'Star Wars: Episode IX' Director Wants to Shoot on Film, Not Digital — and in Outer Space

During the Sundance panel, Christopher Nolan also blamed film schools for the lack of accessibility to film to emerging directors: "They have to be shamed back into it."
AP Images/Invision
Colin Trevorrow

Star Wars: Episode IX will be shot on film, not digital, said Colin Trevorrow. But will it be shot in outer space?

The director of the upcoming installment stated his case on Thursday during a Sundance Film Festival panel called "Power of Story: The Art of Film" alongside Christopher Nolan and Rachel Morrison, and moderated by Alex Ross Perry.

"The only place where I tend to not be able to attach myself entirely to something shot digitally is when it's a period film. There's something in my brain that goes, 'Well, they didn't have video cameras then,'" he said. "[Film] tends to remind us of our memories, of our childhoods, the way we used to see films."

Trevorrow — who shot Jurassic World on film because "this can't look like two computers fighting, that's what we kept repeating to ourselves" — humorously noted that signing on to helm Star Wars: Episode IX "gets back to my issue of shooting digital for period films. I could never shoot Star Wars on anything but [film] because it's a period film: It happened a long time ago!"

Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens was shot on film, and Episode VIII will also be on film. The franchise's upcoming spinoff Rogue One is a digital shoot. Trevorrow said he is aiming for "scope 35 or 65" for Episode IX.

Trevorrow also said he has also asked to shoot the movie "on location" — that is, in outer space. "I asked the question, 'Is it possible for us to shoot IMAX film plates in actual space for Star Wars, and I haven't gotten an answer yet, but they've shot IMAX in space!"

"Funny enough, we had that conversation with Interstellar," said Nolan with understanding. "There's incredible footage from space now."

Nolan, a major advocate of the preservation of film, called to dissolve "this artificial industrial distinction that's been made that shooting on video is of the future and practical and is the way forward; shooting on film is impractical and of the past. It's simply not the case. … You just have to say they're different."

Trevorrow then stressed the importance of accessibility for young directors to film — "It gives you a respect for the shot and for the edit" — and called on film schools to take responsibility to do so.

"They've all dropped the ball on us," agreed Nolan. "They have to be shamed back into it. The idea that you charge what you charge in tuition, … A camera you could buy for half of a semester's tuition."

"You're not teaching that this is one of the choices, and you're not teaching the discipline that the entire film industry is based on, because we still mix in reels, we still count in frames, even if we're shooting digital. You have to understand how an Avid works," Nolan continued. "To understand how all the latest technology applied to film works, you're much better off as part of your education if you understand how film works, because that's where it comes from. The film schools really need to gear up with that."

Nolan recalled how he had to argue for the use of film since his Memento days, when he was told there would be no printing of dailies, until a line producer rearranged the numbers. He called studios' application of consumer economics to large-scale productions "facile," "absurd" and "completely untrue;" though using a Super 8 camera is more expensive than doing so with a digital camera, film's use in a theatrical release can be done in an economically efficient way.

The Interstellar filmmaker also again applauded Quentin Tarantino's ask to screen The Hateful Eight in 70mm, and defended him on its early tech glitches. "I spoke to a couple people at the screening who said, 'Yeah, the DCP didn't even look as good as the slightly wrong projection, the 70mm print beforehand," he said. "This is a filmmaker who has struggled very hard, worked very hard to really push something out there in the world to entertain people, to give them the best possible experience, and should be celebrated for that. But as soon as there's some technical hitch, it's as if it's his fault, like he built the projector.

"I had the same experience myself on one of the IMAX films I've made: there had been a press screening and the digital sound had gone out of sync with the picture. Then people asked me about it. I'm like, 'I'm the director, I'm on the projectionist. These things happen," he continued. "There's a culture around wanting to kill film where by any little hitch like that — which happens all the time in the digital world — is pointed to as some kind of proof of something."

Watch the full panel below.

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