The Huffington Post (US), August 14, 2012

Keanu Reeves On 'Side By Side,' His Directorial Debut & 'Point Break'

by Christopher Rosen

Keanu Reeves appears in one of the best movies of the summer -- but unlike "The Matrix" franchise, this one likely isn't coming to a theater near you.

Called "Side by Side," the limited-released documentary -- which debuts in Los Angeles on Aug. 17 before a nationwide VOD release on Aug. 22 and further theatrical expansion to come -- explains via interviews with directors like James Cameron and Christopher Nolan the pros and cons of both photochemical and digital film techniques. Reeves produced the film and conducted the interviews, gaining unprecedented access to some of the most respected craftspeople in the history of filmmaking; beyond Cameron and Nolan, award-winning below-the-line specialists like Anne V. Coates (editor of "Lawrence of Arabia") and Michael Ballhaus (cinematographer of "Goodfellas") also make appearances.

"Side by Side" came at a perfect time for Reeves, who just recently finished filming his directorial debut, "Man of Tai Chi." The erstwhile Neo has kept a low profile onscreen in recent years, but with "Side by Side," "Man of Tai Chi" and the upcoming "47 Ronin" on the horizon, Reeves is on the comeback trail. (There's also the long-rumored "Bill & Ted 3," which took another step toward existence earlier this month when a director was reportedly hired.)

An enthusiastic Reeves spoke with HuffPost Entertainment about "Side by Side," whether audiences actually care about the difference between film and digital and which of his past films was just "good, clean fun."

In the press notes, you mention that Anthony Dod Mantle winning the Best Cinematography Oscar at the 2009 Academy Awards -- the first digital film to earn that honor -- was the impetus for "Side By Side." But did you have interest in the behind-the-scenes machinations of filmmaking before that?
I was always interested in how movies get made: Working as an actor, starting with the camera, lens, lighting, et cetera. But I was working on a film in the fall of 2010 and in the process I was seeing that traditional movie making was changing. To me, it was the camera. Digital cameras were really being used more and more. I was like, "Is this the end of film?" I was interested in this question and I approached Chris Kenneally, who ended up being the director of the film, to see if he wanted to go on this expedition to find out where we came from with traditional filmmaking, where are we today, and where we'll go in the future.

The film does a great job of balancing both sides of the issue, but where do you stand? Digital or film?
I would say that I was more the photochemical side when we started the documentary and Chris was more of the digital. I was thinking, "What are we losing if film goes away?" And he was like, "What are we gaining with the digital?" So we were side by side, and I think that comes across in the film. Over the course of making the film, I learned so much, and I kind of land where Michael Ballhaus [lands]: If you do something with your heart and passion, it doesn't matter what [format] you use.

You talk to a lot of big-time directors in this film -- David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, even the Wachowski siblings. How difficult was it to get everyone to cooperate?
We just reached out. When we first started, no one knew what we were doing. We pretty much started at a film festival in Poland called Camera Image. We started interviewing cinematographers. That started to get word on the street. But, beyond that, the story led us. An example would be Anthony Do Mantle. A film he worked on was the Dogme 95 film called "Celebration." He ended up working with Danny Boyle on "28 Days Later" and "Slumdog Millionaire." We followed the story. If your'e talking about early editing, you've got to talk with George Lucas, who started with the edit droid. I had worked with Anne V. Coates, and she had edited "Lawrence of Arabia," but she also digitally edited films I had worked on. It was great to speak with her because she was steeped in traditional filmmaking, but also this new digital aspect. We would just reach out and hope people would talk to us.

Were there people you couldn't get that you really wanted?
Yes, of course! But let's not dwell on the past and the heartache!

Two of the biggest films of the year are "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hunger Games," and both were shot on film. Do you think audiences actually care about the difference between the capture methods?
I don't know. I think it's a case by case thing. Once that turns into a bell curve, I don't know what that looks like. Certainly, digital images have improved over the last few years. You need the right circumstances for both ways of exhibiting. If the projector sucks for digital, it's not going to look as good. If the projector is not set up right for film, it's not going to look great. Whether or not people care or not, I don't know. I hope our documentary deepens the appreciation for what you're looking at and experiencing.

Are you surprised filmmakers are still pushing 3D, when often times the images are still dark and compromised?
We're talking about different levels of execution. You can have bad looking films. You can have bad looking 3D. But James Cameron dealt with the light issues; he made a brighter movie [with "Avatar"]. Martin Scorsese and Robert Richardson really paid attention to that image [in "Hugo"] in the way that they could. But then there's also some less successful 3D films. [Laughs] Cameron talks about how the novelty of 3D is this a cash opportunity. There are certain moments where 3D is a miracle; it's beautiful. Then, sometimes, it gives you a headache. It's not as developed. We've been making 3D films for a long time, but the cinema language of 3D, and the digital technology, is immature. When you get it into the hands of a storytelling master like Cameron or Scorsese, they do something better with it. They know what they're doing! [Laughs] They know how to tell a story.

As an actor, do you prefer working on movies that are shot on film or shot digitally?
Film, to me -- I grew up in it -- is the gold standard. To make a movie was to shoot 35mm and to make a movie. That's changed. I don't feel that way anymore. Certainly in the early days, to go on a digital set was very different from a photochemical set; the capture medium, if it was film, was shorter than the digital medium. The rhythm of the floor changed. I can't say if it was better or worse, but I miss, sometimes, the event and romance of photochemical film.

You just directed your first movie, "Man of Tai Chi." Did you shoot it with photochemical film?
I shot digitally.

Ultimately, because it was the right look for me. Ultimately. In the beginning, I was expecting and hoping to shoot on film. But practically, because I was shooting in mainland China and the film industry there is not as established, there were some quality control issues. Digital made more sense for the production. I tested a few cameras and looks and I landed on something great. I'm happy with it.

How much did making this documentary help you in the process of directing?
Yeah, I would say absolutely that the experience making the documentary definitely informed and educated me in knowing a little more about what I had to do. [There was] familiarity with what it meant for digital workflow and how to look at the images; a comfort with the set, with the digital technicians. It definitely helped make the forest I was going into a little more known.

You hired Elliot Davis as cinematographer for "Man of Tai Chi" and he's done some great work in the past -- even shooting "Out of Sight" for Steven Soderbergh, which is an anomaly since Soderbergh often shoots his own films. Why did you hire him?
When I was looking for a cinematographer, his work kept coming up. It was the emotion he captures in the camera in his work with Catherine Hardwicke on "Twilight" and "Lords of Dogtown"; the beauty of his images. "Out of Sight" is a very stylish film, too. His framing is always tasteful. He has an immediacy with his cinematography. Even in a film like "Twilight," there's an intimacy in that lens and with the world he creates. And, you know, we got along. He was gracious enough to meet with me and take a chance to make a Chinese kung-fu movie.

You haven't acted in very many films during the past five years. Is that a matter of the roles not being right or you being picky?
It's a mixture of all of those things. In the past couple of years I got to work on "Henry's Crime" and "47 Ronin"; I played a villain in this film I just did. Yeah, it's been harder. It's harder to get films off the ground. It's harder to get roles. So, I guess it's just been my lot in life. But I'm working on it!

You talked with all those directors, did you think of maybe slipping them a headshot? [Laughs.]
Right? "If you enjoyed speaking with me, I can act. Would you maybe think about putting me in your next film?" I don't know. Any little bit helps.

When you were working with Kathryn Bigelow on "Point Break" did you have any idea that she'd become Kathryn Bigelow?
When Kathryn and I got a chance to work together, I knew she was special. What she wanted from the cinema. The storytelling. How she worked. She's really talented and great. I was really lucky to have the chance to work with her. That film was part of changing my life. It's a good, clean, fun movie!

Article Focus:

Side by Side


Side by Side , Matrix, The , Man of Tai Chi , 47 Ronin , Bill & Ted 3 , Henry's Crime , Point Break


Guestsome of your website's content (2012-09-12 00:34:31)
 This doesn't apply to this article,just your website in general.I'm a mixed race woman who is an admirer of Keanu,and some writings from various people and articles on your website use too much outdated words that are racial slurs against people of African decent(I'm mixed with African).Words like"good golly"and such are unacceptable.You also have words on your homepage that have racial innuendo about Japanese people.The Huffington Post writes terrible stuff also,mocling people with breathing problems,other slurs,and imying people dont show up when they do.For these many reasons I wont be viewing your website on future.Its also impossiblw to get Keanu's autograph,I've tried over 1 yr,also I spent alot of money travelling to see him in London,& he wasnt there.
Guestcontinued from"some of your websites content" (2012-09-12 01:30:53)
 There's a few mispelt words in the previous comments,I pressed the wrong letter.Following on from what I said,I'm Paula,the mixed woman who's into Keanu,the woman who certain media and public(I'm in Britain)give a hard time to.I've wrote t admiring letters to Keanu several times asking for his autograph,to see him,since 1yr now,no luck at all.I sent him my phone number and address,I heard he was in London,I went to where he's likely to be,the staff were unhelpful and off(I was quiet and polite)and was told he's not there,and if he was they cant do anything.The woman in their onsite taxi office was really rude to me,mocking my eyesite.Its a shame,British people are like this to me.I get mean stuff off people everyday here where I live,I'm moving.It seems only other fans are lucky to get Keanu's autograph or see him.I try everything and get no where,I get pranked alot.The internet always shows alot of pics of women getting his autograph,to rub it in that I cant get it.I quietly put up with all this.It was my dream to see Keanu & get his autograph,but no one is helpful towards me when I seek him,or ask.My dream has been squashed.You lose hope to get something,if you have to try for years.I've been told I can see him walking on the red carpet at his Ronin film premier end of next yr.I'll be in the crowd.Its nice for other fans that they are lucky,cos I'm not at all.Its sad for me.I wish Keanu the best for his movies,& life.
Anakin McFly
Normally I try to be polite (2012-09-12 17:35:13)


1) I'm sorry that you were offended by this website, but it is an articles archive and I am not responsible for the content of individual articles. I post articles based on how much unique Keanu info they have, nothing more and nothing less.

2) I did a search, and the phrase "good golly" makes zero appearance on this website, at least in the files I have. I googled the term, and apparently 'golly' is a substitute for "God". So it's a religious-based slur, not a racist one, and either way something that most people are probably completely unaware of the origins of.

3) I'm slightly offended by the implicit assumptions you're making about me, partly because - giving in temporarily to the Oppression Olympics - I'm fairly certain that I belong to more minority groups than you do, and probably get insulted more frequently by society and the media. I'm also obsessive over being sensitive to everyone and avoiding problematic terms where possible, and it kind of pisses me off, to be honest, that even on something as innocuous as a Keanu fansite - where I go to get away from this stuff - I can be accused of being hurtful. Specifics would be nice. I don't know what anti-Japanese innuendo on the homepage you're referring to, but I can assure you that I would never personally type anything that I knew was racist or otherwise insulting.

4) Like this website, the Huffington Post is not a monolith. It has hundreds (thousands?) of writers, some of which are good, others of which are bad, some of whom actively disagree with each other. Also, WINM has articles from 978 sources, and it's pretty much guaranteed that at least some of them are going to have posted offensive material in the past. Archiving their articles doesn't at all mean that I condone said material or every writer they have ever employed.

5) Articles in here date back to the 1980s. OF COURSE THEY'RE OUTDATED. THAT'S THE POINT OF AN ARCHIVE.

6) Sorry for shouting.

7) Lots of - perhaps most of - Keanu's fans haven't met him or got his autograph. He also does not respond to fan mail, if the mail even gets to him. It's not anything personal, believe me. If he took time to read every piece of fan mail, he'd get nothing else done. I've had people with terminal illnesses who have contacted me asking if I could help them fulfill their dying wish to meet Keanu, and sometimes I wish people would stop that because it makes me depressed. He can't meet everyone, and it's unreasonable to expect him to. I've never met Keanu myself and probably never will, and it's just one of those things you'll have to live with. There's more to being a fan than meeting the guy.

(2012-09-12 23:02:09)
 "There's more to being a fan than meeting the guy."
What Ani said.

Being a fan is mostly about giving - hence the very existence of this site.

Guestbeing a fan (2012-09-15 06:27:47)
  Its OK what you said about what it means to be a fan.I've given up wanting to meet him or get his autograph anyway its better not to have unreal hopes..I tried and it's impossible.I just look at his image and watch his movies.I"ll probably try to see him from the crowd on his"Ronin"premier end of next yr.
GuestAnakin, you're awesome (2012-09-15 14:49:02)
 Don't let this get to you. The truth is you didn't do anything wrong. It sounds like she's lonely, has had a rough time and mostly needed to vent. Hope your day gets better.
Guestbeing a fan (2012-09-19 02:08:38)
  Internet archives can be edited.I did see those words,I get slammed anything I say anyway.I dont care if people want to mock I'm lonely & stuff,alot of people are.Also people can write things to try to get a reaction off me,& I dont want to be drawn into that.I'll continue to watch his movies,buy more,& look at his pics,I think he's beautiful and talented.This is the last time I want to view your site now,thanx,
Anakin McFly
(2012-09-19 23:12:45)

That defeats the purpose of it being an archive. This archive has 2,717 articles in it, and who knows how many words in total. Do you honestly expect me to comb through each one of them multiple times in search of words that might remotely be construed as offensive to any single person on the planet, either because they are offensive or merely might be mistaken for words that are offensive, and then rewrite them? (which apart from being extremely impractical is also potentially illegal, since I'd be attributing my own words to writers who are not responsible for them).

Do you likewise complain regularly to libraries? If no, why not? I'm sure that they stock at least one book that uses offensive words. Probably a few hundred, in fact. I'm offended by things in fiction books far more often than anything in a Keanu article.

I'm a person, not a computer, and I do have other things to do. Some people are offended by Keanu; does that mean I should delete this entire website? I'm offended by censorship, no matter the intention. Do my own feelings not matter in this case, just yours?

Again, I'm genuinely sorry that you were hurt, but no one is here to mock you, and you're not the only lonely person here, so stop making assumptions. I'm probably lonelier than you.

Lastly, in case you haven't seen it, I'd like to direct your attention to the disclaimer on the articles page:

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in these articles belong to that of their respective authors. They are not in any way representative of those held by WINM or any of the archive's previous homes. (In fact I violently disagree with several, but in the name of professionalism have attempted to avoid making snide side-comments in the articles themselves except in cases where I really could not take it any more.)

So if you have a problem with an article, take it up with the writer.

History will not be edited. (2012-09-20 22:35:58)
 No more than it's already been, at least...

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