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Will motion picture film survive the current situation?


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I was under the impression that the only reason Kodak still operates as a producer of motion picture film was because the major studios agreed to certain large purchases of film stock each year.  I'm not sure if these are multi-year agreements.  But if movie production ceases for a prolonged period, Kodak will have no customers.  How long can they survive such a situation?

 

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Deals from January 2020 : 

"The initial 2015 deals were believed to have covered two years, and the latest pacts, which were set to be officially unveiled Wednesday night at the Kodak Film Awards, are believed to span a longer period."

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/studios-up-kodak-deals-keep-celluloid-film-alive-1274709

 

Did you read that ?

 https://www.indiewire.com/2020/02/large-format-film-kodak-2020-no-time-to-die-tenet-wonder-woman-1984-1202213355/?fbclid=IwAR33-iKPFlPj7dFx3cynVV4Agpv5SQXoNVbovqcf1dNStYn7J6_R3CNVoZg

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Without knowing the precise language of the contract, that first article doesn't really tell us anything.

Also, my post was really just a hypothetical.  How long does Kodak live if they can no longer sell motion picture film?  If they shut down, would that particular variant of movie-making cease to exist?  Would another company fill the gap?

 

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Kodak is completely solvent. They are landlords now, making money off renting space on their properly in Rochester. Supposedly that's most of their income right now. So I'm not immensely worried about Kodak. The contracts with the studios are going to stay, those big movies they had already greenlit will be continued to be produced. My concern is what will happen next year when the economic downturn has hit full bore, studio's are going to be scared to spend money. They may tear up contracts as a way to save money, but at this point, speculating isn't good. Kodak has survived through quite a bit of rough weather, I don't think this little 18 month issue is going to affect them very much. We will still be watching a 70mm print of Christopher Nolans new movie in July, I hope. :fingers crossed: 

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Perhaps my subconcious mind was just fantasizing about Kodak needing to turn to another source of movie film revenue to keep operating.  Like, oh I don't know...  a new Super 8 camera for the mass market.  But that's just crazy talk.  :)

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6 hours ago, Malcolm Ian Vu said:

That's why I said "mass market".  If they were relying on sales of Super 8 film, they'd need to move a few million cameras.  Only way to do that would be at ~$299.

Probably the only way to get to a mass market would be for them to use the cameras as a loss leader, i.e. sell the cameras at a loss and make it up with film sales. The big question is, would enough people buy the camera and enough film for it to be profitable? This is a particular concern given the ongoing shocks due to such a large portion of the economy being shut down (things like a super 8 camera and film are "extras" that people will probably cut out before cutting other expenses).

Kodak still isn't in the greatest financial shape, but they have improved things (e.g. lowered long term debt, etc.). They've been running at an operating loss (note: as a publicly traded company this is all available) for the past few years, the net profits they have reported have come from other activities (e.g. renting space as Tyler pointed out).  Their cash flow hasn't been great over the past few years either.  Cash flow is a particular concern as that means they would have to incur the loss and negative flows, then realize the profit and positive flows over a longer period of time. They would need a better balance sheet and cash flow to make it work.  It would be quite a gamble for them to do take this approach, at least at this time.  If they tried it and things didn't pan out, it would put them in a really precarious position.   

 

Edited by Leanne Summers
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8 hours ago, Malcolm Ian Vu said:

That's why I said "mass market".  If they were relying on sales of Super 8 film, they'd need to move a few million cameras.  Only way to do that would be at ~$299.

Even if by some miracle they were able to sell them for $299, have you ever met the hard core super 8 people? They have no interest in spending $50 on a camera, let alone $299. They also shoot like 5 rolls of a film a year, not enough to even warrant Kodak making super 8 stock to begin with. 

The reason the Super 8 camera won't be released any time soon is because Kodak and the design firm Logmar are in a heated financial debate. I believe kodak went into the deal with good intentions, but Logmar wasn't reimbursed the about they had initially agreed on. Thus, either Kodak has to start over again with a different design OR they need to pay Logmar and then get the camera made. There are other problems as well, but that's the gist of what's going on. 

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2 hours ago, Leanne Summers said:

The big question is, would enough people buy the camera and enough film for it to be profitable?

Answer is no... and Kodak's motion picture division management team retired last year. I think everyone is tired with poor upper management decisions. Kodak manufacturers film, but they treat film as if it's a fragile egg. Their rules destroying film after 6 months of sitting, prohibits them from making the money they should be making. That rule needs to go away and they need to sell that older stock for less money to re-can companies like Reel Good in Hollywood for cost. 

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2 minutes ago, Robino Jones said:

What about the labs? There's so little of them, I hope they're going to be ok. I hope Fotokem is not going anywhere soon.

They're all working actually. Fotokem is closed to the public, but they are finishing Tenent and some other projects. 

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On 4/4/2020 at 3:13 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

Answer is no... and Kodak's motion picture division management team retired last year. I think everyone is tired with poor upper management decisions. Kodak manufacturers film, but they treat film as if it's a fragile egg. Their rules destroying film after 6 months of sitting, prohibits them from making the money they should be making. That rule needs to go away and they need to sell that older stock for less money to re-can companies like Reel Good in Hollywood for cost. 

No, not selling old film stock preserves the value of the brand, real or perceived.  If every one could buy 6 month old stock at a discount there would be much less market for chemically fresh.  Bad marketing.  The cost to manufacture doesn't diminish, along with the films sensitivity does it?

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18 minutes ago, JD Hartman said:

No, not selling old film stock preserves the value of the brand, real or perceived.  If every one could buy 6 month old stock at a discount there would be much less market for chemically fresh.  Bad marketing.  The cost to manufacture doesn't diminish, along with the films sensitivity does it?

Think of it a different way. Consumers don't really effect Kodak's bottom line. The guy who buys 2 rolls of 16mm film for their music video, isn't "helping" Kodak. However, when that filmmaker has bigger budgets and works on bigger projects, they will buy more film and they will buy new because they want the freshest stuff. 

There is already a somewhat healthy recan business, so people can get film for a discount, just not enough to make a feature or something like that. If Kodak were to sell their over 6 month old stock to recan companies at half price, they would be doing 2 things. One, they wouldn't be destroying OCN, which I think it's a real shame. Two, they'd be diluting the recan's because let's face it, once a roll of film has been opened, all bets are off. So a fresh infusion of new stock that is maybe a year old, but SEALED, would be huge because it would be cheaper than NEW for those people who need 2 rolls for their music video AND Kodak would be making money off film they literally destroy and get .5 cents a foot for. 

One more thing to note, Kodak doesn't have A LOT of throw away stock. It's not like there is enough for a studio to swoop down and by half a million feet. We're talking about an infusion of maybe 100 rolls total of various stocks and formats. It's all very random stuff, that Kodak sends for destruction. If they could recoup even HALF of the discounted selling price, they should do it. Not directly, but through a 3rd party. 

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I agree with you first paragraph somewhat.  However, people who develop cheap habits continue with that habit even when no longer constrained personal finances by a shoestring budget.  I can save you $$$$ on film stock, we can use that money elsewhere. 

I'm sure the people with business degrees have considered ideas like you before and decided it's not in Kodak's best interest.

Paragraph three, how do you know how much stock they manufacture and destroy on a given month?

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7 hours ago, JD Hartman said:

I'm sure the people with business degrees have considered ideas like you before and decided it's not in Kodak's best interest.

I've asked the powers at be, they haven't re-examined their workflow processes in years. We're in a different world than when film was king and I bet they haven't examined anything in decades. 
 

7 hours ago, JD Hartman said:

Paragraph three, how do you know how much stock they manufacture and destroy on a given month?

I ask a lot of questions and deal with Kodak corporate on a weekly basis. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Let's face it, the moment Sony released the F35 and ARRI their ALEXA, then the entire movie film industry (as in the actual analogue film part of the film industry, be that 8mm or Super 35mm) was living on borrowed time. And the arrival of HDSLRs, Blackmagic, and RED only sped that up. 

Of course I don't expect to see film die in 2020, perhaps it won't happen 5yrs from now, or even in 20yrs, but I expect to see the death of motion film on a commercial basis happening within my lifetime. 

 

On 4/6/2020 at 7:55 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

Think of it a different way. Consumers don't really effect Kodak's bottom line. The guy who buys 2 rolls of 16mm film for their music video, isn't "helping" Kodak. However, when that filmmaker has bigger budgets and works on bigger projects, they will buy more film and they will buy new because they want the freshest stuff. 

There is already a somewhat healthy recan business, so people can get film for a discount, just not enough to make a feature or something like that. If Kodak were to sell their over 6 month old stock to recan companies at half price, they would be doing 2 things. One, they wouldn't be destroying OCN, which I think it's a real shame. Two, they'd be diluting the recan's because let's face it, once a roll of film has been opened, all bets are off. So a fresh infusion of new stock that is maybe a year old, but SEALED, would be huge because it would be cheaper than NEW for those people who need 2 rolls for their music video AND Kodak would be making money off film they literally destroy and get .5 cents a foot for. 

One more thing to note, Kodak doesn't have A LOT of throw away stock. It's not like there is enough for a studio to swoop down and by half a million feet. We're talking about an infusion of maybe 100 rolls total of various stocks and formats. It's all very random stuff, that Kodak sends for destruction. If they could recoup even HALF of the discounted selling price, they should do it. Not directly, but through a 3rd party. 


That's a really good idea to sell off discounted expired film. 

Like you said, there isn't enough of it for someone to go make a major motion picture with it, and they wouldn't want to risk a major multi million dollar production on expired film anyway! That's just madness. They'd always be buying the latest freshest film, that's just smart business sense for them rather than risking the farm on expired film. 

But for people who want to do a music video or a short film, which are shot on the smell of an oily rag, anything which helps cut costs is immensely good news for them! And if they cut their teeth on that then the aspiring directors who are  moving up the ranks are more likely to shoot their feature film on new fresh stock. Helping keep alive film for another generation, extending film's lifespan as viable option for a few more years. 

Last year I was the Production Sound Mixer for a short film shot with Super 35mm, never having worked with film beforehand I had to put quite a bit of research into that beforehand to figure out and make sure I had the right approach to the shoot. 

Was even worse for the Camera Department, as they tried really really hard to find camera crew with experience working with film, even putting off the shoot dates once so they could keep on looking. 

In the end they had to go with a camera crew that had no experience with film (aside from the DoP, who wanted to shoot on film, plus the steadicam op who was an old school guy who had a bit of experience and kinda acted as a technical advisor of sorts, giving advice from the sidelines to our camera assistants). 

At least this was "just" a short film and everything seemed to go through ok in the end. But imagine if they wanted to do this on a grander scale, and shoot an entire indie feature film on S35?? It just quite possibly wouldn't have been doable, due to the lack of available skilled talent available. Those with experience, either having retired, or being too busy with work, or too expensive. 

There needs to be some support for a certain volume of shorts and music videos every year to keep on being made, otherwise there won't be any new crew expertise coming up to replace the existing folks. 
 

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41 minutes ago, David Peterson said:

At least this was "just" a short film and everything seemed to go through ok in the end. But imagine if they wanted to do this on a grander scale, and shoot an entire indie feature film on S35?? It just quite possibly wouldn't have been doable, due to the lack of available skilled talent available. Those with experience, either having retired, or being too busy with work, or too expensive

There are so many people with experience out there it's insane, but it's hard to find them for some reason. I just shot a feature on 16mm and I was the only guy on set who knew anything about cameras or could load film for that matter and it was fine. I just came with a lot of mags and loaded them the night before. 

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The future of film isn't just in the hands of the manufacturer of the recording medium. Half of the the celluloid budget goes to getting film processed and scanned. And that's with a friendly price.

Kodak will continue to exist as a company for a while. Will they abandon their film division? Maybe. Like someone pointed out it's poorly managed, they stopped caring about smaller projects making a lot of filmmakers feel like poop when reaching out because they're no Chris Nolan or Tarantino.

Kodak is so slow to adapt that it's probable they'll have plenty of film for you to purchase and no lab that's close enough or affordable enough for you to take the film you shot using their product to the finish line. A lot of small LA based shoots still ship to a lab in Mass. because it's cheaper than some L.A. labs including transportation and associated risks.

So Kodak will survive COVID. Will the small labs too? Not sure. It'll all depend on local orders to restrict business, the timing of that state by state, etc.

We might as well end up with just Kodak and Fotokem, a couple mobile labs, all for big bucks productions and the story stops here. 5 DPs a year shooting over the length of Sunset Boulevard on a production week and the rest buying film grain packages to overlay on their dailies until they realize the highlights are gone anyways and the skin tone isn't quite there yet.

😘

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41 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:

There are so many people with experience out there it's insane, but it's hard to find them for some reason.


Sure. there is a lot of people out there with experience. (btw, I live in Auckland, which is the biggest city in my country. So we have a decent sized film industry, but nothing like LA or NYC!!)

But many people who are from the peak film era would have retired, and those who remain, they might be too busy working, or not be willing to work on a short film / low budget music video at a reduced rate below their normal day rates. 
 

 

27 minutes ago, Toto D Guerra said:

Kodak will continue to exist as a company for a while. Will they abandon their film division? Maybe. Like someone pointed out it's poorly managed, they stopped caring about smaller projects making a lot of filmmakers feel like poop when reaching out because they're no Chris Nolan or Tarantino.


That's very short term thinking if you're nothing thinking about the next generation!

 

28 minutes ago, Toto D Guerra said:

Kodak is so slow to adapt that it's probable they'll have plenty of film for you to purchase and no lab that's close enough or affordable enough for you to take the film you shot using their product to the finish line. A lot of small LA based shoots still ship to a lab in Mass. because it's cheaper than some L.A. labs including transportation and associated risks.


That's the case here in New Zealand, you have to ship your S35 film overseas to be developed and scanned!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/4/2020 at 8:33 PM, Tyler Purcell said:

The reason the Super 8 camera won't be released any time soon is because Kodak and the design firm Logmar are in a heated financial debate. I believe kodak went into the deal with good intentions, but Logmar wasn't reimbursed the about they had initially agreed on. Thus, either Kodak has to start over again with a different design OR they need to pay Logmar and then get the camera made. There are other problems as well, but that's the gist of what's going on. 

@Tyler Purcell - Please stop making false and unfounded accusations – none of what you’re saying is correct.

Logmar and Kodak has been cooperating in good faith since 2015.

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13 hours ago, Lasse Roedtnes said:

Please stop making false and unfounded accusations – none of what you’re saying is correct.

Sorry, that's what I was told by several people I'm sorry if they were all wrong. Can you tell us what the delay on the Kodak camera is? 

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On 4/27/2020 at 10:47 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

Sorry, that's what I was told by several people I'm sorry if they were all wrong. Can you tell us what the delay on the Kodak camera is? 

No worries, I just didn't want there to be false rumors in the market.

We are not at liberty to discuss the project due to NDA, despite us exiting in December 2019.

Yours truly

Lasse R. @ Logmar Camera Solutions

 

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Film won't go away, but it will definitely become an increasingly rich and fringe option for making a movie especially now.

The unbelievable developments in Unreal Engine will push the industry to more productions that integrate real-time virtual production. The stuff that Matt Workman has been doing in his tiny home studio proves how cheap it is for even micro budget films to integrate this workflow. Fun fact, Unreal Engine is completely free for filmmaking.

Virtual production will get easier because current digital cameras already have the capability to record gyroscopic and easily fit into the system's workflow.

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