Cinema’s future is now

Check out the California Next Gen Film Festival, August 28-31, at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium; $10 general admission, $25 for a four-day pass. Visit or call (916) 802-FILM for more info.

Q-and-A with California Next Gen Film Festival president Jaime Gonzalez.

Where do you see cinema/filmmaking in the next 10 years and how does this festival reflect that vision?

Because of new technology, the world of cinema and filmmaking is becoming much more democratic. In the next 10 years the barriers of affordable special effects and crew will start to be torn down. We will begin to see remarkable work arising from unlikely backgrounds. The Next Gen Film Festival, being centered on new technology and young filmmakers, involves filmmakers that are on the cutting edge of independent cinema and audiences that want to see new and exciting work.

How did you conceive the idea for the Next Gen Festival?

The idea came out of a frustration with how films are showcased at a lot of film festivals. A couple years back, I shot a documentary short in [high-definition] and was really looking forward to how the film was going to be shown on the big screen.

When my film screened in Las Vegas, it looked amazing, but anywhere else I went I experienced dim projection, small screens and low-resolution, down-compressed films.

Knowing it was possible to do better, I researched the potential of bringing an HD festival to Sacramento, and after meeting with Christie Digital [Systems company], the idea really began to evolve.

Right now it has evolved to a point where the enormous space inside the Memorial Auditorium is allowing all films to be shown on a 32-foot-wide screen.

What can digital filmmaking offer artists/audiences that celluloid filmmaking cannot? What are its shortcomings?

Digital filmmaking has revolutionized not only the workflow for filmmakers, but also the budgeting process. For instance, right now, because of the new Red One camera (used in the Angelina Jolie film Wanted), a filmmaker can shoot an industry-quality movie for roughly the price of buying a new hybrid car. The Red cam will actually be showcased at our fest on Saturday.

Also, unlike film, hard-drive space doesn’t cost $150 per minute to shoot on, and it’s reusable.

There aren’t many shortcomings, but I don’t know everything. Our Friday night panel (August 29) with Don McAlpine (Moulin Rouge), who has been shooting films in Hollywood for over 30 years, could answer this question way better than me …

When, if ever, do you see digital taking over mainstream exhibition of films?

Probably about 20 years. For many, there is a strong nostalgic attachment to shooting on film, and it is understandable. Most all of our favorite movies were produced on celluloid. Even the Oscars currently do not nominate any cinematographer who shoots digitally.

As soon as a solid string of films shot digitally prove both successful and artistically credible, we will see film start to fade out.

Who are some of the Festival’s short-film directors, and what surprises/inspires you about their work?

Just off the top of my head: Joaquin Baldwin, Alex Minas and Lauren Greenfield are filmmakers that have really surprised me with their execution of vision.

Joaquin’s animated film, Sebastian’s Voodoo, about a voodoo doll who has to make a tragic choice, takes you through a wide range of emotions in only four minutes. Really impressive. Alex’s film, Free Delivery, has a really fun twist and is very effective. A lot of horror films can be shocking, but very few know how to build suspense. Kids + Money is a very revealing documentary about America’s youth. The film is gripping because she really allows the kids to be themselves and does not narrate. Lauren Greenfeld is actually a very successful photojournalist and will be on the opening-night panel with Rudy Youngblood, the star of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

Why is digital filmmaking the future?

Digital filmmaking is the future for the same reason talkies became the future in the 1920s. The new technology allows filmmakers to completely rethink their visions.

Filmmakers can do more takes without being interrupted by reel changes, cinematographers can light their scenes better because the monitors show what they will be working with in post-production, and even special effects are immediately ready to be incorporated into a project because the footage does not have to be converted. As Robert Rodriguez stated, filmmakers can now “move at the speed of thought.”