The theater was nearly filled to capacity Monday night at the Arclight Hollywood where the Hollywood Post Alliance had arranged a screening of the documentary Side by Side. Producer Keanu Reeves and the film’s director, Chris Kenneally, were available after the screening for a Q&A session with the audience of cinematography professionals. Side by Side tells the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation, as well as the culture shock in the film industry. The advent of digital, which Reeves called “a revolution and an evolution,” has been going on for decades, but the film mostly focused on the last 20 years.
The filmmakers started shooting in 2010 having seen the ARRI Alexa at Plus Cameraimage film festival in Poland. “Before that, if you were shooting on digital, it always seemed like, even as a post supervisor, ‘Oh, that’s sort of a low-budget, indie kind of artsy thing,’” Kenneally said. However, the time seemed to be drawing near when digital would step up its game. “It seemed like when we started making the movie that it was almost that year when people maybe were choosing digital because they liked the way it looked, not for the other reasons: ease of use or cost or things like that.”
In addition to having filmed Side by Side digitally, Reeves was able to share his experience directing Man of Tai Chi, which was shot digitally on the Alexa Studio using Hawk anamorphic lenses. The decision to shoot digitally was made mainly due to concerns over quality control and what to do with all the film. “I started to investigate the digital world and did some tests with the Alexa, with the RED, and with photochemical.” Reeves said. After having a chance to check out the Alexa Studio, Reeves decided it gave the film a look he liked. Reeves added that he ended up being very happy working with cinematographer Elliot Davis on Man of Tai Chi.