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Christopher Nolan sees artists devalued with the digitization of films

07.09.2014

The era of digital film-making brought with it a whole new realm of possibility. This allowed filmmakers to watch what they've shot immediately, rather than having to wait for film to be developed. Digital projection in theaters also ensures that whether you see a movie on its first day or last, you can expect pristine quality (depending on the projector, of course). Despite these advancements, there are film purists that feel this may have a negative impact in the long run, especially as far as the future of cinema is concerned. One such film enthusiast is Christopher Nolan, who has been very vocal about this topic.

Aside from the gimmicky post-conversion use of 3D, Nolan feels that reducing a film to a "file" is much like turning a record into an mp3; where ease of use and accessibility will limit films in theaters to those that score those big opening weekend, and not the ones that usually strive on word of mouth. Here's what Christopher Nolan had to say on the subject.

In terms of how it may work in the future:

A movie’s Friday matinees would determine whether it even gets an evening screening, or whether the projector switches back to last week’s blockbuster. This process could even be automated based on ticket sales in the interests of 'fairness'.

In regards how important the theatrical screening is:

The theatrical window is to the movie business what live concerts are to the music business — and no one goes to a concert to be played an MP3 on a bare stage.

It's an interesting comparison he makes, although I would say that plays are to concerts (rather than films), but I definitely understand where he's coming from. Whether or not a film "has legs" might be a phrase of the past, if a format like this takes hold and films are swapped out in favor of the easy money makers. Christopher Nolan also had something to say about this regarding his newest film, INTERSTELLAR, and that he's actually forward some technological advancements.

Regarding the presentation of INTERSTELLAR:

I really think on this film the technical aspect of how this film is presented is really going to be more important than on any film I’ve done before, so that means getting into partnership with the studios and theaters.

Hopeful sentiment, regarding the advancement of cinema technology:

It’s unthinkable that extraordinary new work won’t emerge from such an open structure. That’s the part I can’t wait for.

There's no doubt that formats are ever changing and I feel that TV, not only the advancement of home cinema, is playing a big role in that. It was recently announced that the Wensteins have passed on funding Kevin Smith's CLERKS III. He'll get it made, regardless. If he wanted to, I'm should he could Kickstart that beast and get his funding (although he's done a pretty good job on his own with TUSK and whatnot). So while I understand Christopher Nolan's concern with artists getting their work out there, especially for films not of the TRANSFORMERS variety, if there's a demand for it, there will always be a way.

Christopher Nolan's next, INTERSTELLAR, will give audiences a reason to go to cinemas on November 7, 2014.

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9:52PM on 07/09/2014

People want spectable

People aren't going to go to a theater and see a movie on a big screen just to see people talking: they can download that to their laptop or tablet. People will pay money to see a movie if it a spectacle and that means special effects and that means CGI and that means making a movie digitally. The future of cinema is blockbusters with special effects simply because the options (theater, Cable TV, DVD, direct download, torrent) .are so varied nowadays. You can even watch a movie for free at a
People aren't going to go to a theater and see a movie on a big screen just to see people talking: they can download that to their laptop or tablet. People will pay money to see a movie if it a spectacle and that means special effects and that means CGI and that means making a movie digitally. The future of cinema is blockbusters with special effects simply because the options (theater, Cable TV, DVD, direct download, torrent) .are so varied nowadays. You can even watch a movie for free at a library.
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6:27PM on 07/09/2014

Right on

Anchorman 2 a prime example. Cinematically, that movie looked terrible. Movies just don't look the same anymore and it continues to get worse.
Anchorman 2 a prime example. Cinematically, that movie looked terrible. Movies just don't look the same anymore and it continues to get worse.
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5:14PM on 07/09/2014
Double Post.
Double Post.
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5:14PM on 07/09/2014
I respect Nolan and his views surrounding the state of film but honestly, he's sounding like a complete Luddite here. The fact that he keeps neglecting some filmmakers don't necessarily have the cash to fork out and shoot on film is completely ludicrous -- especially for student/up-and-coming filmmakers. I've shot on film before and although the quality can be very impressive at times, the process itself is difficult. It cost so much for the printing alone that it discourages you from ever
I respect Nolan and his views surrounding the state of film but honestly, he's sounding like a complete Luddite here. The fact that he keeps neglecting some filmmakers don't necessarily have the cash to fork out and shoot on film is completely ludicrous -- especially for student/up-and-coming filmmakers. I've shot on film before and although the quality can be very impressive at times, the process itself is difficult. It cost so much for the printing alone that it discourages you from ever touching that format in the future. If I had anything to say to him, it'd be that it doesn't matter what tool you use to make a movie. If the story and characters are well fleshed-out, and you put every effort to make a good film, you've done your job. I don't want to go to another film vs. digital debate so I'll just end it here.
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4:11PM on 07/09/2014

"No one goes to a concert to be played an MP3 on a bare stage."

Then how do you explain EDM concerts? Isn't that essentially a DJ playing digitally produced music off their laptop? And people head out in droves to those concerts. The fact is, a good movie is a good movie, no matter what medium it's projected on.
Then how do you explain EDM concerts? Isn't that essentially a DJ playing digitally produced music off their laptop? And people head out in droves to those concerts. The fact is, a good movie is a good movie, no matter what medium it's projected on.
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2:30PM on 07/09/2014
Tarantino has been making blanket statements about film vs digital for awhile. At first I thought he was being one of those old fogey vinyl is better music type of things. But he recently elaborated and it sounds a lot like Nolan's viewpoint. It said something along the lines of "If they are going to show an old western on film, that's something I'm interested in. If they are just showing it digitally than I'll just stay home because my Criterion DVD works just fine." I get that and the mp3
Tarantino has been making blanket statements about film vs digital for awhile. At first I thought he was being one of those old fogey vinyl is better music type of things. But he recently elaborated and it sounds a lot like Nolan's viewpoint. It said something along the lines of "If they are going to show an old western on film, that's something I'm interested in. If they are just showing it digitally than I'll just stay home because my Criterion DVD works just fine." I get that and the mp3 analogy. But by the same token, I don't see it having much effect on the artists directly. Probably just the theaters and the cinema-going experience in general. While I'd love to preserve that experience, I'd say it is the more expendable part of filmmaking. Allowing some of the bigger, bloated, expensive multiplexes to fail might lead to more smaller theaters popping up.
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2:23PM on 07/09/2014
I've got a great idea for a movie a la "The Trip". Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and maybe some guest spots by other noted auteurs, hanging out and getting drunk whilst bemoaning the state of movies.

And I'm not trying to be cynical in this post, I mean I really would watch it if someone made this movie.
I've got a great idea for a movie a la "The Trip". Chris Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and maybe some guest spots by other noted auteurs, hanging out and getting drunk whilst bemoaning the state of movies.

And I'm not trying to be cynical in this post, I mean I really would watch it if someone made this movie.
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2:11PM on 07/09/2014

Hmmm...

I agree that digital helps artists get films made easier than when the only way to go was to shoot on film. I've benefited from digital. My only problem is that because it's so much easier to make a film for less, we're getting below average content more than ever. And these below average films flood the VOD market, basically giving their films away (most of the time) just to say they got distribution. I think that will hurt many independent filmmakers who are really trying to tell a story and
I agree that digital helps artists get films made easier than when the only way to go was to shoot on film. I've benefited from digital. My only problem is that because it's so much easier to make a film for less, we're getting below average content more than ever. And these below average films flood the VOD market, basically giving their films away (most of the time) just to say they got distribution. I think that will hurt many independent filmmakers who are really trying to tell a story and show it to the masses, while also trying to turn a little profit.
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1:12PM on 07/09/2014

You're better than this joblo

This is a confusing article missing context for the quotes. All the quotes were sourced from deadline which didn't do any better at presenting the argument. Deadline took the quotes from a full Wall Street journal article written entirely by Nolan himself. This is a summary of a summary of that article
This is a confusing article missing context for the quotes. All the quotes were sourced from deadline which didn't do any better at presenting the argument. Deadline took the quotes from a full Wall Street journal article written entirely by Nolan himself. This is a summary of a summary of that article
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1:10PM on 07/09/2014

Hmmm...

I agree that digital helps artists get films made easier than when the only way to go was to shoot on film. I've benefited from digital. My only problem is that because it's so much easier to make a film for less, we're getting below average content more than ever. And these below average films flood the VOD market, basically giving their films away (most of the time) just to say they got distribution. I think that will hurt many independent filmmakers who are really trying to tell a story and
I agree that digital helps artists get films made easier than when the only way to go was to shoot on film. I've benefited from digital. My only problem is that because it's so much easier to make a film for less, we're getting below average content more than ever. And these below average films flood the VOD market, basically giving their films away (most of the time) just to say they got distribution. I think that will hurt many independent filmmakers who are really trying to tell a story and show it to the masses, while also trying to turn a little profit.
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1:10PM on 07/09/2014
What's with mentioning Smith in every other article this week?

Might as well have a "movie jail" with him and just pile it on. Jeez.
What's with mentioning Smith in every other article this week?

Might as well have a "movie jail" with him and just pile it on. Jeez.
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1:09PM on 07/09/2014
Filmmakers and studios are polar opposites and yet are a necessary partnership. Studios care about making money. Pure and simple. Filmmakers also want to make money, but many more are concerned with telling a story and sharing their artistic vision. The studios are going to make sure things go their way so that they can keep making money. If that means ONLY releasing blockbusters in theaters, then that's what will happen. As a video maker myself, the digital revolution has been a
Filmmakers and studios are polar opposites and yet are a necessary partnership. Studios care about making money. Pure and simple. Filmmakers also want to make money, but many more are concerned with telling a story and sharing their artistic vision. The studios are going to make sure things go their way so that they can keep making money. If that means ONLY releasing blockbusters in theaters, then that's what will happen. As a video maker myself, the digital revolution has been a blessing. It has allowed me to make stuff that I want to and given me access to quality that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise. If you want your stuff to play in a theater, you will have to play the studio's game. If you want to make a personal movie, just do it and hope it finds an audience through other means.
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1:06PM on 07/09/2014

"no one goes to a concert to be played an MP3 on a bare stage"

I'm sorry Mr. Nolan, I love everything about your career and your films, but, there's a ton of following for people who go to electronic/EDM/House concerts in this generation. You think a guy like Deadmau5 doesn't compile MP3/FLAC/etc files together to play a set? That's not the point, but unfortunately, you have to conform to the standards of generational crap. I mean, will a comoany like Kodak really willfully produce film stock? Or will they focus their company on memory cards for digital
I'm sorry Mr. Nolan, I love everything about your career and your films, but, there's a ton of following for people who go to electronic/EDM/House concerts in this generation. You think a guy like Deadmau5 doesn't compile MP3/FLAC/etc files together to play a set? That's not the point, but unfortunately, you have to conform to the standards of generational crap. I mean, will a comoany like Kodak really willfully produce film stock? Or will they focus their company on memory cards for digital cameras? Hell, even IMAX is fully converting to everything digital (whether it be projectors and slowly...cameras themselves). We all know we'll have to travel far to get to a theatre to watch Interstellar on a 70mm projector. Sure, it's a bummer that film is nearly going extinct, but what are you really gonna do? Film stock will one day be nonexistent, and I doubt studios will pay the extra cash just to have them specifically made for Nolan. Technological change is both good and bad, but at least it's helping us and making a lot of processes a lot easier...besides, some amazing films have been shot on digital. That's my two cents.
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1:01PM on 07/09/2014
I think its a bunch of crap. Digital film making, if anything, gives the artist more tools to express their artistic vision that film ever did. Film is a format and a natural evolution of film making. This has already happened to photography. My father was a professional photographer for over twenty years and he often expresses how much better and interesting work he could have achieved with today's digital format and without the cost of film and film development.

"Purists" are
I think its a bunch of crap. Digital film making, if anything, gives the artist more tools to express their artistic vision that film ever did. Film is a format and a natural evolution of film making. This has already happened to photography. My father was a professional photographer for over twenty years and he often expresses how much better and interesting work he could have achieved with today's digital format and without the cost of film and film development.

"Purists" are sometimes the guardians but more often the villains of that which they strive to protect. Some folks still treat paper books like treasure, lamenting the move to eReading while forgetting that it isn't the paper that makes them valuable but what's on the paper and that remains intact whether its in a book or on a tablet.

Art isn't about the format, but the form and I'd expect someone like Nolan to understand that.
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12:57PM on 07/09/2014
I like having physical media, as I appreciate box art and the like....but to winge about digital in a cinema context is pointless. A screening is a screening, it's nothing like a live performance.
I like having physical media, as I appreciate box art and the like....but to winge about digital in a cinema context is pointless. A screening is a screening, it's nothing like a live performance.
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12:37PM on 07/09/2014
I think digital helps artists too though. A lot of creative people who had ideas couldn't film because film was so expensive - now with digital you have a lot more smaller films that can be made.
for digital movies and comics - we are talking about space and money. First off I have 3000 dvds and they take up so much space I cannot buy anymore - so digital is the way to go here - or I stop getting movies.
same with comics - I have like 30 long boxes - they are heavy and dusty and they almost
I think digital helps artists too though. A lot of creative people who had ideas couldn't film because film was so expensive - now with digital you have a lot more smaller films that can be made.
for digital movies and comics - we are talking about space and money. First off I have 3000 dvds and they take up so much space I cannot buy anymore - so digital is the way to go here - or I stop getting movies.
same with comics - I have like 30 long boxes - they are heavy and dusty and they almost got damaged during a flood we had - so in the end I started selling off my collection and replacing it in digital.
I couldn't be happier with the digital comics - they are crisp and clear and I have them on the ipad.
technology is good!
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12:28PM on 07/09/2014
I don't fully understand his argument here. I think a big thing is that audiences need to stop giving money to certain blockbusters like transformers. I didn't see it, but I bet a lot of ppl who frequent this site did, having disliked most or all of the last films, and hearing this one way bad too. Yes as long as there's a want for it, it'll be able to get made, but by going to see shit like transformers the studios think that we want that. And then it gets even trickier with other
I don't fully understand his argument here. I think a big thing is that audiences need to stop giving money to certain blockbusters like transformers. I didn't see it, but I bet a lot of ppl who frequent this site did, having disliked most or all of the last films, and hearing this one way bad too. Yes as long as there's a want for it, it'll be able to get made, but by going to see shit like transformers the studios think that we want that. And then it gets even trickier with other blockbuster films like GIJoes, where I acknowledge they aren't good but I enjoyed them both to different degrees.
On a side note, I have a feeling that interstellar is going to be a bit of a financial bomb, and I think some Nolan backlash is coming with either this film or his next.
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12:11PM on 07/09/2014
I see where he's coming from, but I think the trade-off in accessibility vs. the "devaluation of the artist" as he puts it can be lived with, it is nowhere near the catastrophe Nolan is making it out to be. Marvel comics artist Adi Granov said something in an interview that was very eye-opening: "Nothing against digital, it's just...especially when you're an artist, a big part of the income is also from original art, because I retain the right to sell my own original art...when you do it all
I see where he's coming from, but I think the trade-off in accessibility vs. the "devaluation of the artist" as he puts it can be lived with, it is nowhere near the catastrophe Nolan is making it out to be. Marvel comics artist Adi Granov said something in an interview that was very eye-opening: "Nothing against digital, it's just...especially when you're an artist, a big part of the income is also from original art, because I retain the right to sell my own original art...when you do it all digitally, you're just eliminating a large part of your income and so it just doesn't make sense for me to do anything fully digitally because if I do it fully digitally, it's basically just like throwing away money. If that makes sense." Maybe what Nolan has to say is related to that.
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