Keanu Reeves Wrote 'Old-Fashioned Letter' to Christopher Nolan To Appear In Side By Side

Keanu Reeves, Side by Side

The demise of film and the seeming triumph of digital has been a hot topic of discussion for insiders and hardcore enthusiasts for a number of years. But Keanu Reeves is taking the topic into the mainstream(ish) realm with his latest project, Side by Side, which bowed recently in Los Angeles and is set to hit cities around the U.S. in the coming weeks. Co-produced and narrated by Reeves, the 98-minute documentary landed the likes of James Cameron, David Fincher, David Lynch, George Lucas, Danny Boyle, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderbergh to weigh in on movie-making's (d)evolution. Nolan, he noted, was the most difficult to reach among the people who appear in the doc, which features interviews with 70-plus filmmaking powerhouses. To lure The Dark Knight Rises filmmaker, Reeves went snail mail.

"I actually wrote to him on an old-fashioned typewriter," Reeves told Reuters. "I think he got a kick out of that and we finally shot him in his trailer on the Batman set in LA." Reeves noted that Nolan's schedule was "so crazy" because he was in the midst of filming The Dark Knight Rises, but wanted the filmmaker because of his long-standing opinions about the film vs. digital debate, which caught Reeves' attention in earnest while finishing on a previous project a couple years back.

While working on Henry's Crime, which he also produced a couple of years back, Reeves and the film's production manager, Chris Kenneally, began talking about the rise of digital technology. "We were sitting in the post-production suite trying to match the photochemical image with the digital image, side by side, and it just hit me - film is going away, and we should document this whole evolution," Reeves told Reuter. "So Chris and I gradually put a team together to make the documentary."

A champion of film himself, none other than Martin Scorsese said earlier this summer he'll probably go digital with his upcoming projects including The Wolf of Wall Street. His previous effort, Hugo was a de facto call for film preservation, something near and dear to the filmmaker's heart. His longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker told Empire magazine at the time, "I think Marty just feels it's unfortunately over, and there's been no bigger champion of film than him."

And as Side by Side gets set to expand, Reeves appears to agree that film will continue to disintegrate into the annals of movie history. "Even Chris Nolan admits that film, if not dead, is now on life support, and it's just going to become more and more difficult to even get film. Personally I'm a big film fan and it's sad to see it go but the future is digital."

Reeves himself is directing a big screen feature about a a young martial artist set in Beijing titled Man of Tai Chi and he has apparently also accepted - even if begrudgingly - the comparatively cheaper technology.

""We did [go digital]," he said. "I developed this project for five years and we're shooting on location in Beijing and Hong Kong. I'm having a great time directing and I definitely plan to do it again."

[Source: Reuters]


  • Baco Noir says:

    The sad part about the death of film is that the warmth of the image you get from film is just never quite right on digital. Plus, to this day, during underlit action scenes that were shot on digital in movies such as Get Smart (it's the one off the top of my head I remember) I've seen ghosting, especially if they move or pan the camera quickly. They have yet to resolve this. They probably will, eventually, but I doubt they will ever replace the colour warmth of film. Can you image The Godfather shot on digital? All those brown tones would be gone with the wind.

    • What utter nonsense. Digital imaging is less than 20 years old. Trust me, you're not making the Godfather as shot by Gordon Willis on film in 1920. It was Citizen Kane that began to show American directors what could be done with the medium. We have yet to have the Citizen Kane moment in digital.
      Within a decade you will see several phenomenal films made with cameras that haven't been invented yet.
      I understand the love for shooting film, its a medium at its height technologically, but its like listening to those that wanted to keep their Hansom cabs over those newfangled "cars".
      Very shortly the idea of even feeling nostalgic for the format will make you seem like the Amish.

      • So the excuse is for 20 years digital pioneers lied about digital already being better than film and used film profits off of camera rentals to accelerate the advancement of digital. Ok fine, at least admit what it took.

        And, what is further ironic is that a filmmaker using any quality 35mm camera could make a great film, whereas with the constant upgrading of digital video, anybody buying a camera over the past five years may be regretting that decision if they cannot upgrade to the latest and greatest.

        This too was another reason digital had to misrepresent how close they were for years and also use profits from their film based rental houses to get digital over the top.

        As for back lit, soft light scenes, I can't stand the way black hair just looks matted, even on an Alexis. Yes, the Alexis cameras do fine work on evenly lit or front lit scenes, but backlit with black haired actors, yech.

        I think it would be kind of interesting to use film cameras for backlit scenes and let the digital cameras do the less complicated contrast scenes.

  • Kevin says:

    Whether you shoot film or digital, you'd better save a copy on film. There is a TON of stuff that wasn't properly preserved and migrated -- mostly stuff that was originated on digital -- that we're going to have a helluva time viewing at all, and I'm talking about stuff shot THIS century, not the 20th.

    For me, film died when Kodachrome stopped being manufactured. As for movies ... I don't like the aesthetic of digital, and I hate the no-blur aesthetic of these newer TVs, which are fine for football and soap operas, but make cinematic experiences into serious damn headaches. Not going to be in a rush to embrace HOBBIT-style shoots for this same reason.

    Hey, I saw 2001 in a Cinerama theater in L.A. when I was 7-1/2. Saw CLOSE ENCOUNTERS at Cinema 150 in Santa Clara, a great long gone theater. Those virutally ideal experience probably ruined me right then for what is happening now, from digital projection that isn't 4K to all the weird artifacting I mentioned above.

    • I love this: the 'film preserves' argument. We've only been able to safely store film in the last 50 years, and even then a vast number of films have been lost. Some films that may surprise you. Film is a business. The digital world has actually SAVED a huge number of films by giving studios a way to make a buck off them, thereby making them invest in at least one new print.
      The point of 99% of cinema is not to be around in 100 years - its to make money now. Anything else is a bonus.
      As for the aesthetics of film, one of the reasons cinemas are in decline is that the majority of people DO NOT CARE how they consume a film, as long as its convenient (and cheap). I can't believe that people watch films on their phones, but many do. I even know a major A list director who watches EVERYTHING on his iPhone! He doesn't have the time to see it any other way.
      Also, how does a communal activity like cinema going survive once people can do it within their own cocoons? If you offer people the same trip on a bus, or on their own bike, or in their own car, at a marginal cost difference, what do they choose?
      I like going to a cinema, but honestly, unless you're the reincarnation of David Lean (and ok, PT Anderson's new 70mm pic) I'm perfectly happy seeing a 4K projection of a digitally originated film.

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