Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Domestic Milestone for Universal

         There are still three months left this year and four features yet to be released by Universal Pictures, and the company has already reached a milestone in the North American box office. Universal announced yesterday (September 25, 2012) that this has been the studio’s best year in its 100 year-long history, earning 1.128 billion dollars in the domestic box office, and surpassing the 1.127 billion mark set in 2008.

         Ted, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax were responsible for the studio’s huge success; however, there are four other films yet to be released later this year: Pitch Perfect, which opens next week on October 5th. The Man With the Iron Fists, set for a November 2nd release. This Is 40, opening December 21st. And the much anticipated, Oscar-buzz musical Les Misérables, expected to come out on Christmas day.

         I think it’s incredible to see how much the studio will earn by the time these four films are released. Les Misérables will definitely make more of an impact. The musical, directed by Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and starring an amazing cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russell Crowe, has been highly anticipated by both critics and moviegoers alike. The trailer gave me goose bumps and I'm anxiously looking forward to it. An interesting fact I’d like to share before I get off topic, is that it’s a game-changer because the music was actually performed live instead of being recorded on a studio months prior to shooting. “It’s so much more powerful. You have complete freedom and control.” Amanda Seyfried said about singing while acting during an interview. Click on this link to view the featurette and learn more about the film.

         Some movies being distributed by the studio next year include The Fast and the Furious 6, Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s latest project since his Academy Award nominated film Children of Men (2006), and Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. I am certain the studio will keep leaving a legacy and I am excited to watch more entertaining and memorable films for many years to come.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Fall of a 122 year-old Medium

Technology, according to the World English Dictionary, is the application of practical sciences to industry or commerce. Over the past decade, society has had to acclimate to many of the changes that technology has to offer. The film industry has had to adapt as well, and such changes have been received with mixed feelings.

Over the past decade, industry workers and viewers have seen the rise of digital over film increase at skyrocket levels. The 122 year-old medium of 35 mm film is on the verge of extinction in both the way films are made and projected.

Digital cameras are more portable, easier to obtain, and evolving so rapidly to the point that filmmakers who once swore never to switch or who campaign for the use and restoration of film are now transitioning.

Martin Scorsese released Hugo, his first 3D movie last year, and will no longer shoot film. “It is impossible to fight,” the Academy Award winning filmmaker says about shooting digital. His latest project, The Wolf of Wall Street, is currently in production and scheduled for a 2013 release. It is being shot digitally by Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC. Another example is Toby Phillips, my boss, who is a director/DP. He is considering selling all of his film cameras and equipment because he hasn’t used them in years. He’s had to start reading manuals for the fist time in a very long time. Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s long-time editor says the shift to digital has been “very quick,” and it doesn’t take much to realize it. Movie theaters have spent large sums of money updating to digital projectors. Film projectors were in more than 99% of theaters as recently as 2004 and rose to 85% in 2009. It is expected that only 17% of movie theaters will screen in film by 2015 according to David Goldman whose article “Digital movie projectors end Hollywood’s film era” came out on CNN Money approximately ten months ago.

Personally, I prefer film for various reasons. First of all, the look is more natural and organic. I agree that in some cases, it is a wiser choice to shoot digital to fit the demands and overall look of a story, such as The Amazing Spider-Man, which was shot on the Red Epic. I’ve had the pleasure of working with film three times. Once as a 2nd A.C. and I absolutely love the process. It gives you more of an appreciation for the medium and it’s a shame that younger generations won’t even have the opportunity to work with it. (You can see the project here:  Also, digital is not necessarily cheaper. Many things are now being done in post, which ads time and money to the process. Another reality that is concerning is that the preservation of this art form is at stake, since digital is perishable unlike film. “If you don’t preserve these things every five years digitally, they’re going to vanish. And who’s going to have the money to do that?” says Schoonmaker.

There is an upcoming documentary that I am eager to see titled Side By Side. Produced by Keanu Reeves (The Matrix Trilogy), the documentary gathers many directors, which include Scorsese, Robert Rodriguez, David Fincher, James Cameron, among others, to discuss the process and workflow of both mediums and compare them.

It is interesting to see where technology will take the industry in years to come, and to see how the workflow will be affected, both positively and negatively.