Thursday, January 26, 2012

Keanu Reeves' Side By Side discusses the revolution of digital cinema

PHOTO CAPTION: The production team of Side By Side is composed of (L-R) Chris Cassidy, director Chris Kenneally, producer Justin Szlasa, and host-producer Keanu Reeves. They are posing behind a life-size statue of Star Wars' Yoda in one of the film's shooting locations at the Big Rock Ranch, a.k.a. the Skywalker Ranch, in Marin, California.

It's not everyday that you see Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, David Lynch, and other industry bigwigs together in one film.

No, they're not sharing directorial credits on this one.

But they do appear on screen, along with other directors, cinematographers, and artists in a documentary called Side By Side.

Through interviews conducted by Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, these filmmakers share their thoughts on the rise of digital filmmaking and its effects on the movie industry.

"The goal is to examine the worlds of film and digital cinema as they exist side by side," say Reeves, who also serves as one of the film's producers, in his official statement.

"The documentary will investigate the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation.

"We aim to show what artists and filmmakers have been able to accomplish with both film and digital and how their needs and innovations have helped push filmmaking in new directions."

Reeves, who is best remembered for his character Neo in the sci-fi action flick The Matrix, says the changes he saw in the industry over time are what led him to do this documentary.

The actor has about 30 years of acting credit under his belt.

"I have seen this quiet revolution unfold in front of me on sets, in edit rooms and post-production facilities and on screens around the world," he says.

An example of this "revolution" is when Slumdog Millionaire won best cinematography at the 2009 Oscars, which Reeves considers as a turning point in the history of film.

"For the first time, the award for cinematography went to a movie shot almost entirely digitally and not on film.

"Over the last decade movies shot, edited and distributed digitally have become an acceptable alternative to a photochemical process with over one hundred years of history.

"At this moment in time, the digital world and the photochemical world exist side by side in the movie industry—from image capture to visual effects to color correction to exhibition.

"The master cinematographers and directors are now crafting work in both mediums."

The course of filming Side By Side has taken Reeves and his group to seven US cities and five countries, including Poland, where they attended the Plus Camerimage Film Festival in the city of Bydgoszcz.

The Plus Camerimage is the most recognized film festival dedicated to the art of cinematography.

It is also in Poland that the team got to sit down with Batman Forever, The Client, and A Time To Kill director Joel Schumacher.

They also went to the Big Rock Ranch in Marin, California to chat with Star Wars creator George Lucas and have their photo taken with a life-sized statue of the iconic character Yoda.

The wide list of interviewees also include the likes of John Malkovich, Robert Rodriguez, Lana and Andy Wachowski, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Lars Von Trier, and Alec Shapiro among others—all of them giving a variety of insights about the topic.

Steven Soderbergh, executive producer of such films as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Criminal, and Insomnia says:

"I felt I should call film on the phone and say I've met someone because I really thought this [digital movie-making] is the future."

Wally Pfister, director of photography for The Italian Job, The Dark Knight, and Inception, on the other hand, admits he still prefers to work using traditional methods.

"I'm not a real fan of digital.

"I just think once again, film is something that's far less complicated than digital systems," he says.

But for award-winning director Martin Scorsese, the need to debate over which one is better is not a necessity.

"The issue is that it is different.

"How do you use it and how do you use it to tell a story?

"It's up to the filmmaker."

The pros, the cons, and everything else in between on traditional and digital filmmaking will be tackled in this 98-minute-long documentary.

Directed by Chris Kenneally and produced Keanu Reeves and Justin Szlasa under Company Films, Side By Side, is set to have its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 15, 2012.

By Demai G. Sunio-Granali
Thursday, January 19, 2012 12:00 AM

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