If you have Netflix Instant, Keanu Reeves’ fantastic documentary on filmmaking, Side by Side, is available to stream. It features interviews from notable directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, James Cameron, David Lynch, Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh, as well as various other members of film society, including cinematographers, actors, editors and producers. The topic of conversation is the shift from celluloid to digital filmmaking and what this means for cinema.
What I like about this documentary is that, as promised, both film and digital are presented side by side, with arguments to be made for the advantages and disadvantages of each. There are some directors who have wholeheartedly embraced digital filmmaking and have found it to be more cost-effective in some respects as well as more convenient for some of the shots that may not be achieved through practical means. On the other hand, there are others who believe that shooting with film stock provides a quality and overall cinematic experience unmatched by even the best HD cameras.
Not only does this film give an awesome crash course on how movies are made, but it offers a unique look at the relationship that filmmakers have with the medium and how different an experience it can be based on what kind of film is being used. Side by Side features some incredibly insightful and fascinating commentary on the differences between shooting on film and on digital. It’s endlessly interesting to hear someone like Danny Boyle, for example, talk about how essential digital cameras were to making a film such as 28 Days Later. It’s also wildly entertaining to hear David Fincher recall his days on the set of Zodiac, where apparently actor Robert Downey Jr., in a sign of protest for the arduous and seemingly endless shooting time that digital filmmaking offered, left mason jars of urine around the film’s set. Side by Side is rich in anecdotes such as these, and offers a wealth of information about the filmmaking process for all involved. This is a documentary worth checking out for anyone who loves film and is interested to find out what the top Hollywood directors and cinematographers have to say about this movement in cinema.