Cinematographer Wally Pfister has worked with Christopher Nolan on seven of his eight feature films. He’s one of Nolan’s closest collaborators and a vital influence on the filmmaker’s inimitable visual style. As Pfister prepares to make his directorial debut with the Nolan-produced Transcendence, he is expressing grave concerns about the future of celluloid. “Chris and I—and I’m hoping other filmmakers—will fight as hard and long as we can to keep it going,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “A lot of cinematographers really like digital cameras, but Chris and I still prefer film.”
One of the grave misconceptions about those who resist the industry’s complete shift to digital is that they’re luddites, stubbornly resisting change. As Pfister and many likeminded filmmakers have made clear, they simply want to have the choice to use film when it’s appropriate. Just as it would be senseless to deprive an artist of oil paints or watercolours, it seems extremely shortsighted to eliminate a tool that has defined the progress of cinema for the last 100 years. “The bitter part is that it is being forced out of the market,” Pfister explains. “There are plenty of us who aren’t willing to give it up yet. The sad part is these so-called market forces are pushing our film away.”
Many of the world’s most commercial and artistic filmmakers still prefer film—Pfister lists Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and JJ Abrams, though there are many other examples—but that hasn’t prevented the industry from turning its back on film. In the wake of Avatar’s unparalleled commercial success, Hollywood seems willing to embrace a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than allow a more nuanced evolution, one that reflects the views of those who understand the medium best: filmmakers.