Spielberg Sees the Digital Light (Kinda)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull whips its way into theaters this weekend, and much like his archaeologist hero, Spielberg is still a big believer in the importance of relics. Jones has his crystal skulls, Spielberg clings to his beloved film stock. While recent comments from the director shows he’s not eager to abandon film anytime soon, he does see the digital light, and is even embracing it (web projects! Video chat!) — just not to make movies.

During a recent Q&A with Entertainment Weekly, Spielberg and George Lucas had an exchange about digital production and the decision to shoot the latest Indiana Jones flick on film:

SPIELBERG: It was all 35-millimeter, chemically processed film…I like cutting the images on film. I’m the only person left cutting on film.
LUCAS: And I’m the guy that invented digital editing. But we coexist. I mean, I also like widescreen and color. Steven and Marty [Scorsese] have gone back and shot in black-and-white [on “Schindler’s List” and “Raging Bull,” respectively]. I don’t get on their case and say, ”Oh my God, this is a terrible thing, why are you going backwards?” I say, ”That’s your choice, and I can appreciate it.”
SPIELBERG: Eventually I’ll have to shoot [and edit] movies digitally, when there is no more film — and I’m willing to accept that. But I will be the last person to shoot and cut on film, y’know?

That resignation about his digital future seems to be a talking point on Spielberg’s press circuit. While in Cannes for Indiana, he told the Chicago Tribune:

“Making a film on celluloid,” he said, is a threatened mode of expression.

“Digital cinema is inevitable. It’s right around the corner. And someday,” said Spielberg, “even I will have to convert.”

Don’t be scared, Mr. Spielberg. As Jackson wrote last fall, the end of film will just lead to “the next century of movie magic.”

Despite his affinity for film, Spielberg can hardly be called a Luddite (though George Lucas did); after all, he did answer some questions over the weekend via video chat on Seesmic. In response to a question from The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss, he even alludes to a hush-hush web project he’s working on (his full answer embedded above).

The question isn’t really how or even when Speilberg will enter the digital future with his movies. But rather, with filmmaking technologies available to anyone — who will be the next Steven Spielberg and how will the very notion of movies change?

P.S. For fans of the fedora’d one, Harrison Ford indulged with some video Q&A as well.

Tip of the hat to CinemaTech, and, of course, Jackson West.

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