Sunday, December 17, 2006

Filmmaking - Shoot Real Film

Filmmaking - Format

Peeved filmmakers ask, "How can I afford to shoot 'Real Film?'"

I shoot mostly 35mm four-perf, flat or scope, but I have shot
VistaVision (8-perf 35mm going sideways) and 5, 8, and 15-perf
65mm. (Todd-AO, Dynavision, Imax). I have a 65mm camera I built
that will pull those formats. I shoot 4x5 and 8x10 stills in
negative and transparencies. So I know a little about it.

I love film, it's the real deal, just needs more guys on the crew
to carry everything. Oh, and a truck.

I've shot a lot of Super 8mm and 16mm, but only for the grainy
effect. I blow those up on my optical printer. I don't shoot
small-formats or video to make a movie on. My movies are 35mm, as
God and Tom Edison intended, so I can show them in any theatre
anywhere in the world.

Expensive? Not really, your customers pay for it. It's only
money. 35mm can be sold, so expense is deductible, the cost of
doing business. I shoot video too, good luck selling it for a
decent price.

Perception of value for film is very high, so you can ask a high
price. Mention your production is digital to a distributor, you
might as well say you are giving it away.

He's read all the stupid articles, how it don't cost nothin' to
make digital, so that's what he figures you spent, and that's
what he offers you. (Never tell anybody your real budget, for the
same reason.)

35mm stock is about half a buck per foot, retail. Processing is
about .20/ft. You can buy short ends and recans for about half
that, or make deals for lower prices. You can even buy chemicals
and a processor and bypass the lab, there's a whole used market.

I build cameras, so I buy cameras and hotrod them, but that's
just me. I'm restoring a reflexed early Mitchell BNC right now,
and it's delightful. All the high-tech stuff is on the film
emulsion. Put new film in it, and you're on a par with anybody,
you just upgraded your 1938 camera to 2007. 10X resolution of HD.

I stay well-connected to raw stock people, and never pay retail.
I pay about .09/foot. 50,000' for a feature's worth costs me
about $4500. You can find a raw stock source like that on IndyCine.

Lab costs can be cheaper than 16mm because they do so much more
in 35mm than 16mm, and the lab treats you much better when you're
a 35mm customer.

That's getting worse, too. Last couple of 16mm projects run
through a lab (Hollywood and Seattle, both used to be good,
how the mighty are fallen. Best are now DuArt, NY and
Fotokem, Burbank.) had all kinds of dirt on them, and the
lab "just couldn't figure it out." I can - use clean chemicals!

Here's a great interview Audio CD on the subject.

I make a print and a window dub. I rough-cut on my mac FCP, then
conform my print and do screenings, in theatres and my editing
room. (My Cinemonta 8-plate flatbed table can project a big,
bright image onto my white wall.)

Based on audience reaction, I do the fine-cut on film, and
conform the negative. Video is tweaked, matched to my print.

Good luck!

Sam Longoria



  1. Anonymous10:59 PM

    I've been wanting to buy a 2 perf 35mm camera, but I think you've convinced me to stick w/4 perf-thanks for the info on short ends. Isn't it great how a film camera manufactured 70 years ago can defy obsolescence, while a brand new digital video camera is yesterday's news in a few months, and gives inferior images. Long live film!

  2. You got it. My own 35mm Renaissance began with a search for a 2-perf camera, plan was to make a Digital Intermediate and run with it. It's seductive, half the cost of 35mm! A couple of things get in the way. A Digital Intermediate of any quality adds a quick $100k to the budget. Ouch! At the other end, you MUST do a filmout, because archiving digital is a joke. I expected it to be more than film, but TWELVE TIMES more? Film just sets on a shelf in a limestone cave, and it's good for a century. Digital cannot be stored this way. The whole Earth is constantly working to demagnetize your master. Hard drives archive well for about 2 years! After that, it's copy copy copy as the years roll by. Ridiculous. Emperor naked.

  3. Oh, and not only does archiving cost more, the whole idea of "2-perf to DI" is already patented, by a guy in Italy, so get out your checkbook, to pay licenses.