The 10 Best Filmmakers Who Still Shoot in Film

6. Richard Linklater

“I am as concerned about exhibition process going away as much as film.”

Over the years Richard Linklater has showed interest and personal involvement in the preservation of the “film” experience. For the last 30 years he has proudly run a film society in Austin where he projects film in the complete “exhibition process”.

Film was also his choice for Boyhood, the movie he shot non continuously between 2002 and 2014; this was because as simpler as it was to shoot on video, he correctly guessed that digital filmmaking would get a lot better with the passing of years, while film would look the same and thus give the film a coherent look.

His attention to the feel and effectiveness of film hasn’t made Richard Linklater a “purist” of film; he has also directed Waking Life (2001) and Tape (2001) which experimented with early digital cameras, and he switched to digital for his 2016 comedy Everybody Wants Some!!.

Recent interviews saw him praising film as he always did, but also admitting how digital often makes for better image and sound, and is also easier to handle. Linklater has also declared himself to be skeptical towards those who see digital as the latest “huge paradigm shift” but then forget how every aspect of filmmaking “recedes back to what is at its core—storytelling.”


7. Andrej Petrovič Zvjagintsev

“[Shooting film is] an entirely different form of expression. It’s impossible to explain this in words: you feel it on some subconscious level.”

Andrej Petrovič Zvjagintsev is a Russian director born in 1964 who started his career as an actor but soon found his way into directing. He first became internationally known for his 2003 feature film debut The Return, which won the Golden Lion at the 60th Venice Film Festival. His following works, the Banishment (2007) and Elena (2011), garnered him a great deal of attention from the critics due to his insightful look into human condition and his ability to create an alienating but capturing atmosphere.

All of these movies were shot in 35mm, as was his latest Leviathan (2014); considered by many a modern masterpiece, Leviathan is set in a fictional town on the northern coast of Russia and intertwines the personal struggles of a mechanic and his family with a larger depiction of modern Russia and its corruption.

Leviathan won different international awards but also created a controversy from the Russian government about its portrayal of Russian society.

Zvjagintsev’s DP for the film was Mikhail Krichman; the two of them explained the use of film by saying that they “still see things on film rather than on digital”, and also made the point that, since shooting in digital lets the director keep on shooting without the need to stop for changing the film reel, it ultimately makes him lose focus by presenting him with too many options; in addition to this, considering that “color correction” (the process every film goes through in post-production to adjust the color of every sequence) takes a lot more on time with digital than with film, Zvjagintsev also made the point that digital isn’t as cheaper than film as it seems to be.


8. Sam Mendes

“Film is difficult, it’s imprecise, but that’s also the glory of it.”

British director Sam Mendes started his career as a successful artistic director in theaters before his film debut American Beauty brought him fame, critical acclaim and enough respect from the industry to let him pursue various projects, which differed considerably one from the other. It’s interesting to consider how a director who debuted with a subtle suburban drama succeeded in making two big action movies like Skyfall and Spectre, the most recent 007 movies.

For the first of his James Bond ventures Mendes had master of photography Roger Deakins at his side, and their choice for the camera was the modern and highly developed ARRI Alexa. One of the main advantages of digital cameras is that when you shoot at night you get a wider range of details than with film; Mendes and Deakins took advantage of this for a series of beautifully shot scenes like the ones in the Shangai casino and office building.

Nevertheless, for the making of Spectre Mendes returned to 35mm and worked with Hoyte van Hoytema (Nolan’s DP for Interstellar; Deakins went back to his old collaborators, the Coen Brothers, for Hail Caesar). As we’ve seen others directors of this list do, Mendes claims analog filmmaking has a certain “magic” to it; he also underlined how film’s look gives a sense of “romance, a slight nostalgia”, which is “not inappropriate when dealing with a classic Bond movie”.


9. Darren Aronofsky

“There’s this adrenaline where you’re waiting for the magic of the chemicals to unleash the image.”

Another participant of the 2014 struggle to keep Kodak industries alive and running, Darren Aronofsky is persistent in his choice of film over digital; he also stuck with film for Noah, his VFX-heavy bible movie.

During the shooting he encountered some of the difficulties that shooting in film can bring, like the shutting down for electrical troubles of the laboratory he was using for developing the film; film is usually developed daily and is ready to be rewatched at least a day after shooting (the so-called “dailies”). Aside from these issues, Aronofsky finds that the wait for the dailies is integral in making the process of filmmaking somewhat magic, alongside the unique “alchemic quality” that it brings.

Aronofsky actually shot his two previous movies, The Wrestler and Black Swan, mainly in 16mm (the same of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom), an even more rarely used format, with a peculiar texture. As Aronofsky’s DP Matthew Libatique said: “One of my goals was to show the grain in a way that was craftsmanlike”.


10. Woody Allen

“I have no strong feeling on it. I’m happy to go whichever way everyone is.”

Woody Allen is known for sticking to his filmmaking habits, and that is one of the reason his movies are immediately recognizable. It has always been obvious for a director so bound to the “classic” feel of cinema to choose film rather than digital and his appreciation for the captivating effect of old-time cinema is made as explicit as possible in The Purple Rose of Cairo, where going to see movies is the only relief for a lonely housewife during the Great Depression until a character from a film actually gets out of the screen to reach her.

In spite of this nostalgic approach, soon Woody Allen won’t be able to be called “a director who still shoots in film”, since he has made the switch to digital for his upcoming 1940’s-set comedy “Café Society”.

Behind this decision, which was as quite a surprise for many of Allen’s fans, there’s renowned DP Vittorio Storaro, which pushed an initially skeptical Allen to try the Sony CineAlta F65 for this shooting. Seeing if Allen reverts to shooting in film for his next movie will be an interesting way to try to answer the question: “Can all directors used to film adapt to digital?”.

Author Bio: Riccardo Basso is an Italian cinephile specializing in Humanities and Philosophy. He has only recently started writing about his favorite interest, cinema, but wishes to continue doing it (just don’t tell his cinephile friends he has seen every 007 movie at least three times).