View Full Version : Black & White or Colour?

04-29-2007, 02:03 AM
Okay a quick debate. I have had one hell of a debate with my sales partners in the US about our next film 'Ten Dead Men'.

We are making teh film in balck& white (with Sin City esq colour splashes) but they have thrown a shit fit saying that the film will never sell.

There was a time I was told DV would never sell yet we haev locked down 15 + countries with Left For Dead so...

So is there REALLy still a stigma to B&W or are the sales guys just stuck in the past?

(See the trailer to see the effect we are going for)

04-29-2007, 12:18 PM
looks fine to me. I think the sales guys are trying to sell. if black and white is really just one color, color is 3 and 3 is more than one...follow the logic, then apply a cream. Make the movie you want and be enthusiastic about it. Yours was an artistic shot in color and applied a post processing technique to focus attention and heighten the experience.

04-29-2007, 12:28 PM
they have thrown a shit fit saying that the film will never sell.

Yes, this is very true. I was attacked for considering a TITLE SEQUENCE in black & white for Horrors of War. Buyers have said that no oen wants tos ee a black & white movie. Even the COEN BROTHERS had to release THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE to Asian territories in full color.

It's a hard sell with no name stars. SIN CITY made it on the full cast, not to mention Jessica Alba gyrating.

04-29-2007, 03:14 PM
I hear it all the time from distributors. It's tempting to assume they don't know what they're talking about, that we filmmakers know better, but there seems to be plenty of evidence to support the distributors claims. As Peter pointed out, the Coen brothers were on an upward swing with their three films previous to "The Man Who Wasn't There". Check out the numbers:

Intolerable Cruelty $35,327,628
The Man Who Wasn't There $7,494,849
O Brother, Where Art Thou $45,506,619
The Big Lebowski $17,498,804
Fargo $24,567,751
The Hudsucker Proxy $2,816,518

It's hard to to think that black and white had at least something to do with such low numbers. I've tried finding very low budget ($80,000 to $250,000) DTV features released in B&W and have found almost none. Maybe it's because the distributors are right? I have no answer - I prefer to shoot in B&W but just can't.

04-29-2007, 03:19 PM
Now if TEN DEAD MEN can pull those numbers on a $10k+ investment i'd be one f**king happy filmmaker!

04-29-2007, 05:01 PM
so you're set then ;)

04-30-2007, 01:19 AM
Ha! Indeed!

04-30-2007, 11:13 AM
I know people who won't see Sin City because it's in B&W. These are the same people who'll rent a movie based on DVD design, which is what you shooting for in the DTV market, am I right?


Loud Orange Cat
04-30-2007, 07:59 PM
Producers are always whining about what will and will not sell.

Don't compromise your artistic integrity. If you want to shoot in B&W, go for it.

04-30-2007, 09:05 PM
You've already shot B&W right? Or did you shoot in color and go B&W in post?

05-01-2007, 01:00 AM
Shot colour. Post B&W.

05-01-2007, 10:14 AM
Another alternative is the highly desaturated look. Emulating the bleach bypass look can be a compromise with distributors. Near-black & white, but with some colors and then tell them it's "color" but make it damn close to black & white.

05-01-2007, 11:33 AM
Don't compromise your artistic integrity.

This option isn't always viable. It doesn't always make sense to put artistic integrity above business. Sometimes that whining producer is just trying to earn back the money they raised. If that whining producer makes a profit the writers and directors might get the chance to make another movie. Hard as it is to believe, sometimes the artists don't have the right answer when it comes to the business side of a movie production.

05-01-2007, 12:01 PM
So true. We figaured as this is the last movie we will make on our own with our own money to take a risk... if it works we will break new ground, if it doesnt we can always go back and redo it!

Loud Orange Cat
05-01-2007, 07:33 PM
This option isn't always viable.Normally, I would agree with you. After all, money is money.

But I have two words that are in the forefront of my mind that nullifies your statement: Stanley Kubrick.

Since I'm still a penniless filmmaker, I can afford to shoot like this. Money, however, changes minds... :hmm:

05-01-2007, 08:55 PM
Is giving the color guys a color version and the rest of the world a black and white version an option? Just going from the point made that the Coen brothers had to give a color version of "man who wasn't there" to Asia.

Is that really true? Did the Coen Brothers really do that? Seems hard for me to think that the Coen brothers would compromise something like that, but maybe they did. I know color, or lack there of, is a big deal for the Coen bros. Why should they have to compromise anything for anyone?

05-01-2007, 09:21 PM
Business is compromise. If the guys who control the gateway to $$$ say color, they want color. The only way to get around that is to have a proven track record that you can hold up and say...see, I've been successful in the past, I know what I'm doing! Find someone who can talk anyone into anything, that always works for me ;)

05-02-2007, 08:48 AM
Is giving the color guys a color version and the rest of the world a black and white version an option? Just going from the point made that the Coen brothers had to give a color version of "man who wasn't there" to Asia.

Is that really true? Did the Coen Brothers really do that? Seems hard for me to think that the Coen brothers would compromise something like that, but maybe they did. I know color, or lack there of, is a big deal for the Coen bros. Why should they have to compromise anything for anyone?


# The movie was filmed in color, then printed in black and white by special processing. However, at least one print was released with the first reel in normal color due to an error at the lab.

# Though released in a black and white version, the picture was originally shot on color film. Allegedly because of a mixup at a developing lab, some prints released in Canada had the first reel in color by mistake, while the rest of the film was in black and white.

# Because of a contractual agreement, the distributor (USA Films) is allegedly releasing a color version in Europe

# Limited edition DVD released in Korea allegedly contains both original theatrical B/W version and Color version on two separate disks.

# In some European countries (among which Belgium, France and the Netherlands), the rental version is available only in color. Strangely enough, the version available in the stores both has the original black & white version as well as the version in colour.

# In Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, one DVD version sold in stores consists of 2 discs, one containing the black and white version and the other having the film in color. However, there is also a single disc color only DVD available.

# The color version has been released on DVD in Thailand, with a Thai language track.

05-02-2007, 09:59 AM
Wow, and I love "man who wasn't there" and I've only ever seen it in black and white.

I think black and white is a great artistic choice as long as it serves some kind of purpose. There has to be a strong reason for using black and white over color. It's hard to convince an audience that's looking for higher and higher quality images to watch on their HD televisions that black and white can be just as beautiful as color. We had a short film in our festival last year, "Listening Dead", that was not only black and white, but silent as well and it won best short at our festival.

I have a friend who is sure that 1080p, HD video looks better than film on a 1080p HD TV. I told him I just think it looks like really, really good video. I don't think the general public looks for the artistic value of a film these days and maybe your distributors are right in that sense. The movie probably will appeal to a larger audience if its color. But film festivals and the audiences that they attract will be more likely to accept and appreciate a black and white film.

05-02-2007, 11:30 AM
I don't think the general public looks for the artistic value of a film these days .
Was there ever a time when the general public looked for the artistic value of a film? I don't know that the general movie going public ever looks for the artistic value. I'm not saying they don't appreciate the artistic, just that the artistic value isn't in the top five reasons the general public chooses what movie to pay to see. And not just these days.

As filmmakers we need to balance the business with the artistic. Many times the distributors know much better what will sell than we do. Phil - I hope your B&W release is a huge success. I still can't find any sub $50,000 movies with no name stars on the DTV market at all. If your does great business it might open up the options for the rest of us.

05-02-2007, 12:14 PM
Was there ever a time when the general public looked for the artistic value of a film?

I think back when Scorsese, Coppola, Bogdanovich, Hopper, Fonda, Beatty and even Spielberg and Lucas were getting their starts and overthrowing the studio system was a time when artistic value of a film was held in a higher regard over the slickly polished Hollywood movies. Even Hitchcock and Orson Welles demanded respect as artists and filmmakers and still appealed to a larger audience.

So artistic quality of a movie seems to me to have fallen, like you say, out of the top 5 reasons to see a movie for the general public. I think it used to be held in a higher regard.

05-02-2007, 06:39 PM
I would agree that B&W movies are generally overlooked by the public in favor of color. For every B&W movie you can point to that did well, you will most likely find something else in its favor -- a) star actor, b) star director, c) massive promotional budget, d) some combination of the above. If a movie studio REALLY wants a B&W movie to do well, they can probably promote it heavily until it does well enough. Indie projects don't have this luxury, so I would expect that's why the distributor balks at the idea of distributing a BW movie. If you are Rodriguez, Spielberg, or even the Coen's (who have enough of a cult following) -- then you can probably get away with it. Otherwise, your Indie BW is likely to be overlooked.

05-02-2007, 08:20 PM
Interesting take. I never though that "Easy Rider" was considered a film with artistic value. Hopper and Fonda have always called it an exploitation film. Same with the early films of Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets), Coppola (The Terror, Dementia 13) and Bogdanovich (Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, Targets). When they were making their first movies in the 1960's and 1970's I'm not convinced the general public were interested in the artistic value of their work. And it's quite a stretch to say that Spielberg got his start by bucking the studio system. His first work was in TV and his first big feature was made deep inside the studio system.

Lucas was more interested in the artistic value than anything else with THX-1138, but it's release nearly put American Zoetrope out of business partly because the general audience was more interested in films like Shaft and Dirty Harry that year. A quick look of the top movies that year suggests the audience was no more interested in the artistic value of movies than they are today. Lucas' next two films were a teen comedy that has now reached legendary status and a space opera that Fox dumped on the market on 32 screens before the summer rush simply so he would make another teen comedy for them. In 1976/1977 the general public wasn't interested in the artistic value of movies any more than they are these days.

I agree with you that filmmakers like Hitchcock in the 50's and 60's and Welles in the 40's demanded respect but Welles movies never appealed to a large audience. He struggled to get movie financed and released all his life because the general public just didn't understand or appreciate his artistic vision. Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger and Macbeth were all failures in their original release. The general audience didn't discover their artistic value until the late 1970's after the critics started saying how great he was. His first modest hit with the general public was the pot boiler, film noir, B-film, Touch of Evil. A great film, but hardly a film of artistic value in the eyes of the general public.

I don't quite see your point that the general public was more interested in artistic value than today. Of course there were filmmakers making artistic films in the past just as their are today, but the general public has always been more interested in stars, sex and action. The fact that the filmmakers you mention made artistic films doesn't mean the general public was more interested in art than they are today.

It's always fun to pull the great movie of decades ago and draw the conclusion that the general public was much more artistic and film savvy than the people these days. But you must also look at what the general public was paying to see at the times those great films were being made to get a true understanding of what the general public was really interested in paying to see.

Ya' know what we need? One of little smiley guys getting of a soapbox. I'd put one right here ---->

05-03-2007, 12:59 PM
I guess I didn't really have any stats to go on, I just feel past generations were more acceptable of artistic expression in movies than today's generation. Maybe I'm way off.

For instance, my dad loves Easy Rider, Mean Streets and Apocalypse Now, but now he loves Armagedon and Gone in 60 Seconds. How does that happen?

05-03-2007, 01:35 PM
Memory is an odd thing. The Hollywood fluff that sells really well doesn't necessarily lend itself to memory, based on the fact that it's just like every other movie released around that time and from then to now. I love hollywood fluff, it's pure distraction at its core and serves no purpose other than escapism.

The artistic ones perservere because they are shocking, interesting, beautiful, whatever. I saw 2001 in the theater...beautiful, I still see that movie in my head everytime I walk into that theater...even when we shot "Curtain Call", or go to see a play or symphony. I also distinctly recall seeing the preview for a rock opera by some "Pink Floyd" group which my father told me I couldn't go see when it came out for some odd reason.

As I get older and my idealism fades, I have strong memories of my idealistic endeavors, but no recollection of my day to day routine. I'm sure that standing in the right place or smelling the right scent would jog those memories as fond ones, but they aren't memories that stick out.

I don't think the audiences of yesteryear were any different from audiences of today. The movies that get acclaim are the ones that no one goes to see (Crash/Brokeback exception). They have smaller/shorter runs than the blockbusters, but no one talks about last years blockbusters, and the little artsy films become parts of the culture at large. The original Matrix vs. the 2 that followed. I remember walking out of the Matrix and questioning reality...I walked out of the other two quesitoning Hollywood's ability to make a sequel. They had all of the things that were necessary to make them sequels to the Matrix, but like Star Wars, once it was out, there was nothing that quite lived up to it.

In 20 years, no one will remember what most of the movies were that played unless they broke records or cultural mores (

Loud Orange Cat
05-03-2007, 07:39 PM
Isn't there an unwritten rule that everyone has to do at least *one* art film to get the shot at getting commercial gigs?

Really, even I tried my hand at one. It sucked. But at least I did it. :D

05-04-2007, 01:03 PM
I guess I didn't really have any stats to go on, I just feel past generations were more acceptable of artistic expression in movies than today's generation. Maybe I'm way off.

For instance, my dad loves Easy Rider, Mean Streets and Apocalypse Now, but now he loves Armagedon and Gone in 60 Seconds. How does that happen?

Hey, ya feel what ya feel. I was hoping you had a time in mind when the general public was interested in the artistic value of film. I sure don't know of that ever being the case.

The reason your dad's taste in movies has changed is pretty clear cut. We all change as we grow older. In our youth we look to movies that are rebellious because we are - we look for movies that inspire because we are still learning and growing. And we see so many more movies between 12 and 30 then between 30 and 60. After a while many people just want to sit down and be entertained, not challenged or inspired.

The good news is (in my dad is any indication) once you get a little older (my dad's 73) you get more interested in challenging, rebellious, inspiring, artistic movies. My dad was the same as yours until a few years after he retired. then he had more time to see movies and found a wider variety than when he was seeing five to eight a year. Now I'm the busy one and he's recommending movies to me that I miss. Very cool.

05-05-2007, 11:10 AM
I don't know if it's so clear cut on the getting older thing. I know plenty of older people that still like what I would consider to be the good movies. Good story, good characters, more artistic in presentation, etc... I, myself, am getting older. I really feel that the whole upgrade in technology that has been happening so rapidly is encouraging more and more of the big budget, big effects driven, short on story and artistic quality movies. I think more people have HD televisions and sound systems and they only feel they're getting their money's worth if they are seeing and hearing loud explosions. The medium is becoming more important than the message. The technology of the home entertainment system has been rapidly improving for a long time now, so this trend has been going on for years, even before HD.

I just went to see Spiderman 3 yesterday. There were previews for Pirates 3 and Harry Potter 17 or whatever number they're on. All the previews consisted of were every effects shot in the movie. There was little to nothing that gave a sense of what the stories were going to be about. Pirates did a better job, giving a vague idea of what the plot will be, but mostly focussed for a solid two or more minutes on just showing off the effects.

I know people have always been fascinated by effects. But there used to have to be a story there too because the effects alone weren't so amazing that they could sell millions of people on coming out to the movie. That's what has seemed to change with all the new technology available. Effects become the main focus of the movie, the story is secondary and therefore the artistic quality of the movie.

On the other hand, you have a movie like 300 where the effects are the main artistic quality of the movie and it's a spectacular film. Visually stunning and yet has all the action and explosions and dismemberment anyone, including my dad, could ever ask for. So maybe we have a trend beginning of the filmmaking quality trying to catch up to the technology that's available. And maybe audiences will come back around with it.

05-05-2007, 11:44 AM

05-05-2007, 12:31 PM
Looks like spatula got the meds intended for his character :)

Loud Orange Cat
05-05-2007, 01:18 PM
Here's the feline version of Spatula:

05-05-2007, 01:58 PM
I'm weird in the mornings, hmph.

And I'm not afraid of the nuclear war, I'm looking forward to the next stage in human evolution, which will happen in December, 2012. After that, I should have sufficient mental powers to manifest every nuclear weapon on the planet and hurl them into the sun. But nice kitty in a bag. LOL.

05-06-2007, 02:37 AM
The point for us is the film will look so much better in B&W with colour splashes. We know this could kill business but then again how much business will an action film shot for under £10k on HDV with no real stars to speak off actually make? It's ot like it's a studio film like MI3 we talking here...

Thanks for the opinions guys and gals, much apprciated!