From the earliest days of the “talkies,” feature film directors have both embraced and disparaged new technology. Side By Side, a new documentary directed by Chris Kenneally and produced by Keanu Reeves, profiles contemporary auteurs’ insights on digital production technologies. The film will premiere Feb. 15 at the Berlin Film Festival.
Featuring candid interviews with such icons as Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas and Steven Soderbergh, Side By Side explores the full range of technical and creative opportunities presented by a new generation of digital production and postproduction tools.
“I was postproduction supervisor on a Keanu Reeves feature in 2010, and Keanu was fascinated by the interaction of the photochemical and digital components of the film,” explained Kenneally. “Side By Side evolved from those talks, and his enthusiasm was instrumental in setting the interviews.”
In the midst of their hectic shooting schedule, Kenneally set up offices in Sixteen19’s New York post facility to prep the documentary. “I’d worked on a number of projects with company principals Pete Conlin and Jonathan Hoffman,” he said. “I knew Sixteen19 was the right place for Side By Side.”
“When Chris came to us to discuss workflow and finishing for a documentary about film technology, it felt like a perfect fit,” said Sixteen19’s managing director Claire Shanley. “In addition to caring deeply about the subject, our team was ready for the project’s technical challenges.”
“We had the benefit of advice from many Sixteen19 team members,” said Kenneally. “They were invaluable in recommending interview candidates and helping us connect with some very busy people.”
In November 2010, Side by Side began a whirlwind schedule that took the crew from England to Poland to Morocco and Denmark and back to the U.S. Shooting in low light with little setup or prep time, Reeves, Kenneally, DP Chris Cassidy, and a lean crew shot interviews with a Panasonic HPX 170 and location beauty shots with a Canon 5D.
“Colorist Brian Boyd was a major asset in getting our disparate digital interviews, location footage and archival clips to match,” Kenneally explained, “All of our color correction needs were expertly addressed, and we were impressed with the results.”
Boyd reports the hours he spent conforming QuickTime files to Avid Media Composer and tweaking the footage were an almost “surreal education.”
“In addition to top directors, Kenneally and Reeves interviewed a number of leading cinematographers, editors and colorists,” he said. “Hearing their comments on the pros and cons of digital technology was fascinating. It was also terrific to see this documentary work on an entertainment level as well as an educational one.”
“We began this project at a particularly advantageous time,” Kenneally concluded. “We’re right at the tipping point of the film/digital revolution/evolution. It was the ideal moment to get candid and extremely perceptive comments from the very filmmakers who are leading the transition into the next generation of movie production.”