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What Did You Shoot on, Keanu Reeves?

'Man of Tai Chi' director answers the immortal question

By Richard Whittaker, 12:30PM, Sat. Sep. 21, 2013

On the other side of the lens: Keanu Reeves as villain and director in Man of Tai Chi
On the other side of the lens: Keanu Reeves as villain and director in Man of Tai Chi

Sigh. It happens at every festival screening. Some film format wonk will ask the director, "What did you shoot on?"

So, Fantastic Fest attendees, we asked Keanu Reeves, director of Man of Tai Chi, so you don't have to.

Actually, all kidding aside, there's a very good reason to probe Reeves on this issue. Earlier this year, he produced and narrated Side by Side, a fascinating and even-handed documentary about the pros and cons of digital cameras vs. traditional film stock.

It's a contentious issue among filmmakers. Digital is cheaper, often far more convenient, and has opened up the production world to micro-budget projects. But no technology has replicated that subtle magic of 35mm, of light through celluloid.

According to Reeves, "I had the classic conversation. The filmmaker wanted to go photochemical, the cinematographer wanted to go emulsion, and the producer said, 'You guys are going to shoot digitally. I don't feel secure about the film stock, the processing in mainland China, and it would be cheaper.' Because of Side by Side, I knew what she was talking about." So after lengthy camera trials, he said, "I was really happy with the look that the DP Elliot Davis (Out of Sight, Twilight) got."

So what exactly did they shoot with? "We used an Arri Alexa studio camera and a Codex Arriraw file that's about 3K, four by three chip, and we shot with Hawk anamorphic lenses. That package so far is the first of its kind, and with it I feel that we achieved a really cinematic, filmic, but also modern digital kind of look. The documentary definitely helped me with that."

So, that's settled, and no one needs to ask him again.


Fantastic Fest presents Man of Tai Chi today at 6pm and Wednesday, 5:15pm.

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