Star Wars: Episode VII Keeps it Reel

The latest Star Wars movie is bucking the digital trend and shooting film the old-fashioned way.

Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams has shot the highly-anticipated blockbuster on 35mm film, rejecting the now more common method of digital production. This is a major departure for the Star Wars franchise, with Episode I being the first film projected in cinemas digitally and Episode 2 shot entirely in digital format.

“I do think film itself sets the standard for quality,” said Abrams. “There’s something about film that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real.” The producer/director believes that once film is no longer available, neither is the benchmark for quality, “… suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, warmest, the most rich and detailed images.”

Few filmmakers use the old-school technology any more, choosing to shoot and convert footage digitally rather than use actual film.

Some directors, however, including the highly accomplished Quentin Tarantino still opt for 35mm over digital, believing it to be more authentic. At the Cannes Film Festival last year, Tarantino held a surprise conference where he slammed the industry’s obsession with digital. Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a previous winner of the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest honour, was the only film at the festival that year to screen in 35mm.

“As far as I’m concerned, digital projection is the death of cinema,” said Tarantino, who has shot all of his films on celluloid. “The fact that most films aren’t presented in 35mm means that the world is lost.” Tarantino hopes that we are going through a “woozy period with the ease of digital… that while this generation is quite hopeless, that the next one will demand the real thing.”

For some, old film is something you couldn’t fit in the bin. For others, it’s a collector’s item, with Sydney film school Metro Screen going so far as to create a new art installation out of their old stock.

Metro Screen has long-since converted most of their production equipment to digital technology. Instead of chucking out their old reels, they’ve hung them up in the entrance hall and all over the school, with the new art display attracting the curious attention of students and visitors. Check out the video below:


If you have old film reels or VHS tapes, there’s certainly a market for retro art and it could be just the thing to liven up your house or studio. Alternately, if you don’t mind a bit of effort, you could find an old camera and start shooting the traditional way. It won’t be so easy to edit, but as Tarantino and Abrams can attest, your work just might feel a little more real.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be released in Australia on December 17, and you can check out the latest trailer below.


On FilmInk