Religion. Race. Politics. These prickly subjects have always provoked heated discussion—and often bloodshed. In the more civilized arena of filmmaking, no one is shooting the shooters—at least not yet—just because they have opted to go digital as opposed to using film, and vice versa. But as the new documentary Side by Side makes clear, passions are running just as high when it comes to the impact of digital technology on filmmaking.
The 98-minute movie, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and is being released by Tribeca Film, also features interviews with top cinematographers, colorists, visual-effects supervisors and editors, including Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, Wally Pfister, ASC, David Tattersall, BSC, Michael Ballhaus, ASC, Walter Murch, Stefan Sonnenfeld, Anne V. Coates, Anthony Dod Mantle and John Knoll.
"The idea for the film came from Keanu," reports Kenneally, who met the actor while post-supervising Henry's Crime. "He was starring in it, but also producing, and was very involved in every aspect, from color correction to the sound mix, and was very curious about the whole post process. So we had a lot of discussions about digital technology, and he suggested making a doc about it, as we both felt we're all at this very historic moment of transition from film to digital, and it would be great to talk to as many top people as we could get and get their views on record."
With Reeves throwing his star power into the talent search, the team was quickly able to secure interviews with some 140 filmmakers, technicians and experts. "They knew it would be a fun experience, Keanu's well liked throughout the industry, and everyone wanted to do it," says Kenneally. "The hard part was chasing and scheduling people as they're all so busy and moving around so much." Some subjects, such as Nolan and Mantle, were particularly hard to catch. "Anthony's name kept popping up on every film that seemed to be the next milestone of what digital cinematography had done, from 28 Days Later to Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours," he notes. "So we really wanted him, but he was shooting in Africa, and we finally got him in London. And we chased Lars von Trier to Copenhagen, and we shot stuff in Morocco, Berlin, L.A., New York, Austin and Poland, so just logistically, it was pretty challenging."