Keanu Reeves’ Side By Side docu explores film and digital productions

Keanu Reeves, (photo courtesy of PBS)

Keanu Reeves, (photo courtesy of PBS)

Keanu Reeves is an actor, producer and director. But he’s latest job is as host (and co-producer) of the documentary Side By Side: The Science, Art, and Impact of Digital Cinema, premiering Aug. 30, part of the PBS Arts slate of programs.

Reeves relished his job as the Side By Side host and insisted on being next to the camera and doing the interviews. “I wanted to be engaged in the conversations about film and digital, so I tended to research and then to speak as a peer interested in this moment in time, to have a conversation about your interest and your passion. I was trying to be both objective and subjective.”

Advancing the dialog and digital debate, Reeves had unprecedented access to great cinematographers and influential filmmakers such as James Cameron, David Fincher, George Lucas, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Robert Rodriguez, Lana and Andy Wachowski, Steven Soderbergh, and many more.

To hear everyone talking passionately about the craft of movie making is worth tuning in Side By Side. Reeves says, “You’re getting the life story of their art. That turns into their perspective on their craft, which was inspiring.”

Reeves asks the question: Will the new technology leave old fashion film production behind to become just part of a history lesson for a cinema student? That’s explored along with the history and process of both digital and photochemical film creation.

Keanu gives an insider’s perspective on the industry, and it is interesting to learn what artists have accomplished with emulsion film and digital pixels. It certainly gives the viewer a greater appreciation for what you’ll see the next time you go to the movies or watch a TV show.

Reeves offers an in-depth examination of how digital filmmaking is challenging traditional celluloid. He says, “I went into the documentary asking ‘Is it the end of film?’ a year ago. And now, film stocks are getting harder to get, and who’s going to develop it? There still seems to be an artistic pushback that I think will help it survive in a niche way. There are people who speak about the unique aspects and qualities of a photochemical experience, and they’re kind of the protector of that flame.”

Reeves laughs when he notes that his Matrix series of movies were all done on film but then digitized. He looks at other groundbreaking films in the special and how the needs and innovations have helped push filmmaking in new directions.

“We’re seeing a lot more content, short form storytelling and serialized storytelling. The digital technology has influenced that in the sense of availability, cost, and means of production,” he explains.  “I’ve got a phone and a camera and I can tell a story. I have the Internet, and I can share my story. Digital has had a profound effect that way.” #


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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