I went and saw nitrate prints and Soderbergh on the same evening…

One of the benefits of living in LA – I was going to go see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo tonight with a friend, but he emailed me in the afternoon to go see something else instead –

Just saw (OK, last night, internet connection down when got home) Steven Soderbergh speak at a UCLA film restoration thing – we watched The Devil Is A Woman, a 1935 black and white Marlene Dietrich film, shown on a rare nitrate print (the dies-from-the-edges, flammable-like-in-Inglorious-Basterds film stock), then we watched a digital projection of The Girlfriend Experience, his shot on Red in 15 days with crew of 12 indie flick I saw previously at Sundance. Notes from Q&A follow:

Notes on what he said after:

-talked about his unique experience with Red, how he shot Che on build 1, then Informant and GFE on builds 14 and 17, and is shooting Knockout on Build 31 (which isn’t even released yet).

He said he’d held an Epic in his hands, ‘the size of a still camera’ (OK, maybe a BIG one, like medium format???), and that he liked it because it got out of the way – it let him get into any space and shoot without needing the huge truck and a ton of guys etc.

He talked about how he shot The Girlfriend Experience in 15 days with a 12 person crew (my friend Jason asked and got details on who was in the crew, something like him, a DP, an AC or 2 (probably a data wrangler?), 3 grip/electric, a couple of ADs, stuff like that. Very light.

Talked about how film/digital is like analog/digital in audio – different. Pros and cons to each. Not picking a better/worse, just some are better at some things than others.

Talke about how a medium that records, regardless of sampling rate, by deciding at some point that it is a zero or a one, is inherently different than an analog recording experience. I’d say the comparison to film is apt – the varying grain size of film gives it an organic resolution different than the pixel based resolution of digital as an acquisition medium, REGARDLESS of the fact that most everything is finished digitally today.

Talked about how Red has a very specific tone, tone curve, and how he works with it, adapts to it.

Old Guy behind me gave an incredibly awkwardly long not-question-but-speech about how modern film is everyone getting to put their emotions into it, and older films were simpler, more basic, and the audience read their own experience into it. The went off on a long but polite rant (why is it always the old guys who do this at Q&As!!!!????) about how the family is the core of what is needed, and older films stressed that, and new ones today, and was just short of “these kids today” when the moderator cut him off.

Soderbergh responded with making movies is variations on a filmmaker making the statement of “you ever feel like this way I do?” or “You know someone like this?” and with new cheaper tools like Red, you can make a movie and say exactly what you want. BUT…..how many variations of the two above questions can be told? Have we run through all the variations? Soderbergh himself (a very creative guy) was wondering how many sufficiently original ideas he could have that were worth asking and answering on screen.

Another audience question was about his thoughts on 3D and a possible new visual language style. Soderbergh said he thought 3D was interesting and valid (not in those words exactly), but that he had a project he wanted to kick off in the fall that would be in stereoscopic 3D. He said he feels the format is valid/interesting for more than just action, animation, horror, and VFX driven movies. He likes to dwell on a scene, to have time to stare at it, and the modern theatrical narrative doesn’t talk that way (lookin’ at YOU, Michael Bay!). 3D lends itself to more immersive, lookit for a while type shots, and he wants to do that.


Mike Curtis