Christopher Nolan Urges Hollywood to Step Up Efforts to Preserve Film

Christopher Nolan Horizontal - H 2014
AP Images

Christopher Nolan Horizontal - H 2014

In February, the Hollywood studios inked deals with Kodak to keep film alive, for at least the foreseeable future. But speaking Sunday at an event presented by the Getty Research Institute, film proponent Christopher Nolan warned that more still needs to be done to preserve the medium and argued that Hollywood shouldn’t position film against new digital technologies but rather find a place where they can co-exist.

Nolan and visual artist Tacita Dean argued these points during a panel moderated by Kerry Brougher, director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. “We need film projectors and film prints — forever,” Nolan said, relating that film is a different medium compared with digital, and the issue comes down to creative choice. “If you want the choice, it’s very important to support film now. Filmmakers are going out of their way to shoot film and talk about it. We want to see a world where there's a choice; it’s important to preserve it for future generations.”

Dean discussed film at risk in the art world. "Art institutions should project a piece of art so that it can be seen in the medium that it was made. We have to persuade some institutions," she said. "We had two mediums [film and digital] and they want us to go back to using just one of them. ... [Creative and aesthetic differences] have been completely lost in this discussion about image quality."

Read more Film Fighters, All in One Frame

Nolan also feels a sense of urgency to present film as a proven long-term archival medium. "We don't have a uniform standard for preservation and archiving for the studios, at the Academy or at archival institutions," he warned. "There's no stable digital archiving medium, [at least not] in the immediate future. If there is, it would need to be tested for decades.

"The library value of film is extremely important,” Nolan reminded the capacity crowd. "Preserving films photochemically is essential." Pointing out that Hollywood is already starting to use 4K and discussing 8K resolution, he added that film archiving "works and is resolution independent ... and future proof."

As to projection, North American theaters have almost entirely converted to digital, but Nolan argued that quality “35mm projection can be a selling point for a theater.” Citing his latest film, Interstellar, he reported that theaters that showed the movie on film “did incredibly well. … We spoke about it in our advertising."

During the session, Nolan also addressed the argument that film is more expensive than digital for cinematography. "Whatever your budget level is, what you are spending money on is people and their time, overwhelmingly,” he said. “The idea that you can't afford it [is a misconception].”

Read more Angelina Jolie, Christopher Nolan and Director A-List on Their Toughest Decisions

The program ended with Jeff Clarke — CEO of Kodak, the last remaining maker of motion picture film — joining the panelists on stage. He asserted: “Kodak is all in to film now. I couldn’t say that six months ago. … We still lose money, but we are committed because we believe this is important artistically and that this is a business that will come back.“

Twitter: @CGinLA