The digital future of genre films

We all know that film is on the way out soon, and for true cinema aficionados , it’s a sad day.

At the same time, there’s great material being shot with digital, and perhaps some day it can be as good, or better than film, or so we hope.

Side By Side is the new documentary about the digital revolution, and the twist is who directed it: Keanu Reeves. Reeves also has a great line-up of directors himself who are talking about the rise of digital, including  James Cameron, David Fincher, David Lynch, George Lucas, Danny Boyle, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and Steven Soderberg.

Even when you’re an A-list Hollywood actor, it’s not easy to get heavy hitters like this to talk, and as Reeves told Reuters, it took him close to a year to get all his interviews for the film. He also interviewed such great cinematographers as Vittorio Storaro (Last Tango In Paris, The Last Emperor), Michael Chapman (Raging Bull), and Micahel Ballhaus (GoodFellas, The Departed). Then Reeves hooked up with some directors he worked with before, and things went from there.


Chris Nolan was the toughest one to nail down because he was making The Dark Knight Rises, and Reeves said he wrote Nolan an actual letter “on an old-fashioned typewriter. I think he got a kick out of that and we finally shot him in his trailer on the Batman set in LA.” 

Nolan is one of the last directors who still refuses to work in digital, and he insisted Rises be shot on film, and he probably got a kick out getting a regular in the mail letter on a typewriter. (I believe I read somewhere he doesn’t do e-mail or have a cell phone either).


The Wachowskis, who of course worked with Reeves on the Matrix flicks, also gave their first interview in over ten years. (They also recently have been talking about their next sci-fi epic, Cloud Atlas, which is coming this Fall.) The Wachowskis are big film lovers as well, but Cameron and Lucas of course are big proponents of digital being the way of the future.


Reeves said that interviewing Lucas “was pretty special. The sheer impact that he’s had on digital cinema is just so amazing. He’s a true maverick and pioneer of where we are today.”


Although Nolan and directors like Spielberg have stuck to their guns, the writing’s been on the wall for some time now, and that’s obviously a big part of what Side By Side is all about. 

Even Scorsese has accepted the fate that he’s going to have to work in digital for the rest of his career, with Reeves lamenting, “Personally I’m a big film fan and it’s sad to see it go, but the future is digital.”