Film Vs. Digital: How David Fincher Has Adapted To Survive In Hollywood

David Fincher It started in 2010 with The Social Network. It continued into 2011 with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Then, when David Fincher decided to go off the grid for a little while, 2012's Life of Pi and 2013's Gangster Squad advanced it further. And one day soon it might change everything. Let's go back to the beginning. Production companies are no longer in the business of filmmaking. Wait. Excuse me. Correction: production companies are no longer in the business of filmmaking on film. They are locking up their vaults and cancelling their film stock shipments and as soon as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are out of frame (movie joke, get it?!) the art of shooting on film will be as fringe and niche as ice sculpting. The art of projecting from film will be as fringe and niche as mashed potato sculpting. But we have enough moralizing articles on this subject. I'm not interested (not here anyway) in claiming that a movement towards digital photography is inherently positive or negative. It's impossible to ignore that a movie shot on film is fundamentally different from one shot digitally. It's also impossible to ignore that the cost-effectiveness and ease of shooting digitally opens possibilities that just didn't exist before. If these companies have to cut costs, switching more productions to digital is better than reducing the number of productions. Maybe if Hollywood saves enough money over the years, they'll be able to afford to get Hugh Jackman to host the Oscars again. Anyway. The move from film production to digital production is a fact. Scorsese shot the somewhat miraculously successful little masterpiece Hugo on Arri Alexa digital cameras. In his thoughtful film-vs-digital documentary Side by Side, Keanu Reeves managed to provoke master director David Lynch into claiming that he's done with film (his last movie, 2006's Inland Empire, was shot on DV tapes) and got a similar confession from Steven Soderbergh (you have to go back twelve movies and six years to find the last time he shot on film). So let's just acknowledge it: digital is the future. That's where we run into a problem. As I stated, a movie shot digitally is fundamentally different from a movie shot on film. The most obvious difference is aesthetics. A digital movie looks different. It FEELS different. It IS different. A disinterested viewer once described the digital look as "cold and hard." I like it; that sounds right to me. Digital technology also changes the way filmmakers approach their work. Digital cameras are light, maneuverable, and quick to set and reset. Most importantly, there's no reason not to pursue perfection with each shot because the cost of shooting digitally is equal only to the cost of the charge of the battery. The aforementioned problem arises from the fact that people don't necessarily treat digital photography as an art form distinct from film photography. Directors replace their camera and act like nothing has changed. But things have changed. The change in technology must result in a change in style. Style! Style style style. Let's talk about style. And let's talk about why David Fincher is a genius and why Peter Jackson, who is truly a talented filmmaker responsible for no small number of wonderful movies, has some learnin' to do. Click "next" to continue.
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Brett loves great movies, the Green Bay Packers, textual analysis, formalism, film theory, Six Feet Under, blu-rays, the final shot from The Third Man, David Bowie, Belgian beers, scented candles, and Oxford commas.