I took my Intermediate Film students from RISD on a field trip to Cinelab today. We arrived to the old mill building in New Bedford, which looked exactly as I had imagined over the past twenty-five years of working with them (remotely) as a student and teacher. I thought it would be a great opportunity for my students to see how their film is developed and printed - in one of only about a dozen or two motion picture labs still operating in the United States.
Brad Chandler took us on a tour of the facilities. It was definitely cool to see all of the love that goes into film, and all of the highly engineered, vintage analog and mechanical equipment they have kept running for decades. But I couldn't help but feel a sense of the impending extinction of the medium... it feels like just a matter of time before all the companies give up the ghost. It will be a great loss. I have truly enjoyed immersing myself and students in the discipline and beauty of cinema.
I've put a lot of thought into the question of Why Film? lately... what are the types of projects that make sense to shoot in celluloid, in the age of infinite digital possibilities? Here's what I've come up with so far:
- You’re interested in the particular aesthetic - the grain, the color response, the beauty, thesoftness
- You like the physicality: chemical rather than digital process means something to you... holding the film in your hands
- You’re making a reference to photography
- You want to shoot black and white with full richness
- You're trying to evoke a historical period
- You’re referencing a film genre (such as Noir)
- You're incorporating archival material and generating your own to match
- You like the process or workflow, and want the discipline that the preciousness of film requires: you have to conceive of things ahead of time, it’s expensive so you have limited stock, you can’t see what you are getting.
- You’re interested in the chance factor (also double exposures) and happy accidents
- You’re going to work with the film itself (hand processing, optical printing, etc.)
- You’re going to do something conceptually with the medium (for ex., shooting the length of a film roll, double exposures, etc.)