the Clones, the first movie to be shot digitally. Film "sets the standard for quality", Abrams said. "There's something about [it] that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real."

Ben Affleck took a starring role in his movie Argo (Warner Bros/Getty) Ben Affleck took a starring role in his movie Argo (Warner Bros/Getty)
The news that powerful names, including those who control the money, are committing to film, delights those who have been campaigning for years to rescue it. Tacita Dean, the renowned British artist, shot a film inside a Kodak factory in France in 2006. It closed weeks later. "Film", her 2012 installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London, was as much a campaigning work as a demonstration of the medium's unique qualities.

"People make the analogy of oil and watercolour in painting but it's way more explicit than that," she says from her Berlin studio. "There are enormous qualitative differences. Film looks different, it captures light differently. There is more depth and it copes much better with blacks."

Read more: JJ Abrams shows off the new fighter in set video
Star Wars 7 plans hiatus due to Harrison Ford injury
Kevin Smith leaves the Star Wars 7 set in tears
What corporate culture could learn from JJ Abrams

Moreover, in the way the shutter-happy holidaymaker's approach to photography has changed, film requires a different behaviour because the results cannot be instantly reviewed. "Digital has become like a template," says Dean, who is a leading campaigner behind SaveFilm.org. "You record it and then add to it in post-production and that just makes it different."

But these advantages are drawing film-makers who remain passionate about film. Rob Hardy directed photography on The Invisible Woman, Broken and Shadow Dancer. He went digital for the first time to shoot Ex Machina, an artificial-intelligence love story written and directed by Alex Garland. It is due for release next year.

"It's a human story with a subtle element of artificiality," Hardy says by phone. "From a photographic perspective I wanted something heightened that retained a natural feel, something digital cameras could provide."

Jamie Foxx starred in Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino (Colombia Pictures/Getty) Jamie Foxx starred in Django Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino (Colombia Pictures/Getty)
Conversely, when Hardy shot The Invisible Woman, a period drama directed by Ralph Fiennes released last year, "there was no question that we needed the texture, atmosphere and authenticity of that period, and digital absolutely did not suit that".

Roger Deakins is the veteran British cinematographer behind films including The Shawshank Redemption and Fargo. In 2011, he switched to digital to shoot In Time, a sci-fi thriller. It "gives me a lot more options", he said at the time. "It's got more latitude, it's got better colour rendition. It's faster. I can immediately see what I'm recording.

"Am I nostalgic for film? I mean, it's had a good run, hasn't it? You know, I'm not nostalgic for a technology. I'm nostalgic for the kind of films that used to be made that aren't being made now."

Those on both sides of the debate argue there should be room for both media. "It's a question of having creative choice and that's what this campaign should be about," Hardy says.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)

comedy

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

film
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment

film
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own