Indie Filmmakers on Digital Filmmaking

Recently, at the Produced By Conference on the Sony Lot in Culver City, director Christopher Nolan said that he will definitely not be making a fourth Batman movie, and he believes that digital filmmaking is “devaluing of what we do as filmmakers.”

The Dark Knight Rises director’s comments sparked an avalanche of commentary. One responded with “…Admire Nolan for his stance…it is one, however, that will be lost in the long run… the benefits from technology are often good yet this technology leaves a toxic trail in its path….because [they] think it is less costly than film… not necessarily better for the shoot… just cheaper.”

Nolan was quick to dismiss those who praise the low cost of digital filmmaking… So I decided to check in with a few of our Latino indie filmmakers to ask them what they thought of Nolan’s lack of love for digital.

JoJO Hendricksen

“I think Chris Nolan,” said JoJo Hendricksen, writer of Ladron que Roba a Ladron and writer/co-director of GB2525, “can certainly afford that opinion but at my level, I can’t. I’m extremely grateful for the many breakthroughs digital filmmaking has had on the entertainment industry. It’s allowed myself and many other people with tiny micro ‘not Batman Rises,’ budgets to tell their stories and in the end isn’t thats what filmmaking is all about… the telling of a good story?”

When I mentioned that Nolan said that using digital, “is reducing most theaters to showing TV commercials…. comparing video, like television,” Hendricksen countered with: I watched Nolan’s Inception, which was shot on 35mm and I was still confused!”

 Patricia Cunliffe, filmmaker and journalist (A Language of Passion, The Pueblo Revolt) thinks Chris Nolan is an excellent filmmaker, who has had a very unique and fortunate situation. “His [Nolan] access to the family camera at a young age, and although he claims that he never went to film school, he was still making 16mm films through the Film Society at University College. Chris Nolan began using film [from the beginning] and is in an enviable position to say whatever he wants and to shoot on whatever he pleases.”

 But for the rest of us, Cunliffe added, “This is a great time to be making films, because digital technology has helped to level the playing field across the board. This is the first time in the history of movies, that people who are not especially well-connected, or do not have an abundance of resources, are still able to tell their stories on an affordable medium, and to have them accessible for viewing in a variety of ways beyond the traditional. In fact, filmmakers are being much more creative in their methods of storytelling because of the digital medium. Yes, film is beautiful, but the bottom line is still about story. Is your story engaging? In my opinion, it is the content that matters most…not what medium it was shot on.”

Independent filmmaker/writer/actor Miguel Najera is as nostalgic for the purity of film as Nolan.  

“Its beauty is still unmatchable by digital,” said Najera. But he understands the change. “Look, I started out cutting film on flatbeds but do I want to go back to that? Even 35mm film is digitized today for easier editing and it took only a few years to move on to digital cameras. The quality isn’t perfect but the reality is most kids under 25 already live in a digital world and don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I disagree with Nolan when he says they are just ‘video’ movies. Like any medium it’s how you use it to tell great stories. What Nolan needs to do is be a part of improving the medium not complaining.  Somebody ought to put some of the new cameras in his hands, take away his budget and see what he comes with.” Najera’s credits include his award-winning indie Libertad and an AIDS documentary Phillip’s Story.

“No one would argue that film captures a layer of mood that is lacking with digital, can enhance a feeling you’d take away from watching,” commented a filmmaker at the Produced By Conference, “But does that ultimately matter in today’s world of entertainment?”  I don’t think so with the new way of how we watch movies: ipad, plasma, LEDs, PC, etc.

And, all three directors agreed that there is no way that any of them would give up turing their stories into movies simply because they do not have the money to shoot on film.

At the end of the day, film or digital, it is like JoJo Hendricksen said, “it is the story that matters.”

Check out JoJo Hendricksen’s website for his GB2525 film:


Latinowood, June 21, 2012 — Elia Esparza




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Elia Esparza is a leading expert in communications and journalism targeting the burgeoning Hispanic market and has produced and written dozens of articles. President and CEO of Always Evolving PR and a Communications Specialist, Elia, incorporates her 18 years experience in the areas of entertainment and education public relations, and marketing. promotions, market research and translations (Eng/Span).

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