Wearing a dark suit, T-shirt, and beat up Converse sneakers, his hair relatively short and his face clean-shaven and youthful, Keanu Reeves appears relaxed and happy, one could also say excited and eager, and there’s good reason for all of the above.
The actor, soon-to-be 48, is showing off his latest movie, “Side By Side,” a documentary that traces the past and present of filmmaking. It’s now available on XFINITY On Demand – and as Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers wrote, “No true movie junkie is going to want to miss Side By Side.”
Reeves – also praised by Travers as an “astute and witty interviewer” – conceived this film, produced it, and asks questions of the medium’s superstars, including Danny Boyle, James Cameron, Christpher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Lars Von Trier, and David Fincher. The discussion is focused on the ways digital filmmaking has impacted and changed the art of movie making, but the byproduct is a wide-ranging, thoroughly engaging survey of the history of film.
“The director, Chris Kenneally, and really hoped to reveal the relationship that tehse people have to movies and storytelling and put together not just a history but a deeper appreciation of movies,” says Reeves, who prefaced our sit-down by hoping that XFINITY subscribers find and enjoy his film.
What is your film about? Broadly it’s about the art science and impact of digital cinema. In order to talk about that, though, you have to talk about a hundred years of photochemical filmmaking. Out of that come questions, like is this the end of film? And out of that comes a celebration of movie making and movies. The documentary hopes to kind of take you through where we came from to where are we today, and where we might be in the future.
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Where and when did you get the idea to do this? It was probably late summer, early fall of 2010, and I was working on a film that I had done called Henry’s Crime and I met the director Chris Kenneally there. He was working as a post supervisor, and he and I were in the post process – this is where the term side by side came from. The film was getting scanned to become digital. They correct the film digitally, color, balance, etc. Then they bring the film back and you matching it to the digital image. And behind us was a colorist for the digital, and a timer for the photo chemical. And they were side by side. And the cinematographer, Paul Cameron was showing me images that he was shooting for a commercial. And we were shooting it in Technicolor in New York, and in order to prepare for this post, I had gone through a tour of Technicolor and photo chemical process and how this was all changing. So I was in this kind of moment where I looked around and I went, photo chemical has gone away. It is going to be digital. And I was just interested in it and I said to Chris, “Do you want to go on this expedition and find out what’s going on?” And he said yes, and we started.
What did you learn from this expedition, as you say? I didn’t really know much about in terms of how we are archiving or maintaining the images that we have and the images that we are creating. Meeting George Lucas was memorable. I knew that he had an impact and had been involved in I’ll call it digital cinema, but I really didn’t know the extent of his impact – that he was a part of developing digital editing, special effects with ILM, developing the digital HD camera, and so on.
Is there a moment in there that surprised you when you got it? In the movie David Lynch says he doesn’t want to work photo chemically anymore. As he says don’t hold me to it. But I didn’t know that. And that’s fascinating in terms of his decisions and his art. I had the opportunity to speak with wonderful people and wonderful artists, and just really appreciating everyone’s passion. And I guess if I was surprised, it was by some of the philosophy that surfaces throughout.
Do you have a favorite interview? I was really lucky to be able to speak with Lars Von Trier. What was also special to me personally was being able to sit down with Lana and Andy Wachowski. I’ve known them for 20 years almost. That they would welcome me and the documentary and speak was very special.
Who is this movie for? Our hope was to really make it an accessible film for people who love movies – professionals and everyone else. When you finish watching the documentary you have listened to people who are passionate about what they are doing, and about something that touches our lives every day, and hopefully that makes you like and appreciate movies even more.
This movie is on XFINITY On Demand. Subscribers have a ton of choices every night. Why should somebody pick this? If you like movies, then this is a documentary that is really a chance to meet some great entertaining, interesting people and hear them talk about great movies.
Can you see yourself doing another documentary? Yes, I’d like to do something, again. I’d like to speak to actors about making movies. I would call it life and art – and talk about what was going on while they were making movies. You often hear this expression that art duplicates life, and life is art. So I’d like to kind of speak to some actors and say, what was going on here? How did this affect your life? What were the relationships like? And what was going on in the movie?