Ti West Talks with the Film Connection – Part 6
Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Dave Baker is a writer who has worked for Universal, Fox, and numerous other companies. He also writes and co-illustrates the webcomic The Action Hospital.
Film Connection: I’m Dave Baker, and today we’re talking with Ti West about digital filmmaking. I read that you shot The Roost on film, which is insane for the amount of money that you shot that movie for. Talk to me about why you chose film at that point in time.
Ti West: Well, two reasons. One, at that point in time, if you didn’t make a movie on film, you weren’t really making a movie. It looked like kids in the backyard pretending to make a movie. Nowadays, you get more entertainment out of YouTube clips than you do movies, so a video camera in the backyard is totally fine. That’s an acceptable format. In 2002 or 2003, whenever we made that movie, it wasn’t there yet. Nowadays, if that had been my first movie, I don’t know what I would have done. But also for me, it’s better. Film is better than digital. When the day it’s not, and the day I don’t think it is, I guess I won’t care about it anymore. But as of today, it’s better. And I look at it like, if you’re making your first movie, don’t worry about it. It’s not your fight. You know what I mean? You’ve got to make movies. You got to do what you got to do. But if you’re an established filmmaker, and Tarantino said something about this at Cannes last year, if you’re an established filmmaker, why would you ever choose a lesser format? Why would that even be an option? I don’t get it. But it’s another thing about the disposable nature of where we’re at. Some people could have a really strong argument about why digital is better. I have yet to believe it, but they believe it, so they got to do what they got to do.
Film Connection: At the time that you made it, then you chose it because of your aesthetic taste based on film, not the cultural awareness of digital then, or the inherent flaws in digital?
Ti West: My feeling is the same reason I shot The Roost on 16 millimeters, is the same reason I shot on In a Valley of Violence in 35 millimeter. If I had shot those movies on digital, from the first frame, I would be in a hole that I can never dig myself out of. It would have been, the movie looks shitty, and that’s a very huge, important part of filmmaking, is how it looks, and I would have never been able to make it not look like that. So, from the second that movie started, I was already in a hole that I couldn’t get out of, and In a Valley of Violence is a western, and if I had shot it on digital, it would look like a behind the scenes of a movie, or a History Channel re-enactment. It wouldn’t look like a movie, and I would never be able to fix that. So from the second that movie came on, I would be at a disadvantage that I could not overcome.
Film Connection: How did you overcome that then with The Sacrament because that was shot digitally?
Ti West: Well, The Sacrament is a movie that is about a movie being shot digitally, so it makes sense for the movie. It’s about a documentary crew using a C300 like we’re being filmed right now. So, because that’s what the story was, it made perfect sense to shoot it on that. But, if that movie had been the same movie, but not from the camera’s perspective, not this point of view, like documentary style if it had been like, “Oh, I was filming them, filming.” I would have never shot it on digital. But I also think there is a respect and a different kind of energy that comes with that because every time you turn the camera on, you’re spending money, and you’re doing things. And some will say, “Digital’s great. You can just roll.” But why is that great? What do you get out of that? Just more stuff. It’s like you don’t make choices that way as much. To me, personally, that’s not as interesting.
Film Connection: Thank you so much, Ti, for coming in and talking about your movies.
Ti West: Yeah. Thanks for having me.