Scorsese Turns His Back On Film, May Never Look Back

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Legendary film director Martin Scorsese, who along with Christopher Nolan has championed the preservation of shooting on film for 2D films, has decided to shoot The Wolf of Wall Street digitallyThe move came as a shock even to his long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who broke the news in a recent interview.

It would appear that we’ve lost the battle. I think Marty just feels it’s unfortunately over, and there’s been no bigger champion of film than him,”  said Schoonmaker in an interview with Empire Magazine.

When Scorsese shot the Oscar winning HUGO in 3D, it made sense to shoot in digital.  And while doing so, he continued to support using film for 2D films (can’t believe we actually have to use the term 2D now to differentiate).  But for his first after Hugo foray, the Academy Award winning director of the “The Departed” has once again decided to shoot digital, pouring water on advocates like Nolan who seek to keep the dying medium of 35mm film alive.

Why the dramatic turn around? Well, more and more movie theaters are converting to digital, which means fewer film prints are being struck and distributed. So it’s certainly a matter of dollars and cents which may be motivating Scorsese to jump the analog ship. According to NATO, over 27,000 screens have already made the leap to digital projection  conversion. And studios like 20th Century Fox has already announced that they will be ceasing distribution of film on reels starting next year.  So for Marty, it’s just a practical decision. But there may also be another, more personal reason…

Scorsese is learning again.  His experience on Hugo, Oscar accolades aside, shooting in digital 3D was an adventure for him. “It was a discovery with each shot, each set. Designing the picture was an adventure in every facet. It was really rethinking about how to make pictures…Most of the time it was a great deal of fun.”  And although he also admitted that shooting 3D demands respect and was an “enjoyable headache,” he won’t have the pains with 2D digital that he had with 3D.  So he can run and gun with the young turks. And this deep in his legendary career, who wouldn’t want see his medium be fresh again?

But the decision, according to Schoonmaker, is bittersweet.   “It’s just impossible to fight (the collapse of film) it anymore, Marty and I are very depressed about it.” Schoonmaker also says that it’s likely Scorsese’s fight to preserve film will move towards preservation, which will be a tremendous challenge. He owns his own movie theater and is always screening classic films the way they were meant to be seen, on film. But with studios not making film reels anymore, the clock is ticking over how long those films will be able to be seen that way.

“If you don’t preserve these things every five years digitally,” says Schoonmaker, “they’re going to vanish. And who’s going to have the money to do that?”

Sources: /Film, ARRI, The Independent

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. James says:

    Hey! Take a look here: . Fortunately “The Wolf of Wall Street” is shot on film!

  2. Vincent Hogan says:

    As with all these reports, film as an origination format is never mentioned. The fact that exibition is converting to digital projection is one thing but when originating on 35mm or S/16mm the fact is you do not have to make prints. The industry has been digitizing film in post production for years. Origination format does not drive exibition!

    There are numerous feature films, indie and studio based that are shooting right now on film. Boardwalk Empire second season is shooting now, on 35mm celluloid and the visual quality stands out even among the laymen.

    • James DeRuvo says:

      Vincent, that may be. But it’s called show BUSINESS for a reason. Studios have found quickly that they don’t have to go to that added expense anymore. Will it go away completely? I suspect not. Just mostly. So at the end of the day, film will become an artistic choice, much like black and white has been since color “killed” it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!