David Lynch Does DV

4 10 2006

photo_davidlynch.jpg + sony-pd150.jpg = INLAND EMPIRE
No surprise there. In this new NYTimes article, Lynch expresses his admiration for the digital format. Many established filmmakers have taken the DV route in many different ways, but not for the obvious reasons that many would like to believe, and that is, “It’s tape, so it’s cheap.” It’s not cheap. The tape maybe, but people seem to forget that there are other expenses that take up most of the budget, like, for example, that you have to pay people on set working too…like the crew! The DV format has made it so accessible for students or poor (most of us are in the beginning stages) filmmakers to get their films made. However, few filmmakers seem to be willing to take advantage of this format. The enthusiasm seems to be high with established filmmakers or amateur filmmakers and not students of film schools. I will save my thoughts on film schools and MFA programs for another post. I’ve heard student filmmakers maintain that their short script can only be realized on film. They’ll spend an awful lot of time looking for money so they can shoot on 35 mm. Meanwhile their story and script sucks ass. I am not saying people give up shooting on film and go digital – I’d make a film on film, if I have the chance too – but don’t tell me a story is better told on film, or film is superior in quality, and all the other bullshit that will make your purist professor at the over-rated and over-priced school happy.

Some filmmakers seem to forget that the audience doesn’t give a shit whether their movie is made with 3- perf stock or mini-DV tapes from Costco. The regular film goer won’t give a shit if they’ve created a perfect contrast between light and shadow. They will care if the story made any sense, if the actors were any good, or if the movie was worth their time. Have you ever heard someone waiting outside the theater going, “I can’t watch this shit, they’ve used Fuji instead of Kodak”?

My point is, if you are a good story teller, you can shoot it with mobile phone camera and smelly sock puppets doing Hamlet and you’ll have an audience . So much time is wasted on things that ultimately don’t matter. Perhaps it’s not surprising to find filmmakers like Michael Mann, George Lucas, David Fincher, James Cameron, Soderbergh,
Robert Rodriguez, among many, going digital. While some of them are using high end equipment and even shooting tapeless, some have, with consumer cameras and, now out of date equipment and tape, made Dancer In The Dark, Festen, November, Bamboozled, Personal Velocity, Tadpole, Pieces of April, In This World, and the most recent example, Lynch’s Inland Empire, which was shot with a Sony PD-150. Documentary legends like Pennebaker/Hegedus and Albert Maysles are exclusively filming on DV. Some of the filmmakers don’t even bother with posting to get the ‘film look’ that so many new filmmakers sweat over. They’re going the digital route for all the right and all the practical reasons. DV makes their process flexible and does not constrain their creative process. It doesn’t bind you with ancient methods. Remember when writers used to compare between the new word processor and type writers? That debate doesn’t exist any more. This film vs digital won’t either. Just a matter of time.

I should stop before I foam at the mouth over this. Check out the films I’ve mentioned above. If you have saved a good amount of money to make your first movie, spend it wisely. Shooting on 35mm and but not spending enough on sound is a bad idea. Hire a good crew, hire a good sound recordist, just to name two. So many filmmakers think about sound late in the game that it ends up destroying their whole movie. If I had a nickel everytime I heard some filmmaker say ‘We’ll fix the sound in post,’ I’d be loaning money to Warren Buffet.

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