Monday, July 30, 2012

Film is dead. Long live film.

IMAX film negative. Copyright 2012 Company Films LLC.

Is it time to stop referring to movies as “films”? This is a question I’ve been pondering since June, when I read that movie studios will cease producing film prints for major markets by the end of 2013. At the very least, should we stop referring to new movies as films? In most cases, what we’re watching these days was recorded digitally – no celluloid involved. Hardly anything in theaters or on TV is “filmed” anymore; it’s recorded to hard drives. (There are exceptions, such as ABC’s Castle, which we noted here: So this leaves me wondering if we need a new term for digital movies, or if we just refer to them simply as “movies.”

My only hesitation is that, for as long as I can remember, I have differentiated between movies that simply were made for entertainment (“movies”) and those also made with the intent to educate, inform, document and, perhaps, change the world in some small way (“films”). How would I make this distinction in the future? Fast and Furious 20 certainly is not the same form of entertainment as March of the Penguins

I posed this question recently on Quora. (Please add your two cents: Chris Keath, director of production workflows at Current TV, was kind enough to answer. He said: “I see no need. ‘Movie’ and ‘Film’ are already more or less inter-changeable terms for a general public point of view. It may fall out of fashion over time, but I find the whole notion of being able to intentionally remove a common definition from the public lexicon to be pretty suspect.”

I am inclined to agree. For now, let’s leave well enough alone. I suppose we may not need an ideological push in the direction of referring to all films as movies; it may eventually happen without our consent. As our technologies change, so does our vocabulary. For example, we don’t tape our favorite music or TV programs anymore; we simply record them. And many people have taken to using the acronym DVR as a verb. (“I DVR’d that show so I can watch it later.”) So until we’re all DVR’ing documentary “movies” to our web-enabled wristwatches and eyeglasses, you can find me at the multiplex viewing the latest silent “film” from France. 

There are some in Hollywood looking to make a distinction as well – or least trying to make sense of how this digital transition will affect their business and their lives. For instance, actor Keanu Reeves produced a documentary titled Side by Side, which aims to investigate the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation. According to the project's website (, "Through interviews with directors, cinematographers, film students, producers, technologists, editors, and exhibitors, Side by Side examines all aspects of filmmaking – from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive. At this moment when digital and photochemical filmmaking coexist, Side by Side explores what has been gained, what is lost, and what the future might bring."

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