Viewing films in the Wasted Youth sidebar, the FIPRESCI international critics’ jury gave its prize this year to Serbian filmmaker Nikola Lezaic’s feature debut Tilva Rosh which had premiered at last year’s Locarno Film Festival.
During last month’s Cannes Film Festival, Screen International and Technicolor hosted a lunch with a broad range of guests to discuss how digital technology is enhancing the creative experience
THE PANEL – CANNES, MAY 2011
Claude Gagnon – president, Technicolor Creative Services
Miranda Jones – post-production supervisor (TT3D: Closer To The Edge, Stardust)
Angel Martin – managing director, Technicolor Spain
Leon Rousseau – sound restoration, LE Diapason
Aaron Ryder – producer, FilmNation
Ivan Sen – writer-director (Toomelah, Beneath Clouds)
Larry Smith – DoP (The Guard, Bronson)
Adrian Wootton – CEO, Film London
Digital technology now impacts on every aspect of the film-making process and the cinema experience, through capture, delivery, post-production and projection. At Cannes, Screen International editor Mike Goodridge and Technicolor hosted a roundtable discussion of all things digital, encompassing the extent to which digital technology has revolutionised the industry, and the gains and drawbacks of 3D and digital film restoration.
Mike Goodridge: Do you think the new generation of digital cameras are effectively duplicating the film experience?
Larry Smith: No.
Ivan Sen: It’s a huge dilemma. I’ve shot three films digitally but I have a film I’m shooting in Hong Kong and there’s no way I’d shoot it digitally considering the resulting emotion from digital. It’s not in the same league as film. Digital has its purpose, the flexibility is fantastic but in the end it’s always about the final image.
Aaron Ryder: Most of the film-makers I’ve worked with would always prefer to work on film. I worked on a Jake Kasdan comedy [The TV Set] a while ago that shot on digital and benefited because there was a lot of improvisation and he wanted multiple takes. But there’s a richness and quality to film that sets it apart. The kind of ‘found footage’ movies that are being shot today, like a Paranormal Activity, that kind of film strives for a realist effect that comes with digital.
IS: For me, the whole film-making process is too cluttered and not streamlined enough. So there are elements I try to bring to the film-making process to simplify it. Digital is part of that. I shot my latest film, Toomelah, entirely myself. Not even with a sound recordist.
Adrian Wootton: It’s a double-edged sword because the danger of digital is that you shoot and shoot, but I’m convinced with the film-makers, actors and crew we’re working with [on the Microwave scheme], the intimate and more flexible experience of digital lets them know they’re not burning acres of film and money. It makes the process viable.
LS: Yes, when you have a budget to shoot on film you are constantly living under great pressure. For some it can be too much. Digital removes that pressure.
AW: There’s a slew of distributors who are buying low-budget film and making healthy returns on those. There’s a different ecology now.
MG: Does the audience notice the difference between digital and film?
Miranda Jones: Joe Public, I don’t think so. But the discerning cinema-goer, yes. At the moment we’re trying to replicate the film-look in the grading area. There’s already a post programme that can introduce grain.
MG: Digital has certainly revolutionised post-production…
AR: Absolutely. Put it this way: when was the last film that didn’t have a DI [digital intermediate]? Ten years ago it was a luxury. I made The Prestige with Disney and we were the only Disney film at the time not to go through the DI process. Chris [Nolan] doesn’t do that on any of his films. He shoots on anamorphic. And his films look brilliant.
Angel Martin: Comparing the traditional film shoot and all that entails, versus shooting on digital and going through DI, the process is more expensive on digital.
LS: That’s absolutely right. If you’ve manipulated the film in the correct way, if you’ve exposed it correctly as a DoP, you don’t need a DI process.
AR: But those old aesthetics are dying. I can only think of a few film-makers shooting on film and preserving that. It’s different with the low-budget films, but the big-budget film-makers are enamoured with the new technology.
AM: One question for you, Aaron: you also work as a sales agent; when you sell a film, do buyers ask how the movie has been shot? Do they pay more for the better quality?
AR: There was more concern about digital films three or four years ago. The technological advancements made over the last few years have alleviated some of those concerns. Foreign distributors are very savvy. Now it’s more a question of content.
MG: Let’s think about 3D for a moment. That is bringing a whole new level of cameras and hassle to the production process…
AM: The preparation and set-up for 3D is far more arduous. Post-production supervisors get involved much earlier.
MJ: Yes, I was involved six months before we even got to shooting anything on TT3D. Three of us spent six months researching. 3D has to be a very controlled environment but we couldn’t set up as you should with 3D, because it was a documentary.
AW: And the cameras themselves are slow to move around.
AR: I co-produced Sanctum in Australia. They spent an hour each day just fixing the cameras. Admittedly it was underwater, but there’s a lot of downtime that affects the creative process.
AW: But it’s early days. Broadcasters are going to drive this, too, with in-home 3D. As the technology gets faster quicker, lighter, it will all become easier.
LS: It’s interesting. We started thinking about cost reduction with digital. And now we’re talking about adding cost.
AR: But look at Black Swan and The King’s Speech. It’s not all about event movies. Not everyone wants to see event cinema.
MG: Does Technicolor think 3D is around for the long run?
Claude Gagnon: Oh yes. Especially for the broadcasters. We’ve done 25 pictures since Chicken Little some years ago. Animation is great but we need to find a balance with other genres.
MG: Leon, explain how you restore sound on an old film?
Leon Rousseau: To tell you the truth, the digital revolution in sound was 20 years ago. The main breakthrough I see in the recent years is that we now work for digital cinemas.
AW: Over the last few years, digital rendering has found ways of restoring classics in a way that photochemical restoration just can’t do because they are so damaged or it’s so expensive or time-consuming. I saw The African Queen recently and looking at that film with the legendary Angela Allen, [who was responsible for] the continuity on that film, she said it was better than she had ever seen it.
LR: But there’s also a danger that you unmix and then remix in 5.1. There’s a perception that if it’s mono it’s bad and 5.1 all good. There are real dangers. Our role is to respect the mix as you respect the rest of the film. You must preserve the interaction between image and sound.
CG: I believe there will be a big revolution in sound in the next five to 10 years. We are 5.1 now, 7.1 is coming.
MG: But shooting in digital has allowed a lot more flexibility when it comes to transferring files.
LR: Yes. We’re doing a huge restoration project for the Indian government. They work on the images and we restore the sound. The process is quite simple.
CG: The post-pro on Black Swan was all done in New York and Matthew Libatique was in Los Angeles doing the colour correction. That really accelerated the process.
25 January, 2011 | By Jeremy Kay
Tennessee-born Clay Jeter talks to Jeremy Kay about his feature directorial debut Jess + Moss, which screens in Sundance’s New Frontier section this week.
Through a series of vignettes that chronicle lazy summer days Jeter paints an idiosyncratic portrait of childhood as 18-year-old Jess and her second cousin Moss, 12, idle away the days talking, playing and discovering. The film has already won admirers for its evocative, languid pacing and dreamy West Kentucky milieu.
Kevin Iwashina of Preferred Content represents North American rights and Visit Films is handling international sales.
The story is so intimate and heartfelt – is it pure autobiography?
‘The idea for the movie came from a combination of things. The primary location is my great-grandfather’s tobacco farm in West Kentucky. He’d grown up there with his brother and my mum and her younger cousin spent time there, as did my older sister, so a lot of this is drawn from personal experience.’
It started out as two short films, so tell us how you fused them into one overarching feature?
‘I had wanted to shoot these two shorts called Jess + Moss in 35mm and Five Dollars in digital. Two weeks before we were going to shoot at the farm we asked how we could turn them into one feature because we had so many ideas. So a three-day stay got extended to seven and even though all our crew had to leave to go back to film school or do some paying jobs we stayed on and filmed it. Sarah [Hagan, Jeter’s girlfriend who plays Jess] and Austin [Vickers, who plays Moss] would be helping me out and holding the boom and that kind of stuff.’
How did you find your cast?
‘As I said I’d been dating [lead actress] Sarah for a year and knew she would do it. I was an actor when I was a kid and had this amazing agent called Betty Clark. I needed kids for Five Dollars, which was all children, so I called up Betty and she helped me out, which must have been a tough sell because I had never directed anything before and the story involved children in intense situations. We set up casting sessions and Austin was the first kid, He’d done a play and didn’t have the normal stage mum. He listened and responded and was a natural charmer. He was perfect for Five Dollars and it had to be him for Jess + Moss.’
Sarah and Austin are wonderful together. Was there instant chemistry?
‘When I put Austin together with Sarah it was like this magic that I could never have known. They spent a lot of time together annoying the crap out of each other. I told them to only refer to each other as Jess and Moss, even when the camera wasn’t rolling. I gave them this tape recorder and a lot of the voice over in the film comes from stuff they just came up with while they hung out.’
The story seems so fluid. How much of it was set down and how much was improvised?
‘I had the outline for the story and often wrote on the day of shooting. There was never a full screenplay but just these pages of ideas. My sister and mother get story credits on this, too.’
The film feels so organic. Were you tempted to tinker with it a lot?
‘It’s so hard to get a full green light to make something, especially when you’ve never made something before. Getting into Sundance was the best thing because we could easily be tinkering with this movie for another two years. It was frightening and amazing when we heard because everybody who said they’d help did and pulled together to get this ready. We literally finished last a few days before the festival.’
The look of the film evokes early David Gordon Green on films like George Washington and All The Real Girls. How did you create that look?
‘I’d been working as a cinematographer since I’d got out of film school [USC] so I had a camera and a collection of old film stock. You never want to throw that stuff away so we shot our movie on about 35 different films stocks. ‘
How did the shoot go?
‘We shot in 15 days over the course of a year. We shot seven days up front [in July 2009] and put it together to see the shape of the movie. We went off and did other jobs in between and went back to it in March 2010 and then July. Everyone who worked on the project worked for free. Luckily we were in a position where we had a small enough amount of money from myself and my parents so we didn’t have financiers breathing down our neck. The project had lulls. The editor would have to take off time and do some commercials and then work a bit more on this movie.
This was one of the hottest June and Julys on record. When we went back in March it was cold but the actors were wearing the same clothes. It was intense. We were out in the middle of nowhere. We were roughing it.’
How would you describe the film?
‘The movie is very much about landscape and a documentation of space and time. For me it’s really about childhood and some of the fleeting moments that you don’t notice always but that create existence. Se against that is the tragedy of growing up.’
Check out this great IndieWire piece on Adele Romanski, producer of both The Freebie and The Myth of the American Sleepover. We already knew she kicks serious behind in the world of indie film and now everyone else does too!
FUTURES | Producer, Editor, Director Adele Romanski
by Brian Brooks
An editor, producer and now trying her hand at directing, Adele Romanski has traveled the gamut behind the camera. She produced David Robert Mitchell’s ‘The Myth of the American Sleepover,’ as well as Katie Aselton’s directorial debut, ‘The Freebie,’ which screened in the inaugural NEXT section at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired for domestic distribution by Phase 4 Films (and opening theatrically on Friday September 17th).