Soon There Will Be No More Filmmakers

“Film is dead. Get over it.” ~ Me

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a quaint and somewhat satirical blog post about the different names that we filmmakers/videographers/et.al. call each other. (If you missed it, click here to read it and catch up on all the fun.) There was some great discussion going on in the comments. But I must say I was quite surprised at the number of people who commented that one could not call oneself a “filmmaker” unless one actually shot on film. As in celluloid.

Alas, Oscar winning director Peter Jackson is no longer a filmmaker. He's shooting "The Hobbit" on a digital camera. <gasp!>

I’m shocked that anyone would make such a claim. That means that David Fincher (who shot The Social Network on the RED) is no longer a filmmaker. That means the Steven Soderberg (who shot Contagion on the RED) is no longer a filmmaker. That means acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins (the go-to cinematographer for the Coen Brothers and who DP’d the soon to be released Justin Timberlake sci-fi action thriller In Time, which was shot on the Arri Alexa) is no longer a filmmaker. George Lucas (who shot all three Star Wars prequels and his latest film “Redtails” on the CineAlta, with 2nd unit work shot on a 5D Mark II!) is no longer a filmmaker. (Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about your feelings on those prequels). Peter Jackson. Jim Cameron. Michael Mann. David Lynch. Paul Greengrass. The Hughes Brothers. And I could go on and on. I guess, according to some people, none of these guys are filmmakers anymore because most of them now predominantly shoot on digital media. I guess, it won’t be long before there will NO MORE FILMMAKERS at all since it’s only a matter of time before film is no longer the primary medium for feature films or television. Don’t believe me? Maybe you missed this interesting article from Creative Cow (a way more reputable source than little ol’ me).

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the sentiment. They want to appreciate and acknowledge the masters who have paved the way for technology and art to lead us to where we are today. They want to give credit to the incredible amount of time and talent that is necessary to create motion pictures on celluloid. They don’t want to trivialize what has been a revered art form for over 100 years. Trust me. I get it.

But frankly, I think it’s a greater insult to the thousands of filmmakers today (whether in Hollywood blowing up the big screen, or on YouTube and Vimeo garnering hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of views) to say they are NOT filmmakers just because their weapon of choice shoots in 0’s and 1’s instead of on film. Their accomplishment is no less. Their talent is no less. And the energy and time from their team of collaborators is definitely no less.

Story Rules

I wish filmmakers of all kinds would spend as much time and energy fighting over and debating story as they do gear. If they did, this world would be such a better place. I’m totally serious. Imagine if every video you saw on YouTube or Vimeo was something that actually grabbed you and viscerally moved you. Whether to laugh, to cry, or to be inspired. Just imagine…

Nah! That’s a stupid idea! I’d then run out of great topics to blog about.

So. I’ll say it again. Film is dead. Get over it.

Okay. Commence the debating.😉

26 thoughts on “Soon There Will Be No More Filmmakers

  1. Film is not dead. It is in use. something / someone, is dead when it no longer exists. Film is on the endangered spieces path. what it gives us is different from the pristine unnatural modern look of hd video. We could protect rather than write off as history. the video world strives to copy it anyway – 24p, shallow depth of field, grain… why not shoot that next corporate spot on a Arri S, or that next music video on a Bolex. See the crowd be amazed.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I know technically film is not dead. That is me just being facetious.🙂 But, I definitely believe it has one foot in the grave. In five years (or less) an overwhelming majority (if not all) feature film and TV work will be on digital video. I know that kind of statement has been made before, but in no other time in the industry have the dynamics been as they are now. When was the last time you read a blog post or Engadget news item about the latest and greatest film camera or film stock coming out? What does it tell you that three major film camera manufacturers are quietly ceasing development of new cameras? The writing has already been on the wall, but now it’s practically a book.

  2. Yah…I personally call myself a cinematographer more often than anything, which simply refers to the art or technique of motion-picture photography. Much like a photographer is a photographer, no matter what format they shoot. There are no medium-format makers. There are no 35mm makers. There are no digital makers. Just photographers that use several different mediums.

    I will however refer to our “cinematic creations” as FILMS though. I don’t believe that term refers directly to something shot on film, but rather a motion picture story. I mean, 95% of what showcases at FILM festivals was shot at least partially on digital formats. Should we start calling those “Digital Movie Festivals”?

    A film is the final product. Much like how bands release records. A record is the final product. It no longer refers to a vinyl rendition of a bands music. No one realses “CDs” or “Digital Streams”. They release records.

    So having said that, I have no problem with being described as a filmmaker. We do also shoot on film formats when it’s the right fit, but I don’t think that specifically is what allows us to be called filmmakers. I believe the fact that we actually MAKE FILMS (cinematic, moving picture stories) constitutes the right to be called filmmakers.

    1. Excellent analogy with the music industry Aaron. There are other examples of terms we use from the film days that really don’t apple. Reels are not really “reels.” “Bins” in NLEs are taken from when you actually would put films in bins while editing. B-roll is not really a second roll of film used for cover shots. And as such, a “film” no longer refers to the medium films are shot on.

  3. I don’t disagree. The fact that most everyone is shooting on digital video or will – tells me that there are great benifits in doing so – less cost, less hassle in production, and certainly in post-production, and visually a new different look. etc. But, what are we losing if film dies? There are certain unique offerings of every medium (eg. water color, or oil paint) And of course, problems as well. Discussing these details may be revealing of why we choose one medium over another. (besides it being new, or cheaper) Why artistically, or story-wise, are we chosing this format. Because as filmmakers you have a choice. By not considering it you are just shooting the way everyone else is.

    1. Thanks for the follow up. I probably sound more flippant than I really am. I am not happy that film as a medium is dying. Admittedly I’ve never worked in it, so I’m not as attached as others, but I appreciate the aesthetic and what it has over digital video. In answer to your question, I think some may say we’ll be losing that “look” that film brings. But I think there are more and more developments in digital video production that will make up for that difference. Some also say film is a better archival tool. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

      1. From what I have heard, celluloid film has a 100+ year shelf life for archiving… unfortunately, we don’t really have that with any digital medium. This is really the only idea that I would miss about film. We have way to many formats with digital. Hard Disk Drives have been around for quite some time, but even those can’t keep the same connections or guts because technology advances so quickly. IDE>SATA>? – HDD>SSD>? Betacam>Mini DV>P2 cards>SxS Cards>CF cards>SD cards>?

        I guess the reality is, we will just have to learn to cope with advancements in technology.

  4. I’m okay with the term “filmmaker” going away. Don’t get me wrong, I use it all the time to describe myself. I get paid to make “films” therefore I’m a “professional filmmaker.” Frankly, I think I use the term as a crutch sometimes. It’s enough to convince myself that I’m doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing which is to make movies. “filmmaker” has become a very vague term that embodies a large group of people both professional, amateur, hobbyist, and faker alike. I think Moviemaker is a much stronger term. Think about it, someone who makes things with film would be considered a filmmaker, this embodies a very broad group, but a moviemaker is someone who is making a movie, and that is very few of the aforementioned people (including myself).I am fine calling myself a filmmaker because I can get away with it on a bunch of technicalities (somehow), but unless I was actually working on creating a movie (my real passion) then I would hesitate to tell someone “I’m a moviemaker.” I think we should all be striving for something bigger that “filmmaker,” to call ourselves something we’d be afraid to call ourselves currently. I’m as guilty as the next person for hiding behind the term, but I suggest we attempt to challenge ourselves and work for the title we really want and not worry what happens to the title we settle for.

    1. I like your comment about striving for something bigger. To go for something we’re afraid to call ourselves currently. That is a wonderful way to approach any creative career. I don’t think though you have to consider yourself as “hiding” behind the term filmmaker. You are a filmmaker. Be proud.🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. When I hear the term “movie maker” it instantly makes me think of feature films… sorry, feature length movies. 90 minute story driven motion picture films/videos that are shown on TV or at movie theaters.

      With that being said, who’s to say calling yourself a “movie maker” is wrong? I think if that’s what you want to be called, you should go for it!

  5. Personally i like to say that i’m an Image maker my goal is to tell a story and make images in a variety of format the business is changing i’m 38 years old and i learned on film the technology is growing that fast that when you mastered a technique someone just invented an app that can do the exact same thing (if not better) in a shorter time, even Steven Spielberg who fought hard to stay with film did Tintin with performance capture is he a filmmaker ? a stage director ?
    i like Movie maker and let’s be honest calling ourselves Filmmaker is a little bit for the prestige…

    1. Hey Morgan. I disagree that calling ourselves a “filmmaker” is prestige. It may conjure up an image in the average Joe’s mind that is slightly different than the kind of filmmaker you may be, but I don’t think it’s just about prestige.

      There’s no way I’d call myself “Movie Maker.” Reminds me of Windows Movie Maker.😉

      1. Yeah, it’s all relative. I don’t think I’d necessarily ever really use the term “movie maker” either. I’d probably prefer to say “i make movies” or call myself a “director” or still just use “filmmaker.” Mostly I’m saying we shouldn’t be settling for considering ourselves any set term but striving to be doing exactly what it is we want to be doing. There’s nothing wrong with being a “filmmaker” in any sense of the word, the only important thing is that you’re actively pursuing or doing exactly what it is you want to be doing.

      2. Eh Ron totally agree but in France i cannot translate Filmmaker we called us director (Realisateur) to be honest i recently change my typo from Video to Film to make people think that they cannot have a 2 hour long video with me so there is not that much confusion do you think that it makes a difference to be called a filmmaker for wedding film or Corporate jobs ?

        1. Good question Morgan. I know a lot of wedding videographer who call themselves wedding filmmakers. Most corporate shooters I know (including myself) call themselves producer (or some version of that).

          Your point about French is interesting. I wonder how this topic is considered in non-English speaking countries.

          Thanks for commenting.

  6. Those that don’t shoot film are always the first to say that it’s dead (cough…cough.. Philip Bloom)🙂 Have any of these great directors or DP’s said anything negative about film? Not that I know of. It’s because digital and film are tools, not formats to live and die beside. The reality is that film is a medium just like any other – to declare it’s death or become anti-film only limits your ability to breathe life and authenticity into your story. 8-10yrs ago I would have agreed with those that said that you aren’t a filmmaker unless you at least know how to shoot film…. but the game has changed quickly… and for the better! I think this issue is problematic because there is a commoditization of sorts happening in the filmmaking world with everyone having access to inexpensive tools and online distribution such as vimeo. “Everyone’s a filmmaker” Where do we draw the line on what makes a filmmaker and what doesn’t? Is there a line that can be drawn?

    1. Hey there K*. As I mentioned about, my delcaration about the death of film is more for melodrama and being facetious. I know it’s not dead…yet. And I’m not saying anything negative about film at all. In fact, as I mentioned to someone else, I love the aesthetic of film. I’m commenting on people who say you have to shoot on film to be considered a “filmmaker.”

      And you’re right about the commoditization of the industry. But the question is not about the quality of the films. Ed Wood was indeed a filmmaker, despite the fact he’s credited with making what’s considered the worse film of all time. How good someone is is a topic for another blog post.

      Speaking of which, ahem, didn’t you say you’d do a guest blog post for me?🙂 This sounds like as good as topic as any for Ms. * to do a guest blog post on. Whaddaya say?🙂

      All those in favor of Kristen* wrting a guest blog post on this topic, say “aye.” “AYE!”

    2. Hey there K*. As I mentioned about, my delcaration about the death of film is more for melodrama and being facetious. I know it’s not dead…yet. And I’m not saying anything negative about film at all. In fact, as I mentioned to someone else, I love the aesthetic of film. I’m commenting on people who say you have to shoot on film to be considered a “filmmaker.”

      And you’re right about the commoditization of the industry. But the question is not about the quality of the films. Ed Wood was indeed a filmmaker, despite the fact he’s credited with making what’s considered the worse film of all time. How good someone is is a topic for another blog post.

      Speaking of which, ahem, didn’t you say you’d do a guest blog post for me?🙂 This sounds like as good as topic as any for Ms. * to do a guest blog post on. Whaddaya say?🙂

      All those in favor of Kristen* wrting a guest blog post on this topic, say “aye.” “AYE!”

  7. I consider myself a Cinematographer. When I started in film, I would shoot a film, or documentary, and then I would give the footage to an Editor. later on When I started shooting digital and also editing, Is it then that I became a Film maker?
    It doesn’t matter if you shoot in Digital or film you are still a Cinematographer, but a Film maker? The idea of a film maker for me is one that is involved through out the whole process of creating a Film, from writing, producing, directing / photographing. Somebody like you mentioned, Soderberg, Jackson, Cameron. But would you call Roger Deakins a filmmaker or a Cinematographer.
    Ron, as you know I love film as much as I love new technology, For me when I hear that film is dead, it makes me sad that you can so easily dismiss the importance of film. Film is our history as filmmakers, is our history dead? are canvas and oil paints dead because we do everything in photoshop? is Vinyl dead because we listen everything on our MP players? I just don’t understand the rush from so many people involved in the art of film, to so readily declare that film is dead.

    1. You entiendo mi amigo. But I’m really just being a smart-ass with that line.🙂. I’m cuutting to the chase. I love the aesthetic of film and the history that comes with it. I don’t mean to belittle that. It just got so frustrating to read so many comments from people saying to be considered a real filmmaker you had to shoot on film.

  8. A film to me has always been a “series of motion pictures”. I don’t feel it makes a difference in what medium/format the motion pictures were created. If you are a maker or creator of these images, then to me, you are a filmmaker. I enjoy drawing with charcoal, I am by no means Michelangelo, but I still consider myself an artist.

  9. On the subject of film vs everything else … it’s a moniker.. “film” means you are trying to pursuade/evoke emotion with images…. Everything else is documenting fact.

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