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this film is. It's about marking a turning point in the history of
cinema and raising awareness about it. Yes, it's a subject that's been
discussed and bitched about for what, 10 years now, ever since Lucas
proclaimed that film is dead. But maybe for the first time it brings
all the opposite opinions together. Side by side. (Loved the editing -
it was just like watching a tennis match) And for people like myself,
'civilian' moviegoers who while watching a movie often found themselves
forgetting about the popcorn and instead wondering 'how it's made?',
this film is like Christmas in June :) I mean, I've read a bit about
film making; I've come across some of the terms and looked up their
definition; I knew what a DP does; I've scratched a bit the surface of
the whole wide world of movie making. But to have the main processes
explained clearly, precisely and in a language I could understand, all
this in a one-and-a-half hour film, was like... like attending film
school but without the (almost always compulsory) elitism and snobbery
And watching the documentary at a film festival was a special experience per se. It was shown in a small old-fashioned theater, with creaking seats and wood floors and velvet curtains and no air conditioning; and old theater where once I used to go watch old cinematheque movies in black-and-white. There was a bitter-sweet irony about it. The audience was formed mainly by film festival guests and film students; people with technical background in movie making, and a few lost souls like myself, who just wanted to watch the documentary we read so much about. And it was a joy to see them react to the technical jokes; to hear a few of them hoot when on the screen someone was talking about the operator and the DP losing their god-like status on the set, or to hear them snicker when Cameron rhetorically asks Reeves 'you've been on a few sets in your life, haven't you?'
It's a film about nostalgia and inevitability, with a very light note of sadness.
But this was just the first date, and I'm quite taken with the film, so I'd really like to get to know it better. You know, take it on a second date, then a third. I'll take it to the movies, the old-fashioned way ;) I'll wine it, dine it, maybe even take it on the obligatory weekend to Paris. It could be the beginning of a long lasting relationship. So, when is the DVD gonna be released ? ;) :)
Film is dead, or is it? With major distributors in USA going digital
this year in lieu of film, the death knell has been sounded that
perhaps it's not too long before celluloid film projection is a thing
of the past, and with it comes digital filmmaking, production,
distribution and projection. But does it have to be that way, and can
both mediums co-exist to satisfy the various sections of the creative
market? Produced by Justin Szlasa and Keanu Reeves, the latter who was
here in Hong Kong for a masterclass, Side by Side is the documentary
written and directed by Christopher Kenneally, that deep dives into
both sides of the equation.
And who better than to interview those who have dabbled with both mediums? What made this documentary a compelling watch is Keanneally's ability to cover an entire range of topics related to this issue, tracing the history of both mediums, especially the digital one, and giving depth into backgrounds, reasons and rationale taken from those who have dealt with both old and new technologies. Having Keanu Reeves turn into the interviewer works in both levels of attracting the casual viewer into watching this, as well as on the interview front, made it easy for filmmakers to relate and open up to one of their own, as they talk about the medium, how it impacts filmmaking, and from acting in front of the camera, the camera technologies themselves, and the case for distribution and exhibition, weighing in on the pros and cons at every stage.
These filmmakers are none other than the who's who of Hollywood luminaries, such as James Cameron, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Robert Rodriguez, Christopher Nolan, Danny Boyle, Richard Linklaer, David Lynch, Joel Schumacher, Steven Soderbergh, Lars von Trier, and both Lana and Andy Wachowski whom Keanu Reeves made the prolific Matrix trilogy. And it's not just directors, but also containing interviews with editors and cinematographers such as one of my personal favourites Wally Pfister, who together with Nolan stand on the side of celluloid, famously resisting Warner Bros' attempt to turn their lucrative Dark Knight projects into the digital or 3D formats.
While one may get distracted by the star studded lineup, we get to see how each are so passionate about the medium they believe in, and the compelling arguments they make for and against their case, listening from the horse's mouth of those who are in the industry, together with the satisfaction gained and challenges they face. For instance, like Fincher, digital filmmaking gave rise to cameras that can be designed to cater to the nature of the shots he had intended, without which films like The Social Network, or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, cannot achieve certain shots or have the camera angles so desired. Everyone provided their own memorable soundbites when they engage in this discourse, so much so that you'd soon find everything that's being said becoming terribly sexy and seductive in their arguments.
But Conneally does an excellent job in not allowing any one filmmaker to run away with the presentation he so decided, allowing arguments to be made and the viewer to form his own conclusion. The pace moves at breakneck speed, hardly every pausing just like how digital filmmaking has directors almost never calling it quits because the medium has run out, as you the audience will definitely find an area in which you have little knowledge of, but thanks to this film and its incredible breadth adopted for its scope, you're bound to come out of it a little bit enlightened about the entire technical process, the evolution of filmmaking technologies, as well as gain new found appreciation for those who are so passionate in their filmmaking that it's automatically shown in the final cut they put out for projection.
No film related topic was taboo, as the documentary also took a look at archival processes, which contains a little bit of an irony. If there's a flaw to this wonderfully made documentary, it will be that its focus is still inherently Hollywood's own, since there is a distinct lack of interviews and gathering of content outside of Tinseltown. Perhaps an apt follow up to this would warrant a lot more interviews to be done with filmmakers around the world, but I'm guessing most of the responses will already have been covered by the mammoth scope here (and whose filmmakers are at the forefront of technology given geeks like Cameron), and at best appear as supplemental discs should this ever be released on DVD format sometime soon. Definitely highly recommended viewing for everyone, film buffs or otherwise, with great material yet to be seen in upcoming films included as well.
"People love great stories. They love to get into a world and have an
experience. And how they get itit doesn't really matter." David Lynch
Which do you prefer: photochemical or digital projection for your movies? If you're geeky enough, you really care; if not, like me, you want a great story and characters with a crisp image that complements the theme, regardless of whether or not it's film. As for 3D, I can live without it.
Christopher Kenneally's interesting Side by Side documentary presents filmmakers like George Lucas who claim celluloid is dead and those like Christophe Nolan who vow not yet to trade his "oil paints for crayons." The film does a credible job presenting both sides with a slight edge to a future of all digital and a pessimistic take on film as an eventual curiosity.
Among the talking heads are avatars of photography and direction with an occasional producer and actress to get closer to us viewers, who are never questioned even though we are the ultimate arbiters. But the experts have valid and provocative points: the film advocates tout its warmth and color possibilities while the digital dudes trumpet the ease, low cost, and creative infinity. The film does an entertaining job of presenting the sides.
Both sides agree archiving remains a pressing and often neglected issue. Although Martin Scorsese is at the forefront of saving film, no one else has yet taken the case of digital preservation with his passion. The documentary doesn't take enough time on this issue especially since I thought something like my external hard drive would already be in the mix. Not. Apparently even digital imaging can break down in storage.
Oh, well, I'm with Lynch: Give me a super story and beautiful image and let the geeks and gods work out the details.
One of the most important things about a documentary is subject matter.
If you do not have an interesting topic then you will not only get the
viewers but you won't be able to keep them. The latest documentary film
Side By Side does something a little bit different than most of this
genre. It tackles a subject that those outside the industry may know
nothing about but are affected by it nonetheless.
Side By Side takes a tour through the history of filmmaking through the impact that the rise of digital filmmaking has had. Featuring an impressive list of filmmakers including George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, David Lynch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan as well as numerous industry professionals this film explores both the good and bad of this rise of the digital age through the creative eyes of those that make these films. For anyone that loves film this is a must see documentary. Not only do you see how it affected tons of different movies, but also how it changed the industry. With Keanu Reeves leading the charge interviewing the power house of Hollywood it delivers a different side of the world of imagination that we all love. In addition to getting a peek behind the curtain that audiences normally never think twice about, we are also given a look at who really had their hand in this evolutionary change and what films took these leaps. This is an effective film that works on many levels more than just a documentary on cameras. It tells the story of film processing, camera evolution, filmmaking, and a true chance for those that work behind the scenes to give their opinions and thoughts on this evolution, the good and bad.
There are some very emotional responses here that really show the love these filmmakers have for what they do and will offer a great inside look and should give you a new respect for the process and creators as well as the films themselves. Some feel this is the end of true film while others feel this is the birth of unlimited creativity, either way this film evokes an emotional response both on the screen and from the viewer which is what film is all about.
Cinema is in a state of transition. Film is slowly but surely being
replaced and supplanted by Digital techniques. This is a rare gem of
documenting because it has been made right in the heart of the
Could you imagine if a documentary featuring major filmmakers had been made during the transition from black and white to color? This is essentially the modern iteration of that concept.
This film chronicles how digital filming and editing techniques have developed over the last two decades or so and have evolved from being a niche, low quality choice into a much more cost-effective, dynamic and comparable alternative to doing the same work on film.
Side By Side will only become more valued as the years go by. One day sooner rather than later film will be gone and everything will be digital. This will be regarded as more of a historical document than a film. It is a snapshot of the state of the industry as it makes the biggest transition it has ever gone through.
This is a true testament to the exponential times we live in and should not be missed by any cinema lover.
As a film student or just a movie lovers, you rarely got a chance to
connect with cinema history, or meet with famous people in the industry
who set the standard and created the masterpieces. This documentary
gives it all in a friendly story telling mode that could benefit both
professionals or just any random viewers
As much as it is about digital, it's equally about how cinema develop and what it would be like in the future. The documentary points out an interesting finding that it's the professionals, not the technology that drives the storytelling art forward. Each and every of them offer their best performance and artistry via the choice of techniques they made.
It's fantastic to see how filmmakers form different groups of opinions and stay faithful to it. While the film did not intend to come to any conclusion about future of cinema in digital or old style film, it clearly set up a basic understanding about filmmaking as a painstakingly process that require endless decision making based on personal visual creative interpretation.
A nice to watch movie for film students, especially those are fans of David Lynch, James Cameroon or George Lucas, the main speakers
I tend to read proper film critics for their opinions not only on
specific films but also essays on themes, genres, movements and so on;
I consider myself a total amateur on such subjects but I find it
interested to listen to those who are not. Coming to Side by Side I
wasn't sure if it would be too dry for me to get into or if it would be
too simplistic for me to stay interested in for just under two hours.
The film essentially looks at the transition from celluloid to digital
in film making from filming through to post through to projection in
the cinema and the means of delivery to the viewer. It is an ambitious
goal but it is one that it does very well and in a way that flows and
I guess that for those with a real good working knowledge of the technology and the process, it may be too simplistic but for the casual viewer and enjoyer of films, there is enough detail here to engage and interest, but not so much that I felt overwhelmed with technical detail that I wasn't interested in. The film is really made up of Reeves acting as interviewer with a range of people involved in all the various aspects of the process directors, cinematographers, editors, camera manufacturers etc. and he does a decent job, but not a great job in this regard. Fortunately this is not really his main role because it certainly seems that as producer he has helped Kenneally get a lot of very famous people to agree to be in the film. This range of talent and opinion makes for an interesting film, so while we follow development of things over time, we tend to get both sides as the title suggests.
Most of the contributors are interesting and their soundbites are well edited and the film itself is put together very well so that it covers time and technology in a way that makes sense, engages and never outstays its welcome. It probably won't do much for the technical enthusiast but for fans of film and cinema it is very much worth seeing as entertainment and education.
An immensely intriguing tour of the evolution of filmmaking process in
the cinematic medium over the years, Side by Side is a side by side
comparison of the two formats of crafting a motion picture that's
available to filmmakers today; first is shooting on photochemical film
which has been in use since the dawn of cinema while the other is
shooting digitally which dominates the industry at present & has made
the traditional film stock an endangered format.
Directed by Christopher Kenneally, this documentary presents Keanu Reeves as the questioner discussing about the evolution, impact & innovations the film camera has made since its creation and joining him in the discussion are Hollywood's esteemed directors like Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan & many more plus it also asks the opinions of various cinematographers, editors, VFX supervisors & others as well.
Side by Side provides a thorough examination of the history of 35mm print while also capturing the dawn, rise & revolution of digital format in the past two decades which as of today threatens the very existence of traditional filmmaking format. We get to see strong proponents for both formats, each presenting very valid arguments when it comes to the benefits & limitations of both film stock & digital recording in things like ease of use, economy, flexibility etc.
On an overall scale, Side by Side beautifully covers the still ongoing battle of the superior format in the film industry today and my only gripe with it is that it's only 98 minutes long. Even though in my opinion digital cinema seems to be a valid choice in the long run, IMAX has given film stocks a fresh breathe of life, and if only both formats can mutually co-exist then it's a win-win situation for the industry. Extremely gripping, highly entertaining & downright informative, Side by Side is a must-watch for every cinema fan out there.
Seen in the comfort of a small "traditional" cinema during Brighton
(UK) Film Festival, glad I had searched to find a screening so as to
see this as it should be seen. There were perhaps ?<50 others in the
audience dotted around. Surprisingly, before the film was a Short about
that particular cinema's Projectionist, how he started as a young man
and how his job is changing since the good old days of film - a lonely
and solitary process that was labour intensive - and now his expertise
is becoming obsolete because of the increasing switch to digital where
it's more about pressing a button. Apropos and rather poignant. Cue
curtains; Company Films' Production of Side by Side with Keanu Reeves'
opening narration in his clear, measured and reassuringly authoritative
The film is a balanced documentary, incredibly well laid out, highlighting the informative in-business discussion surrounding the merits, disadvantages and progress in the increasing trend of migration from celluloid to digital film-making. At first dialogue is straight up "film or digital?" but as the process opens up and more is investigated following a pleasing linear train of thought, the Directors and other Film-Makers discuss the finer points of the debate ie the quality of the different media, how the variety of cameras have changed, how the industry has led development of new technologies (SONY in the vanguard), the effects of the change on actors' experience (with some amusing anecdotes), timing, budget, film colouration, editing and SFX/VFX. At every stage examples of the various films are shown with subtitle labels; whether a film was shot with a specific camera, on digital or film, what mm film etc, and with each interviewee his or her notable achievements are provided often with behind the scenes footage as they reminisce.
Christopher Kenneally's Direction is flawless, artistic and tight and his writing is succinct, understandable and unbiased. It isn't too technical for novices, but wasn't so basic as to feel dumbed down (the simplicity of the 'how a camera works' visual aid graphics were very brief and explanations of abbreviations were only explained once) and you got to see various methods and techniques of film-making - a real behind the scenes. Reeves asks leading questions of the film-makers that he interviews, he sits by the lens discretely often off camera, but prompts them and occasionally responds making it quite informal, watchable and even laugh out loud funny in places. It's certainly not a dry production and I noted that a lot of those interviewed were people that Reeves had worked with in the past, and a number of his own films ie Matrix and 47 Ronin (can't wait!) were used as examples.
Really absorbing, the 90 mins went quickly, and I came away animated and challenged mentally to think about it, with a greater understanding of what goes into making a film. I can't say I had appreciated various subtle differences that were being described, or understood the significance of some Academy awards as a result of new methods of film-making, had just taken films at face value so will look now with new eyes! On balance I saw that most were nostalgic about celluloid film, and don't want to abandon it completely, and worry about the artistry being lost but many see the inevitable progress with technology and the benefits, ease, cheapness and potential for development ie CGI, 3D and greater movement and intimacy for cameras in digital. Mention was made that with digital filming accessibility of the Industry has opened up as anyone can purchase a digital camera and a laptop and make a film now!
Brilliant, historically important film. I hope it gets the recognition it deserves as a snapshot at a crossroads in an industry that is 120 years old. On a light, flippant note, the breakthrough star of the film is the continuity "errors" of Keanu's hair and beard, much giggled about in Press interviews! ;-)
Christopher Kenneally, along with host Keanu Reeves and a myriad of
directors and cinematographers interviewed for this film have done all
of us in the creative arts, who find our tools and mediums altered by
technology, a great service: they have described for us the benefits,
detriments, and possible melding of past technologies with the new in
the quest for achieving our goals of telling a story.
As a writer, I do rely upon technology the computer, the internet in order to publish my works as e-books. Do I disdain Microsoft's default font as Times New Roman? (as a former phototypesetter who used Times English 49, yes, I do; and even that wasn't my preferred font Palatino was the most beautiful font family to my eye). Spell and Grammar Check in Microsoft? It's my comedy explosion the descent of standard American English into the realm of not knowing when to use "who" or "that" astounds me still. But I digress.
This documentary, geeky and nerdy as it can be (and I love those things myself), shows how technology evolves to meet a creative need, is exploited to further meet a creative need, and how it also can fall short of the desired creative vision of those who use it. The film also serves as a history of how celluloid has been handled (and for a writer, this is so inspiring for me in terms of how to write), and how digital allows for visualizing people and events that otherwise would be difficult to achieve.
From Scorsese's description of fingers being sliced in the process of physically splicing (cutting) celluloid to achieve the desired result, to the cinematographer on "Laurence of Arabia" describing how a celluloid film cut created a dramatic transition that no writer, director, or actor could have done alone gives great credit to a medium that is around a century old and argues for the fact that because there is new digital technology, it doesn't render it obsolete. Quite the contrary: one director points out that, without a knowledge about how film photography renders a finished (in the rough) project, digital film photography can fall short of what the cinematic experience in full requires the intuitive sensitivity of the eye, which is, at the core of it, a subjective interpretation of experience. And isn't all creativity that?
The exploration of how digital technology expands ability to film at all (in difficult location circumstances) and in creating unknown worlds is just as fruitful to understand as the "10 minute cut" that the celluloid film canister requires. Actors and everyone else get to take a breath and come back to a scene anew, a great asset to the creative process. On the other hand, being able to continuously "film" someone in a challenging location without cuts also has advantages.
In the final analysis, the title "Side by Side" says it all: both media are essential to the creative process when it comes to storytelling through a "film" media. Reeves' project underscores this by showing many examples of films shot on a variety of cameras. The cameras, back to geekdom, get center stage, as they should the technology any of us use to create our work is vital to getting our work out to others.
This film needs to be in the library of anyone in creative arts who finds that technology is impacting how they do what they do. On the one hand, "the better is the enemy of the good". On the other new and old can walk forward side by side and expand the creative output of us all. As a writer contemplating having my work adapted for cable/streaming, I know that both technologies, and knowledge of them, will be essential to storytelling that will make the work memorable to all viewers.
Isabeau Vollhardt, Author, The Casebook of Elisha Grey series
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