My love for movies filmed in large formats like 70mm is because of Star Wars. Seeing Empire Strikes Back in 1980 (and Raiders of the Lost Ark the following year) in 70mm made me want to make a career out of making movies. Now we’re hearing that Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow will shoot in 65mm film, and I couldn’t be happier.
“The revival of real film has received an additional boost with the news that large format Kodak 65mm film processing facilities have opened in the UK. Also set-to-shoot on Kodak 65mm are Lucasfilm/Disney’s Star Wars: Episode IX (Director Colin Trevorrow, DP John Schwartzman ASC).” – Kodak Press Release
When the digital revolution came (ironically due to George Lucas shooting two prequels digitally), people were saying film was dead. Kodak ended up being the last man standing in providing film stock, and even veteran film directors like Scorsese were abandoning film for digital (he has since gone back). Was this the end of large format? Not at all. Thanks to a cadre of directors with old school visual tastes, film is not only surviving, it’s thriving.
We’ve known for a while that the sequel trilogy would be shot on film, as The Force Awakens cinematographer Dan Mindel in 2013 confirmed. The idea being that Disney wanted the sequel to have a more classic look, and Abrams wanted to go back to practical visual effects. Abrams shot Episode VII on 35mm, with a few scenes in IMAX. Episode VIII director Rian Johnson, shot on 35mm, as well.
Rogue One, which opens in December, however was shot digitally by Gareth Edwards on the ARRI ALEXA 65, but even though it went back to digital for the first anthology Star Wars film, it still has that old school large format vibe thanks to ARRI’s large format sensor. But Colin Trevorrow likes to shoot on large format film, since he shot Jurassic World that way.
“I could never shoot Star Wars on anything but [film] because it’s a period film: It happened a long time ago. The violinist [at a symphony] is going to choose the best possible violin, of course they will. I choose to shoot with the best possible violin.” – Colin Trevorrow, to Entertainment Weekly
Joining him on the project will be his Jurassic World cinematographer John Schwartzman, continuing Disney’s plan to couple directors with their own cinematographers to better capture their individual interpretation of the Star Wars universe. JJ Abrams used his #1 shooter Dan Mindel and Arrival DP Bradford Young will lens Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s Young Han Solo project.
“The film comeback is accelerating, and the epic, big screen experience is well and truly back. The creative and aesthetic distinctiveness of 65mm film is still well beyond the capability of digital capture, so when discerning filmmakers want to a create work of memorable grandeur and lasting visual quality, they know that only real film delivers.” – Steven Overman, Chief Marketing Officer and President, Consumer and Film Division at Kodak,
Episode IX will use the 65mm film format along with other blockbusters, including a remake of Murder on the Orient Express and Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. These films join Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which recently wrapped production at Warner Bros. Additionally many independent features and music videos, like Adele’s “Hello” have also filmed in a special 65mm negative adapted to IMAX. To meet the demand, Kodak is teaming up with UK film processor Cinelab to build a new film processing factory in Slough to handle the 65mm load.
Like I said, I couldn’t be happier, as large format film is back and here to stay, and there’s no better place for it in the galaxy than in the Star Wars Universe.