By Ron Merk
In a world where the word is that digital is replacing film as a capture medium for motion pictures and still photography, the Italian manufacturing giant Ferrania has emerged from its slumbers and the entanglements of corporate ownership, under the direction of filmmaker and photographer, Nicolo Baldini.
This is surprising news, indeed, in a world where the “common knowledge” is that film is dying or dead, replaced by a myriad of digital technologies and tools. When Fuji went out of the film manufacturing business about a year ago (for most professional motion pictures stocks), it appeared that it was pretty much the death knell for 35mm negative and print stock other than from Kodak. Kodak, itself, is also struggling in bankruptcy, partially due to the loss of the 35mm print business when the major studios announced they would not be doing 35mm release prints after 2013. Who would have ever guessed that a former film manufacturer would go back into business?! When it was announced that Ferrania would re-tool and begin film raw stock manufacturing in 2014, I think everyone was surprised. Frankly, I’m delighted that we will now have a new source of small gauge (Super 8 and 8mm is promised) and other film formats that are hard or impossible to find.
The decision by Ferrania shows that there are some people in the world (other than those major filmmakers on the recent list I published of films made on film) who still believe in the future of film. I once was asked by some film students why I thought film would continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. I told them that no matter what the benefits of one or the other might be, we should consider them like two painting techniques. We recognize the difference between water color and oil painting. Each has its own specific qualities and usefulness to create imagery. Is one better than the other? Could we replace one with the other? Of course not. The same applies to film and digital technologies. Each has its place in this world, its own special qualities and usefulness.
It could be that the director of Ferrania are possibly waiting for “the other shoe to drop” at Kodak, that of their discontinuing film manufacturing at some point, and creating a void and a unique niche market for Ferrania products. No matter what happens, I think Ferrania products will be welcomed by the marketplace, and supported by people like me who still use their Kodak Brownie standard 8 camera to record some events that they think will be interesting to future generations when much of the digital media being shot on phones and other digital capture devices will be long gone.
There’s a lengthy interview with Nicola Baldini of Ferrania at http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2013/08/film-news-ferrania-is-back-exclusive-interview/
Another interesting site about film that has lots of resources including where to buy hard-to-find film stocks: www.believeinfilm.com
And if you’re wondering who’s still manufacturing film, here’s what I’ve found:
planning to begin manufacture in 2014
and of course (but for how much longer and at what price?) Kodak http://www.kodak.com/ek/US/en/Home.htm