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Meeting Christopher Nolan, talking shop and the Red Shoes


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#1 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 02:12 AM

Tonight I had a great opportunity to meet one of my favorite modern filmmakers, Christopher Nolan and I bounced at the opportunity.

He and his family came to a screening of The Red Shoes at the Cinematheque and Nolan was presenting the movie thanks to his involvement in the restoration. Basically Martin Scorsese said you need to show up and talk about it and he did. However, before the movie, there was a special VIP area setup for him to hob knob with a few selected guests.

I was formally introduced and we started chatting about his love for celluloid and why he doesn't really believe in digital. He discussed the testing he does between film and digital, just to compare and his feelings. What he said was that in his testing, for the first hour or so of screening something on digital, you don't notice the nuances but as the film goes on, you see the differences. By the end, doing direct A/B comparisons, the difference he says is staggering. He's currently grading Dunkirk for digital release in UHD HDR 4k and he said at the lab, the difference is night and day between the 5/70 print and the 4k master for BluRay. They do a butterfly pattern with an digital and film running at the same time ontop of one another and he said it's very noticable.

His thought process when it comes to digital is that pixel depth does not get anywhere near silver content on a piece of film. This approach is slightly flawed as we've chatted about here and of course through the numorous tests recently done by Steve Yedlin, which I think are pretty good but also not completely accurate. He said this is why his perferred format is still film and even with 35mm, 4k digital doesn't really hold a candle to a one light print struck off the original camera negative.

When we talked about viewing experiences and screenings, he commented about how difficult it was to get the 70mm screenings of Dunkirk up and running and the technical issues. I so happen to meet some other projectionist guys online recently who were heavily connected to the build-out and discussed how smooth the projection went, but how much work they had to do before the release. Nolan was excited about two more 70mm releases this year and in his own words stated how keeping the equipment warm and ready for his next film, was high priority.

We wrapped up the conversation by discussing his favorite places to see film projection and he said the cinematheque had to be one of them. He snuck into a screening of The Master few years ago and was impressed and I am to. Micheal the projectinist who works there on occasion, was there tonight. I always make a point to give him a hug and thank him for his great work because he is truly a master and getting close to 70 years of age, it's in his blood. Micheal has helped that theater become one of the best places to see film projection and let me say for the record, those two Phillips DP70's are by far, the best film projectors ever made. Registration is flawless in both 35 and 70, plus they're super robust. So Nolan caught that right away and commented on how wonderful they looked, which tells me he has some technical skills as well.

Over all, the fact Nolan took time to talk with me and really answer some questions, was super nice. He talked to other people as well and just hearing him talk, how he articulates himself in person, is just like you see in the BTS documentaries... only, what you don't get is that he's a really funny guy. He's just super nice to be around and warm/friendly to a point I didn't really expect from a top filmmaker today. Emma Thomson was there as well, with the kids, we shook hands and said Hi. She chimed in a few times on some conversations about making Dunkirk, but Nolan was very open and letting others talk, which was nice.

Twas a great night and the print of The Red Shoes was amazing, absolutely stellar. I was shocked how good the restoration was and the sold-out audience was too. What a fantastic movie and what a great time!
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#2 Nicholas Kovats

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 07:22 AM

Great oppurtunity and conversations. Do you actually reside in Toronto? I cant believe I missed a film print of the Red Shoes.
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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 01:13 PM

Great oppurtunity and conversations. Do you actually reside in Toronto? I cant believe I missed a film print of the Red Shoes.


No, Los Angeles. I just say "cinematheque" which is short for "American Cinematheque" which is a long-standing preservation and presentation group here in Hollywood.
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#4 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 04:17 PM

It would be interesting to know what many directors of feature movies really think deep down - and how many would put their hands up for film if they had a choice. A lot of the really talented ones for now seem to be sticking with film, and I read that in England many tv directors are saying they want to shoot on 16mm. It seems there is a big push for digital from the producer/studio end, from many DPs, and from many in technical support. But I seem to read a lot of commentary from directors, who are after all the artistic leadership of a picture (or should be), that they want to shoot film, and to some extent are going against the grain of what is being pushed by the powers that be in the industry.

 

Lucas to some extent brought back the concept of the director as big boss of the whole shebang or at least was part of the wave. And funnily enough it was Lucas who largely brought in the feature film digital revolution. Some must wonder why it even matters, now that digital looks so good. Yet even today directors still want film despite the amazing digital revolution. I find it all really interesting. In Australia it was an article in Cinema Papers in the 80's I think (an excellent publication btw) that predicted the imminent total revolution of digital. It's now 2017 and top directors are still choosing film. That Cinema Papers prediction has, so far, not come true - though in some places it sure has!

 

Once, in Brisbane some years ago at the old Hoyts theatre in Queen St, in the very large cinema there, they put on a showing of a new film print of My Fair Lady. I was there. The whole cinema was packed to the rafters with 'everyday' people, families, mums, dads and kids and there was an incredible atmosphere. The manager of the theatre came out on the stage before the show and gave a talk. It was a great occasion. The father I sat next to was so excited to bring his family along to see this wonderful newly made film print. I got the strong impression then that 'ordinary' non-production people do care about things like this. They do care about quality of the cinema going experience. Maybe that's what's been somewhat lost in the cinema experience lately. When the film ended you should have heard the applause, and when the lights came on seen the smiles all round. Just the content, or was it something to do with the presentation as well? Of course, it's all just anecdotal musings.


Edited by Jon O'Brien, 23 September 2017 - 04:29 PM.

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#5 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 05:20 PM

Maybe that had a large bearing on George Lucas choosing to shoot his Star Wars prequels in Australia, the fact that he planned to use the 2nd film to be the first big digital feature and he knew he needed to get away from the US to do it as innovation is a big thing in Australia. I'm not making any judgements by the way - there are some obvious great advantages to the digital revolution and I think it's a wonderful match to shoot on film and distribute and present digitally even though I'd prefer to go to the movies and see film projection myself.

 

Should I say "innovation and changing, or attempting to change, what was for a long time traditional"? No further comment  -_-  :)


Edited by Jon O'Brien, 23 September 2017 - 05:29 PM.

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#6 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 September 2017 - 11:43 PM

Maybe that had a large bearing on George Lucas choosing to shoot his Star Wars prequels in Australia


One small thing to note... until the SAG/AFTRA deal, SAG actors weren't allowed to be shot with "video" cameras. That was the differentiating factor between the two unions FILM (SAG) vs TELEVISION (AFTRA). When they joined, now everyone can be shot with video cameras.

So that MAY have been an impetus in shooting outside of the US with different union rules.
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#7 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 03:46 AM

Maybe that had a large bearing on George Lucas choosing to shoot his Star Wars prequels in Australia, the fact that he planned to use the 2nd film to be the first big digital feature and he knew he needed to get away from the US to do it as innovation is a big thing in Australia. I'm not making any judgements by the way - there are some obvious great advantages to the digital revolution and I think it's a wonderful match to shoot on film and distribute and present digitally even though I'd prefer to go to the movies and see film projection myself.
 
Should I say "innovation and changing, or attempting to change, what was for a long time traditional"? No further comment  -_-  :)


Innovation big in Australia? Are you kidding. We're massively conservative here, especially compared to the States.
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#8 Stephen Perera

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 07:15 AM

great post Tyler loved it ...he is also a fave of mine


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#9 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 01:31 AM

Australia needs filmmakers like Nolan. You know, with balls.


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