Side by Side might just be the best documentary about filmmaking since Man with the Camera (1929). It's produced by Keanu Reeves, who also serves as interviewer. Reeves sits down on camera and has a discussion with some of the biggest directors of this era including David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, and George Lucas.
There are two main types of movie fans. The first kind go to the movies, or rent a DVD as a way to pass the time. They may know a few of the actors and possibly even the director, if he's one of the more famous ones. They consume the film in a very basic manner.
Then there are the people who know most of the actors, or they pay attention to the way a shot is composed, or they can appreciate certain lighting effects, or the pacing of the editing. These people are enjoying the film on a different level. Some would argue a level that was not intended by the filmmaker.
I belong to the latter, as I believe many of the people who frequent this website do. This is why I would like to recommend Side by Side to anybody whose love for cinema extends beyond the credits.
As a professional cameraman and editor, I find the subject matter that Side by Side deals with inherently interesting. I love learning about film, cameras, editing, lighting and all the components that come together to make a movie.
On the surface, Side by Side attempts to debate which movie making format is better, film or digital. The movie goes way deeper than just trying to answer this question. In fact, it goes through the whole workflow of how a movie is made. From how a camera works, to the cinematography, to the editing, to the color correcting, to the making of prints and the distribution of the film.
Even somebody who doesn't have an interest in the nuts and bolts of how a film is made will come away with a bigger appreciation for movies and all the work that goes into creating them. Even though I learned a lot of what was being discussed in college, or from other documentaries and by watching the extras on DVD's, I still learned a ton of new things from this film.
Side by Side does a nice job of laying out the pros and cons of both formats, but the film really focuses on the fact that the end of film being used to shoot movies is not a possibility, it's an inevitability. Technology has reached a point where it can no longer be ignored. Digital format was once looked at as inferior, but now it's on par if not surpassing what celluloid can accomplish. There's a certain sadness in hearing filmmakers talk about the death celluloid. Many of them are very nostalgic about the whole process of shooting a movie on film.
The ironic twist is that, as we move away from film and start putting more and more movies on a digital format, the process of storing and backing up the material is not reliable. It turns out that the best way to preserve a movie is to then transfer the digital format to celluloid. A true Hollywood story of redemption if I've ever seen one.
In the end, it doesn't matter if a film is shot on digital or celluloid. The only thing that matters is if a film tells a good story and includes memorable characters. Because of this simple goal, movies will always serve their purpose to entertain and inspire regardless of the format that is used to capture them.