What everyone does agree on is that DV allows filmmakers to shoot the digital equivalent of miles of footage. Whereas a typical cash-strapped indie might shoot at a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio (that is, 5 minutes shot for every minute used) and a studio might have the wherewithal to shoot at 10-1 or 15-1, the sky is the limit for DV makers. The "Some Body" people shot 100 hours. The film is 80 minutes long, so that works out to a ratio of 75-1. It took them a year of six-hour days to edit the footage.
Bruce Wagner says he was fortunate that the talky nature of his movie ("Women in Film") necessitated only 30 to 35 hours of footage, which is on the low end of the scale. "Series 7" director Daniel Minahan, a veteran of cutting documentaries for the BBC, knew enough to keep the ratio down, but even so he shot three times more than he would have on film.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 31, 2001 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Digital filmmaking--Thomas Vinterberg wrote and directed the influential Dogma 95 film "The Celebration." A story in Saturday's Calendar about digital filmmaking incorrectly identified the director. In the same story, the name of filmmaker Geoffrey Pepos was misspelled.
"I think if you're shooting on a luxurious schedule it can happen, but I don't have those kinds of schedules," says Anders of footage overload. "You decide what takes you want and load them. If you're new to this, I think that what you do is work with a DP [director of photography] and an editor who are experienced with the medium."
Documentarians, on the other hand, need a lot of footage to get what they want, so DV is ideal for their work (which may be why three quarters of the docs in competition are on DV). Many documentary makers also like the fact that with DV they don't have to reload the camera every 10 minutes, thus interrupting the flow of an on-camera interview. However, Susan Froemke ("Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton"), an old hand at documentary filmmaking, claims that reloading allows everyone time to think and relax. She also believes that it teaches discipline and that DV footage profligacy inspires sloppy filmmaking.
Kate Davis, who directed "Southern Comfort," a documentary about a female-to-male transsexual who is dying of ovarian cancer, says she wouldn't have been able to earn her subjects' trust without the uninterrupted nature of DV filmmaking and the ability to take the camera everywhere.
"The cameras are really light compared to film cameras," says Davis, who shot 65 hours over a year. "If you're shooting all day long, it makes a big difference. Your back won't be broken at the end of the day."
Portability and the amount of footage that can be shot have their advantages on the feature film side too. Because the camera is unobtrusive and innocuous, filmmakers have been known to steal shots in public places while passersby think they're just shooting a home movie. And many filmmakers say that because they can keep the camera rolling and lighting requirements are minimal, actors are more "in the moment." As a consequence, DV has gained a reputation as an actor's medium.
Gilmore says he doesn't see much difference in performance and adds that all the traditional elements--script development in particular--are just as important on DV as they are on film. He thinks that digital video's real value will come from filmmakers' ability to manipulate the image, to experiment.
Anders, who believes that "Things Behind the Sun" is the best movie she's ever made, says, "I love it. I felt a freedom I never felt with film. I think it's a fabulous medium for women filmmakers and personal filmmakers. It's a friendly medium."
What everyone seems to agree on is that audiences will accept the way digital video looks (especially when it can be made to look like film). Gilmore adds that younger people in particular, who were raised on computer games and the Web, will embrace the digital aesthetic. The last people on board, as is usually the case, will be Hollywood (with the notable exception of George Lucas)--including, ironically, the major independents.
"October Films didn't want people to know that 'Celebration' was shot digitally," Broderick says. "They were concerned that the movie wouldn't be treated the same way that a movie on film would. There's this kind of lag that happens in the industry. A year from now at Sundance the question of what it was shot on and how it's projected won't be asked."