Clint Eastwood knows it's inevitable that digital cameras will overtake 35 mm film, but he said at a Tribeca Film Festival discussion on Eastwood's career with director Darren Aronofsky on Saturday that it's a change he's resisting.
The panel discussion included the world premiere of "Eastwood Directs," an hour-long love letter to the "Mystic River" director that was made by critic Richard Schickel.
After the showing, Eastwood said he has done testing with digital cameras, and though he admires the depth of focus the technology brings to an image, he still believes that traditional film offers more visual flavor.
He has yet to shoot a movie digitally.
"Film still has the edge," Eastwood told Aronofsky, in front of the packed festival crowd.
"Because of the economics of it all, it will probably take over in a few years," he added.
Yet, like Eastwood, Aronofsky is resistant to shooting a film digitally. And he said that shooting his last film, "Black Swan," proved problematic because it was hard to find labs to process film in New York City– and many crew members were unfamiliar with it.
"No one knows how to load cameras," Aronofsky told Eastwood.
Indeed, despite holdouts like Aronofsky and Eastwood, the conversion from film to digital is almost complete. In 2011, 20th Century Fox warned theater owners in a letter that in a year or two “the digital format [will be] the only format in which [the studio] will theatrically distribute its films.” Those few movie theaters that have resisted converting to digital projection are closing their doors or attempting to raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to install the new systems on sites like Kickstarter.
On the production side of things, companies like Fujifilm have divested themselves of the film business.
The film and the discussion afterward made it clear that Eastwood is a director who tries to create an informal and collaborative atmosphere on the set.
He said instead of viewing himself as an "auteur," he prefers to think of himself as a "platoon captain." It's a position he has no inclination to give up despite the fact that he is 82 years old, an age when many people would consider retirement.
"It would be great to be 105 and still making films," Eastwood said.
For the record: An earlier version of this article stated that Kodak was selling its motion picture film business. That is incorrect. It is selling its personalized imaging business, which does not include the company’s portfolio of motion picture products.