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William Friedkin says studios make great filmmakers; glad 35mm is dead

06.20.2014

William Friedkin will forever be known for crafting one of the best of the genre in THE EXORCIST, and was also more recently featured in our 'Best Movie You Never Saw' column with the masterfully directed SORCERER (check out the article here). Friedkin has been playing it pretty low-key lately, having directed KILLER JOE (2011) and BUG (2006), respectively, but he still has a hell of an opinion on the industry. In a recent interview, he spoke out against the 35mm format and directors of this day and age. You can check out the whole article here, but I've included some highlights below.

In regards to filmmakers who prefer shooting on 35mm:

I'm glad 35 mm is dead. Its time has come and gone. It was a very long step on the way toward perfection. If these guys are nostalgic for 35, what about the old, original negative that wasn't safety film and could burn up in the camera or projector? Films began with completely different kinds of stock and all through the history of silent film right up until very recently, 35 mm has been a standard, but there's several reasons why it was only a step on the ladder in the same way that music used to be recorded on wire. They used to record music on wire recordings, then many years later came the 78 rpm, which was loaded with scratch noise. And then 33 1/3, 45 pm, then cassettes, and now CDs where the sound is perfectly recorded and there is no noise. I have no nostalgia for the old stuff and it's the same with film.

His opinion on what makes for a great filmmaker:

What made for great filmmakers in the days before I came along was the fact that they worked under the studio system. They'd make a lot more films than any of us will make, with the possible exception of Woody Allen, and they were able to hone their skills on different subjects. They would shoot a musical, a drama, a comedy, and keep working. They were working people. They were not artistes or auteurs, and that's what made for a great filmmaker. You hear about the great films they made, but you don't hear about the stiffs that went down the tubes.

If he's ever come close to making a Sci-Fi flick:

I never have come close. I've only made 17 films in 50 years. I've done some TV and documentaries. There are guys who have made 30 or 40 films in the same time. I wish I had the dexterity and flexibility of a guy like Woody Allen, who has a flood of ideas. Some are good, some are great, some – to me – are not that good, but he keeps working and that's what's important. I never had a sci-fi story, and as I think about it now, I don't read any sci-fi. I've tried. I've tried Ray Bradbury's stuff and found it unreadable. Even Philip K. Dick, from whom a number of great films have been made, isn't for me.

Reading the interview, the topic of great filmmakers was born out of the limitations 35mm brings forth. Arguably, limitation can force an artist into thinking a little more creatively. A popular example of this is JAWS. The shark wouldn't work most of the time, forcing Spielberg to use music and POV shots to his advantage. That helped to make the film! While the ease of use of a digital format over celluloid can't be denied, does that actually change the end product? What about a visual aesthetic? David Fincher has been making beautiful digital films for years now (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, SOCIAL NETWORK), but can it really top a pristine 35mm print?

Do you feel Friedkin has a point, in regards to studios creating great filmmakers? How about the 35mm vrs digital format war?

Source: movies.com

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6:18PM on 06/22/2014

Hogwash

I'll bet that 75% of the people who complain about digital vs. 35 couldn't make the distinction if they were tested.
I'll bet that 75% of the people who complain about digital vs. 35 couldn't make the distinction if they were tested.
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4:43PM on 06/20/2014
Bradbury unreadable???
Bradbury unreadable???
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-1
4:23PM on 06/20/2014
Spare me. The guy's done garbage since To Live and Die in LA, with Killer Joe being a mild blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory. Jade? Hunted? Bug? His episodes of CSI? I'm not discarding his fantastic contributions to film during the 70's,the guy certainly left his mark, but his comments feel completely out of touch. Plus, it's the studio system that's preventing him from making more movies today! And as for Fincher, Seven and Fight Club will always look better than Social
Spare me. The guy's done garbage since To Live and Die in LA, with Killer Joe being a mild blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory. Jade? Hunted? Bug? His episodes of CSI? I'm not discarding his fantastic contributions to film during the 70's,the guy certainly left his mark, but his comments feel completely out of touch. Plus, it's the studio system that's preventing him from making more movies today! And as for Fincher, Seven and Fight Club will always look better than Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo any day of the week...
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4:07PM on 06/20/2014
Oh and on the subject of studio involvement,I believe if they don't trust a director's vision enough to stay out of his/her way, don't hire him/her
Oh and on the subject of studio involvement,I believe if they don't trust a director's vision enough to stay out of his/her way, don't hire him/her
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4:03PM on 06/20/2014
As I always say when this comes up: When Photoshop came along we didn't throw out the paints and canvases. I will always prefer the look of film myself, just I like I'll prefer a real painting (and thats coming from a Photoshop artist)
As I always say when this comes up: When Photoshop came along we didn't throw out the paints and canvases. I will always prefer the look of film myself, just I like I'll prefer a real painting (and thats coming from a Photoshop artist)
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2:14PM on 06/20/2014

Maybe not the best movie to compare

I saw Hobo with a Shotgun in digital and a month later saw it on 35mm. To me, digital doesn't come close to how well the 35mm looks for that film.
I saw Hobo with a Shotgun in digital and a month later saw it on 35mm. To me, digital doesn't come close to how well the 35mm looks for that film.
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12:58PM on 06/20/2014
Yea well 35 mm isn't dead. Plenty still use it! Tarantino will always use it. Jurassic world and Star Wars ep 7 is using it! Scorsese still uses it sometimes. With everyone yearning for nostalgia these days ppl will start going back to 35 mm I hope.
Yea well 35 mm isn't dead. Plenty still use it! Tarantino will always use it. Jurassic world and Star Wars ep 7 is using it! Scorsese still uses it sometimes. With everyone yearning for nostalgia these days ppl will start going back to 35 mm I hope.
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12:55PM on 06/20/2014
Yeah, he makes good points. I don't really have a preference of 35mm or digital, as long as the filmmakers don't get enamored by the new technology (*cough*Lucas*cough*), but simply use them as additional tools for the purpose of telling a good story. As for his comments about the studio system, I wish studios still operated that way. I suppose there's too much money at stake these days to give filmmakers the opportunity to make 'practice' films to hone their craft, which is a shame. We
Yeah, he makes good points. I don't really have a preference of 35mm or digital, as long as the filmmakers don't get enamored by the new technology (*cough*Lucas*cough*), but simply use them as additional tools for the purpose of telling a good story. As for his comments about the studio system, I wish studios still operated that way. I suppose there's too much money at stake these days to give filmmakers the opportunity to make 'practice' films to hone their craft, which is a shame. We should be focusing on advancing technology to reduce the costs of big budget films, allowing filmmakers and studios to take more risks, release more R-rated movies, etc.
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12:49PM on 06/20/2014
While I certainly agree digital brings convenience (as an aspiring film maker who is finishing up the 5th draft of a screenplay and starting to raise funds I'm very aware and appreciative of this), higher quality in many ways and accessibility, there is definitely a particular warmth present in 35mm but basically what it boils down to is resolution being the visible detail in an image. Since pixels are the smallest point of information in the digital world, it would seem that comparing pixel
While I certainly agree digital brings convenience (as an aspiring film maker who is finishing up the 5th draft of a screenplay and starting to raise funds I'm very aware and appreciative of this), higher quality in many ways and accessibility, there is definitely a particular warmth present in 35mm but basically what it boils down to is resolution being the visible detail in an image. Since pixels are the smallest point of information in the digital world, it would seem that comparing pixel count is a good way to compare relative resolution.
Film is analog so there are no real "pixels." However, based on converted measures, a 35mm frame has 3 to 12 million pixels, depending on the stock, lens, and shooting conditions. An HD frame has 2 million pixels, measured using 1920 x 1080 scan lines. With this difference, 35mm appears vastly superior to HD.
This is the argument most film purists use. The truth is, pixels are not the way to compare resolution. The human eye cannot see individual pixels beyond a short distance. What we can see are lines.
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12:43PM on 06/20/2014

What I don't like is the idea of removing the option to even shoot on film.

If someone wants to film their movie on 16mm, or 35mm they should have access to it. The goal is not always for sharpness or clarity, it's part of the 'feel' of film.
If someone wants to film their movie on 16mm, or 35mm they should have access to it. The goal is not always for sharpness or clarity, it's part of the 'feel' of film.
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12:46PM on 06/20/2014
16mm is straight garbage, 35 is beautiful. Complete death to 16!! I would keep the option open for 35, but than you're going to have to guarantee a processing lab and the constant training of people to process film.
16mm is straight garbage, 35 is beautiful. Complete death to 16!! I would keep the option open for 35, but than you're going to have to guarantee a processing lab and the constant training of people to process film.
12:40PM on 06/20/2014

As a company man, I completely agree with him in regards to the studio system.

All Hail Friedkin. If the studio system was around now, we would be seeing a great mix of films from different filmmakers unless they wanted to finance the films themselves. I'm nostalgic about film, but I've shot in digital and on 16mm-(not as good or even close to 35)-but it's just more cost effective and you don't have to see dailies the next day to work out the kinks. On digital what you see is what you get, you don't have to worry of everything is going to be perfect and try to perfect it
All Hail Friedkin. If the studio system was around now, we would be seeing a great mix of films from different filmmakers unless they wanted to finance the films themselves. I'm nostalgic about film, but I've shot in digital and on 16mm-(not as good or even close to 35)-but it's just more cost effective and you don't have to see dailies the next day to work out the kinks. On digital what you see is what you get, you don't have to worry of everything is going to be perfect and try to perfect it only to find out that a whole day was completely wasted and than you make an adjustment. Yes I know this was back in the early and mid 00's while going to college and we were all inexperienced but even with working with professionals I would still want to shoot it on a digital interface.
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12:40PM on 06/20/2014

Photography over digital...

Something about the process of film takes the "reality" edge off of images and video just can't compare. Maybe its the way film is burned onto a negative, I don't know, but I'm in the middle of this debate, because the freedom of digital is astounding and the opportunities it provides future filmmakers is unparallelled. Both formats in the hands of the right people produce great work. There's just another layer of magic in the use of real film. One day, I'm sure it wont be a factor, but until
Something about the process of film takes the "reality" edge off of images and video just can't compare. Maybe its the way film is burned onto a negative, I don't know, but I'm in the middle of this debate, because the freedom of digital is astounding and the opportunities it provides future filmmakers is unparallelled. Both formats in the hands of the right people produce great work. There's just another layer of magic in the use of real film. One day, I'm sure it wont be a factor, but until then, film wins.
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12:39PM on 06/20/2014
Funny thing is that all movies shot on digital has to be transferred to film for archival purposes because digital has a very short shelf life. Hard drives only last 5 years +/-

Also, everything digital plays by Moore's law. In just the last 10 years most digital films have already become obsolete technology that can't fully utilize today's ultra HD standards. 4K has made 2K obsolete, and 1080p is quickly becoming the new SD. Nearly every digital film shot today was shot at 2k resolution
Funny thing is that all movies shot on digital has to be transferred to film for archival purposes because digital has a very short shelf life. Hard drives only last 5 years +/-

Also, everything digital plays by Moore's law. In just the last 10 years most digital films have already become obsolete technology that can't fully utilize today's ultra HD standards. 4K has made 2K obsolete, and 1080p is quickly becoming the new SD. Nearly every digital film shot today was shot at 2k resolution (on the Arri Alexa). That means these films will never look 100% on the new 4K TVs that are replacing the old HD standard. Film, on the other hand, has no resolution. Film is a physical image, and it's resolution is limited only by the technology that can scan it. Right now film can be scanned at 8k resolution. In the future, it will only improve. That means Star Wars Episode III (2005) will look like ass on a 4K TV, but Star Wars Episode IV (1977) can be viewed in pristine 4K quality. Film is future proof.
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12:43PM on 06/20/2014
I always liked the look on the Thompson Viper. But I agree with your very well thought out argument, I still prefer digital though.
I always liked the look on the Thompson Viper. But I agree with your very well thought out argument, I still prefer digital though.
4:12PM on 06/20/2014
Very good point. They can't let them just sit or they go bad and run them so they dont just sit there too much and they go bad
Very good point. They can't let them just sit or they go bad and run them so they dont just sit there too much and they go bad
12:32PM on 06/20/2014
Mann has a point. Technology always moves forward. Do I miss VHS or Laserdisc? From time to time but modern DVD and Blu Ray give much better picture and sound. And possibly in the future we would have a technology that is even beyond digital or Blu Ray.
Mann has a point. Technology always moves forward. Do I miss VHS or Laserdisc? From time to time but modern DVD and Blu Ray give much better picture and sound. And possibly in the future we would have a technology that is even beyond digital or Blu Ray.
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12:10PM on 06/20/2014
Preach on. 35mm will be dead one of these days and digital will look just as good, if not better.
Preach on. 35mm will be dead one of these days and digital will look just as good, if not better.
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1:00PM on 06/20/2014
No it won't.
No it won't.
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