Kodak grants help keep film alive at UC Santa Cruz

A $2,000 grant from the Eastman Kodak Company will help keep film alive in the UC Santa Cruz digital arts program.

The grant, which takes the form of Kodak motion picture camera film, was awarded in recognition of the overall program quality of the UCSC Film and Digital Media Department. This marks the third consecutive year that the university has received the honor.

"This grant program rewards excellence in film production, and especially cinematography, by enabling film schools to undertake production projects beyond their normal budgetary scope," noted John Mason, director of Kodak's Student Filmmaker Program.

This year's grant will go primarily to support UCSC's upper-division film and video curriculum.

"It allows us to provide students with film stock so they can shoot test reels and do assignments," explained lecturer Irene Gustafson. "Film is very expensive and students might otherwise choose not to work with it. This gives them experience in working with that medium, and they can then choose whether they want to continue their individual projects on film or use digital."

Although nearly all the feature films coming out of Hollywood today are now shot on film, the industry is gradually moving toward the use of digital video technology.

"George Lucas shot his most recent Star Wars film entirely with high-definition digital cameras," Gustafson said. "He's a huge supporter of digital--that's the trend for the future."

Gustafson stressed, however, that film is still an extremely viable medium and particularly well suited for the teaching process.

"Film is a photographic process," Gustafson said. "Students shoot it and have to go through the calculations and adjustments of aperture and focus. I find it useful in teaching because students are forced to take so much care in thinking about the image in terms of framing, color, and exposure.

"Students take video for granted because with a video camera, the image is always there," she added. "I think 16mm film encourages particular skills--it requires attention to pre-production and planning. Students can then apply these skills to their video projects as well."

UCSC's Film and Digital Media Department chair Chip Lord noted that film has a slightly sharper image than video and can also present a wider range of contrast. He said that many filmmakers are now using a hybrid approach--utilizing the fidelity of 16mm film in combination with the flexibility of non-linear digital editing.

"In this transition period, people are shooting films on digital video, editing on computer, and in the final process going to film for distribution," Lord observed.

Both Gustafson and Lord agree that given the past 100 years of film's history, its legacy will always be with us.

"I still think it's a valuable medium," Gustafson said. "I don't think that film is quite yet the 8-track of images," she added.