Beyond the camera … continued (Digital Film-making Vs Celluloid Film)

This is a continuation to Manjeet’s previous post.

After almost completing our first feature “The Meeting” it is very liberating producing a film without the professional technical procedures.

“The Meeting” despite its simplicity is the most technically polished film we have ever made and with anything that aims to achieve that technical level involves a lot of collaboration. It made me question digital film makings relevance in cinema, apart from it being an extremely cost affective alternative to celluloid. Sometimes I feel we only use digital cameras for its cheapness and not to exploit its advantages over celluloid … is digital cinema just the poor mans celluloid?

Would an artist try to paint a water painting with poster paint? just because it’s cheaper than water colours? Of course not, one of the biggest flaws a craftsman can commit is using their tools for the wrong reasons. I think using a medium to serve the purpose of another suffocates it and prevents it from reaching its fullest potential.

Instead of asking myself, “how can digital work its way to the standard of film?” I asked “what can digital do that film can’t?”. This is obviously something many filmmakers have contemplated long before myself (Abbas Kiarostami, Agnès Varda and Liu Jiayin first come to mind) so we have a lot to base it off.

Kiarostami once said “The digital camera allows the artist to work alone again”, by reducing the collaborative aspects of film making you are in a position to produce something personal, like a poet or a painter. Film is usually associated heavily as a collaborative medium, but why? Obviously the collaborative elements of filmmaking has its artistic benefits, however why is its place in film production engraved in stone? The answer derives from the history of film production, to produce even the most minimal efforts of film making you needed a team and without a team producing the familiar results is almost impossible. So is collaboration a creative necessity? Or is it just a cultural familiarity that we associate with filmmaking because of its historical technical conventions?

I am not trying to say collaboration isn’t needed in the creative process, all I’m trying to say is it is not a necessity and thanks to digital technology we now have that option.

During the production of “The Meeting” I saw many things I wanted to film, such as a brief shadow from the wind chimes or how a gate was blowing in the wind. Yet, by the time we got the camera and mic set up we would have missed it and it is these brief poetic moments that are very hard to capture with a film camera. I asked my self “oh, If only I had my digital camera … hold on we are using a digital camera!”

We were treating this digital camera so much like a film camera we forgot about the natural advantages it has. So worried about the footage looking like film we missed great opportunities to fully utilise what we had.

i guess essentially it all comes down to “IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW YOU DO IT”.

I am in the middle of editing some audition footage I filmed not long ago, for a supporting actress role … for a film that is now not going to be made. What’s interesting when you look back on audition footage is obviously how each person sees the character differently. Then when you look at it a little closer you see how the different interpretations are subtle (sometimes obvious) peep holes into the actors world. This was the initial hook that got me interested in editing the footage into a film, however it wasn’t until I realised how much of the film the actresses were auditioning for had major aspects of my own life in it. When I wrote the script I did it for the sake of a feature, so I wanted a script written as soon as possible and the meat would hopefully develop whilst collaborating with the actors. Putting moments and characters from my own life was a way of speeding up the writing process, whether it was consciously done or not. Seeing and hearing actors strip down these personal moments in my life was a difficult thing to take sometimes. There are so many decisions I’ve made in life that I felt I was right to make, then hearing an actress poke out all of the holes in my logic, making me see the situations in a different light and making me think what was once a good decision might have actually been a mistake.

The film is called “Michelle with one “L” … named after the get up kids song. I’m still editing as we speak … with no idea how I am going to go about it.

Matthew E. Carter


Film-maker and writer for the Black Country Cinema collective. My films often revolve around the changing cultural identity of the UK. An avid cinephile with a love for Eastern Cinema.

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