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Why use film in 2020?

I never intended for this to be an article, it was just a question I was thinking about. It seems using film cameras is becoming more popular, and why? Is it just for hipsters and Tarantino or is there a reason to use it? For starters film requires more time, effort and money to capture a moment than a camera that’s digital…not to mention most phones these days have pretty great cameras themselves. I have a theory to answer this question and that’s because of the charm film has.

The care

I think this comes from several factors, the first being the fact when you know you have a certain amount of film you’re a lot more careful with what you shoot. You really have to take time and think about what you’re shooting as you do it. I think this refines and distills what ends up in the frame.

The practice

Not to mention it takes a lot of practice shooting on film, I remember the first time I tried film photography, I used the whole reel, thinking I’d captured some at least a few decent photos, but low and behold, I arrived at the developers and was told that my finger had slipped on the release button meaning the whole reel had been wasted. While this was a pain in the neck at the time I’ve never pushed the release button accidentally again. The same goes for all the aspects of film, I’ve messed up lighting and corrected it, I’ve messed up framing and corrected it. Although this can also apply to shooting digitally there’s a lot more that can go wrong using film.

The story

It’s all well and good what film can teach you, but what does it provide to the story? Well, a few things in my opinion, one of them being a real sense of nostalgia, you can usually tell when something’s been shot on film due to the slight grainy texture and the colours that seem so much more interesting that the ones captured digitally. When I see modern films and have a feeling they’ve been shot on film I feel more invested, asking myself why the director has done this? For instance Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, well it’s set in 1969 so film helps take the audience to that period. The same can be said for Mid90s, though digital cameras were around at this time the film still has the effect of taking the audience back in time.

In advertising

Now what about the use of film in advertising, strange right? I wondered as I wrote this how many modern ads chose to use film and quite a few surprisingly. The surprise being film is harder to use and when one has deadlines, clients to please and specific points to hit, it might seem like an unnecessary extra step. That being said the ads do look great and there’s a reason behind the madness. It’s the same reason as the movies, to transport the audience to another time, look at this mini cooper ad which I absolutely love, you’re transported back to this moment in history and it almost feels like you can smell the petrol and burning rubber.

Another ad to use this technique is this ad for Audible, I think they chose to use film to make it more personal, almost like it’s raw and unpolished and we’re genuinely walking and listening to this man speak. In this use I don’t think they’re trying to make you time travel but rather you’re connected to a character you just met.

In conclusion, I really do have a love/hate relationship with film. It can be frustrating and challenging at times to use but as a filmmaker if you’re not challenging yourself then you’re doing something wrong. Also, when you finally get that shot, that image, that moment you were hoping for it feels amazing.

Even in 2020 when you can make movies on your phone and get good cameras for a few hundred pounds, I think film still has its time and its place. I think it always will.