At a TIFF Telefilm Canada panel, four Canadian directors talked about current industry issues including film vs digital.
Jacob Tierney, Jeffrey St. Jules [pictured], Mathieu Denis, and Andrea Dorfman – these four names are just a sampling of the future of Canadian cinema. These up-and-coming directors sat down at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto today during a Telefilm Canada panel to express their attitudes towards new technologies and the changing medium of cinema, weighing in on a crucial debate that emerging filmmakers must confront: film or digital?
Moderator Richard Crouse: You’ve all been making films for at least 10 years, and in some cases, a bit longer than that. These 10 years, which have probably been the most tumultuous 10 years in filmmaking in recent memory, there have been changes in technology, how films are financed, and virtually every facet of the business. I wanted to ask each of you, as people that come from different parts of the country making very different kinds of films, how these changes have affected various aspects of your work.
Denis: The very first thing that comes to mind is that all the films I’ve done were shot on film and Corbo is the first film I shot using a digital camera. And I’m not going back to film. I have to say.
Crouse: Why not?
Denis: Obviously, I don’t have to lose two days worth of shooting in order to shoot film. I found that there was a newfound flexibility in the way I could shoot this film (Corbo). I very often use quite long takes in the films I make and if you shoot a take that’s six minutes long, then, the next take, you actually have to remove the reel, load a new magazine in the camera, and so you’ve wasted a huge amount of the film and time. The digital format also allows me much more time with the actors, which is the most important thing to cherish on a film set because, all of the time, you’re obsessed with these technical details and the most important thing is those people in front of you.
Dorfman: We’re ending up in this incredible world of digital possibility where you can make it look like however you want. I love the possibility of mixing mediums. But at the end of the day, it always comes back to the story you’re trying to tell. So I look at the story and I think about the tools I have at hand and how I can use them to ultimately serve that story. Sometimes, the options can be mind-boggling. There seems to be so much, so, as an artist, I sometimes do my best with limited resources and that’s what I’ve been playing with lately.
Crouse, to Jeffrey St. Jules: Your film is so stylized. Were there unique steps you had to take to achieve your vision of what you wanted to get on the screen?
St. Jules: Digital filmmaking gives you a lot more room to experiment in ways that are not very expensive and allow you to play with form. You can try things. With this one (Bang Bang Baby), we’re referencing a lot of old films so we’re using a lot of old techniques like rear-projection, but we also used blue screen. But I was worried the rear-projection would look too much like video backdrop. I think it’s better for the actors to be on set in a real environment than a blue screen environment. It brings out a better spirit in everything.
Crouse: What about you, Jacob?
Tierney: Like Andrea, I made my first film on Super 16. But my last two films were shot on Super 35 and this (Preggoland) is the first movie I made on digital. I would go back to film in a heartbeat with great pleasure. There’s almost nothing I like about digital. I don’t like the sloppiness of it. I don’t like people who say, “Yeah, do 12 more takes.” There’s almost nothing about it that appeals to me. Technologically, there are some things that I like but everything we do to finish a movie is to make it look more like film. It just doesn’t look like a movie to me. I don’t love the way it looks. There are a lot of reasons to do it and it’s gotten a lot better. This one, I fought hard to do on 35. My cinematographer and I were very committed to it.
Each of the directors has a film screening at TIFF 2014: Tierney’s Preggoland, St. Jules’ Bang Bang Baby, Dorfman’s Heartbeat, and Denis’ Corbo.