The last 10 years have seen digital technology all but destroy the once great analogue behemoths of the film industry. With every increase in mega pixels came crashing another company. A strange thing has been happening though over the last few years. The last remaining film companies started to see a levelling out of their plummeting sales and in the last 2 years have begun to see small gains. Indeed, its the smaller companies that are bucking the trend the fastest. The once mighty Agfa couldn’t maintain a business and went bust but were bought out a few years ago by Adox who have rescued a select few films and papers and are producing them in small batches. This, they say makes them more versatile and more able to change to moving market conditions. In addition, the British company Ilford (now owned by Harmen) are a small manufacturer by traditional standards and have been seeing sales increases for a couple of years now. Another big success in recent years has been Lomography, with their hipster leanings they have been going from strength to strength.
The larger companies like fuji and the reformed Kodak have been slower to stem the bleeding and are still in the process of cutting lines with the hope of finding a maintainable level of production. The 3m company’s Ferrania film division was one of the worlds largest producers of film. Based in Italy it went bust and ceased production some years ago but around a year or 2 ago a group of former employers began to hatch a plan to resurrect the research a development building which contained a small scale miniature version of all the machinery needed to produce their film. Their idea is bold; they have seen smaller companies with small productions runs like Adox and Illford and thought they could use their R&D equipment to form a company more suited to modern levels of demand. Having spent the last year getting this facility up and running they have been hit with an obstacle! The owners of the land which houses the massive buildings and football field sized pieces of machinery which surround the research facility are planning to demolish the building next year. They’ve done the numbers and they just don’t have enough time to make a first production run, sell the films and use the money to save the precious equipment under threat. Some of which is the last of its kind in the world and would be invaluable going forward to a company able to pay scrap prices for what was once millions of pounds of equipment.
They, like many upstarts in recent times have turned to kickstarter in an effort to get hold of the money and are offering the film from their first production run as rewards to wood be backers. Its going to be 100 iso Slide film in both 35mm and 120. We think that’s a hell of a gutsy decision. Although the slide film segment certainly needs more help than any other its this very reason which makes it so risky! Every one else in the market is ceasing production of slide films because demand for them is so much lower than black and white and C41 color.
Will it pay off?
Well, the short answer is yes! They are less than a week into their month long campaign and they have raised $220 000 of their $250 000 goal. Success (touch wood) seems almost in their grasp and if/when that happens we will introduce the first new player into the market for some time. A feat which seemed impossible only 3 years ago with plummeting demand. They certainly have the confidence to pull it off! In the risks and challenges section of their campaign they open with, “The only risk is not reaching our goal.” a hell of a statement bearing in mind the fallen companies which lay behind them. We have reached out to film Ferrania and in fairness that statement is with regards to getting the rewards to their backers and completing the limited kickstarter run. Something that they feel they are in a position to accomplish presently using the already up and running LRF small batch machinery.
But who is still shooting film?
With photography more popular than ever thanks to the ease of digital more people are learning a lot of the same skills needed for film photography. With cities like Aberdeen (where Photoghost towers are based) offering half a dozen courses from HNC to degree level more people than ever are seeking out a formal education in photography. All of these courses show respect to the Analogue arts by requiring that their students learn the ways of film and the darkroom. In addition we have a seen young pro photographers who have learned their craft in the digital world using film both for its artistic qualities and as a differentiating factor when trying to appeal to clients looking for the aesthetic which only film can offer. Many magazine editors and even young brides love the feel and emotion which is created by film. Just look at the way every photo on instagram uses some kind of film filter! This is a look that people want and one that a filter can only do a half arsed job of emulating.
Before you all go diving over to kickstarter to contribute to this awesome project i have one parting thought for you;
If you digitally print an image of a painting onto a canvas is it a painting? Of course not, its a print.
If you take a digital image is it a photo? if you then print it is it even then a photo?
Have you ever even taken a photo?
I know i’m going to get some abuse for that last one but the aim was to get you thinking….. then head over the kickstarter project to help out and get yourslef some sweet rewards for being a super human being……
They made it! as of 13 OCt 2014 they are at a little over $255 000 so It looks like we have a new player in the film industry. We wish them the best of luck in what will no doubt be a difficult industry to crack
Your thoughts and comments are welcome both below and on the facebook page.