For nearly a hundred years, the technology of filmmaking didn’t change. Sure, you had 8, 16, 35, and 65mm film, but it wasn’t until until a Danish film movement and George Lucas that Digital filming and projection made its way into Hollywood. As film is facing extinction, director Christopher Kenneally, and interviewer/producer Keanu Reeves explore how we got to the digital revolution, and what filmmakers think about it.  Side By Side documents the rise of digital recording, and fall of film. If you love movies, it’s a must watch.

The Players:

  • Writer/Director: Christopher Kenneally
  • Music: Bill Ryan, Brendan Ryan
  • Cinematography: Chris Cassidy

The Plot:

Reeves talks to some of the greatest living filmmakers and technicians about the change from film to digital and provides a history of how digital photography began to rise in cinema – from the use of home video cameras by the Dogme 95 movement, to George Lucas shooting Attack of the Clones all digital, to how both Danny Boyle and Robert Rodriguez embraced the format for their films. We also hear from people like Martin Scorsese, who is on board with digital, mostly, James Cameron and David Fincher (pro digital), Christopher Nolan (pro-film) and actors like Greta Gerwig.

The Good:

  • Thorough: As someone who loves movies, I knew a lot of the information presented, but never saw the bigger picture of how things changed, and how fast things are changing until I watched this. Those in the community know that film is knocking on Heaven’s door at the moment, but the why was never so obvious after watching this. Also, it gives people another reason to hate George Lucas.
  • Fair: As Reeves said, the director of the piece was pro-digital and Reeves was pro-film. And I think both sides get the weight they require. Unfortunately Nolan and his DP Wally Pfister are two of the most vocal proponents of film, and in some ways they don’t come off well (not that the film is tipping the scales). With Fincher, with Cameron, and with the Wachowskis, you get people who are interested in technology moving forward . And if the argument is that film is inherently better because of quality, the counter is that we don’t know how good digital will look yet, and it’s possible that it could become better at some point.
  • Great Interviews: Everyone interviewed knows what they’re talking about and is happy to talk about it. Hearing from someone like Anne V. Coates talk about editing Lawrence of Arabia is magic, and Reeves brings these people out. Some of the stories might be familiar (Fincher mentions Robert Downey Jr.‘s habit of leaving piss bottles on set in protest of the digital filming), but all are entertaining. Scorsese talks about editing by hand and getting your blood in the film. It’s a perfect metaphor.

The Bad:

  • For Nerds: As a film fanatic, this is the sort of thing that I love watching, it’s essentially a supplement, though. It’s part of a larger conversation, and it’s smart and engaging, but if you don’t care about the how of how films are made, it’s not going to be much fun.


If you care about film, and are conflicted about the rise of digital filming and projection, then this is a must see. Otherwise…

Rating: 8.4/10

Side By Side opens in Los Angeles August 17. It hits Video on Demand August 22.