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EMULSIVE x FILM Ferrania Community Interview: results time

At the beginning of March 2017, we opened the doors for you you to submit your questions to the team at FILM Ferrania. The wait is finally over, it’s time for the results!

Before we get into the meat of the interview first let me send a huge thanks to everyone who got involved in the final Q&A presented below. The panel for this interview comprised of  Massimiliano AcanforaMassimiliano MarchettiPierluigi Tolu. Your support and help was invaluable, thank you all.

 

 

The FILM Ferrania team

We were very lucky to have Dave Bias, marketing, communication and sales director for FILM Ferrania taking care of the interview, with input from co-founder and CEO, Nicola Baldini.

I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for their time. As regular readers will be aware, these interviews are designed to engage the film photography community and industry; and help build ties between them. With this in mind, the Q&A you see below isn’t the end of this particular community interview.

The panel and I will be doing what we can to make sure that additional questions posed in the comments below are answered.

 

 

Q&A format

You’ll find each of the questions from you that we submitted to the FILM Ferrania team for review below. This particular community interview takes a break from the format set so far, in that neither the panel or I provided any initial questions to the FILM Ferrania team for consideration.

Where possible, we’ve provided credit for each question to the person/people who submitted them but if for some reason you’ve been missed out, please raise your hand so we can update accordingly.

The images shown below are a mixture of archival photographs from 1918 through the 1930s, some photos by Guido Tosi and Andrea Valsasnini of Punto Foto Group from August 2016, and some FERRANIA P30® ALPHA photos shot by Nicola Baldini in June 2017.

On to the interview:

 

 

Community question 01

A view from the LRF of the former industrial coater building (“Big Boy”), now empty and partially demolished and idling behind the lush trees in the valley carved by the Fiume Bormida - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

A view from the LRF of the former industrial coater building (“Big Boy”), now empty and partially demolished and idling behind the lush trees in the valley carved by the Fiume Bormida – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Jonas: Considering you’re close to 15000 rolls/cassettes that come from kickstarter, how much is that in production units for you (big boys and all that), and at what rate are you planning to continue production from then on?

I guess a first push of films to reach out to shops around the globe and then an estimate based on sales from the online shop?

Is there a teeny tiny sliver of hope to see Solaris again? I guess you’ll have a hard time putting it out at the same price point as it was when large scale production was going but the cult is REAL, just sayin’.

FILM Ferrania: Hello Jonas! The question we are asking ourselves is not about a raw number of rolls, but “How much do we need to produce to cover the demand?”

Right now and for the short-term, demand exceeds our capacity. It is our task to reach an equilibrium where we are producing enough to meet demand – no more and no less.

The process of reaching this equilibrium is far too complex to explain here. It is our task every single day to push toward this goal. We can ask only for patience and understanding from the film community about one critical idea – time is the only resource that will get us to this equilibrium point. There is no amount of money, people or machines that speed the process.

Regarding you question about Solaris:

We do eventually plan to make C-41 color film, and we expect to use Solaris as a starting point. Of course without Big Boy, there is no way to make Solaris exactly. The good news is that the Solaris formula has already been adapted for our Little Boy coater, but we must do some work to “upgrade” it to the cinema standard we will keep for most films we make.

And you are right that FILM Ferrania, being a small-scale producer, will never be able to sell at the old price-points of a company that was producing film at 100+ times the volume we will produce. Anyone with a knowledge of basic economic principles will understand that producing less means higher costs. The only thing we can promise is that over time, our customers will benefit from our ability to lower our own costs.

 

 

Community question 02

The Ferrania campus in 1918 (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

The Ferrania campus in 1918 (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

William G: I’m curious what your steps will be once you are onto the final version of P30. I know the slide film originally funded in the Kickstarter is your immediate focus aside from P30’s completion, but what other types of stocks should we be expecting?

Aside from the reintroduction of your former stocks, do you have plans to create brand new emulsions, or have you already started this process?

Thank you for your continued contribution to the film community.

FILM Ferrania: Thank YOU, William G! In the future, you can expect P30 in more formats and different speeds. Color reversal will be released in a 100 ISO emulsion in the promised four formats, and eventually, in other speeds and additional formats. C-41 will follow after that with the same premise – we will start with one format/speed and expand from there.

The eventual goal is to have a “full spread” of products in various formats and speeds, but this will happen based on demand and while always maintaining the production equilibrium I spoke about in the previous question.

All of our film will be “brand new emulsions” to use your phrase. Starting with an old formula reduces the research and development necessary to bring it to production – but it does not eliminate this phase entirely because all of the old recipes must be tweaked to be used on the equipment and workflow we have today.

Our P30, for example, is derived directly from the original formula that was created for our Precision Coater. It performs almost exactly like its older cousin. But the “sameness” to the old P30 depends on your point of view. If you’re an emulsions scientist, our modern P30 is slightly different in very obscure technical details. If you’re a photographer, there is really no perceivable difference from the original.

Regarding other never-before-seen emulsions, we have documentation on many many products that were never released to the public or produced by the main factory. We have more than enough of these that the idea of researching entirely new emulsions will not be necessary for many years.

 

 

Community question 03

From the series "Visitors from Milano"

From the series Visitors from Milano

Ed Worthington: I’ve recently placed my pre-order for some P30 and am really excited to give this a whirl, some people have not been that impressed by the test images shown on the Ferrania website but I am not one of them, I think it looks excellent considering they are from a first run and not the finished product.

My question however is this, considering the huge delays you guys have had and the massive problems you’d had to deal with that have given you so many setback’s (really well done for how far you have come though), what other film stock’s are currently in the pre-production stage and what sort of realistic timescale should we expect for pre-orders of these?

Buona fortuna e io desiderare per sue successo.

FILM Ferrania: Hello Ed, our pre-order for P30 ALPHA was an experiment that is not likely to be repeated. From now on, we will only sell products when they sit in a warehouse and are ready to ship. In fact, we are not going to re-open our shop until all pre-orders have been shipped and we have time to build up stock in our warehouses.

The only other film in pre-production is the color reversal for Kickstarter Backers. We have a very small team dedicated to this specifically while the rest of our factory staff is focused on optimizing and expanding our production capacity – which of course is necessary regardless of what product we make.

Regarding timelines about future products, there remain far too many variables to do anything but speculate, and we have caused too much chaos in the past by speculating about future things. Our policy moving forward is to make an announcement only when we are in production and have clear shipping dates.

We have recently posted an article about these issues specifically and we invite you to read it: Quiet Means Busy.

 

 

Community question 04

A commemorative piece assembled by our team to honor the 2014 Kickstarter campaign consisting of many of the films previously produced within the LRF.

A commemorative piece assembled by our team to honor the 2014 Kickstarter campaign consisting of many of the films previously produced within the LRF.

Owen McCafferty: Obviously price is going to be a big focal point of the release of Ferrania’s film stocks–especially color reversal. While I understand Ferrania can’t fully understand what their products will cost at this point, I have to imagine that Ferrania does have a pricing stratergy–in other words–how are Ferrania’s products going to be marketed as? Premium film products?

This is important because many believe that if you launch film products (especially reversal ones) that are the same price as your competitors or, even worse, MORE expensive, that Ferrania might have issues growing as a company and therefore hindering the ability to expand their product portfolio. Thanks! (Manufacturing Product Manager)

FILM Ferrania: Thanks for the questions Owen. The answers to all are very simple and straightforward, even though we think you would not find many other film companies willing to share such information.

We will make the best film we are able to make at all times. We think that the primary distinctions – “professional” and “consumer” – that the industry has used forever are now completely irrelevant. What is a “premium” film anyway but an excuse to charge more money for what every customer should have by default?

Our products will be priced based on our raw cost and a profit margin necessary to fuel our steady growth. All of that growth will, in turn, lower our costs and, as noted previously, our customers will benefit from this.

Our marketing will be equally simple. We will announce new products when they are available. We will share the photographs (and movies) made by the community at large. We will introduce our products to stores worldwide that still have a true love of film. We will go to trade shows, organize events, and promote the use of film in general. We will continue to communicate with transparency.

If this is not enough to be viable in the market, we will shift our strategy. It is, after all, the desire of any business to stay in business.

 

 

Community question 05

The chemical analysis lab, 1920s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

The chemical analysis lab, 1920s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

thylmuc: Do you have plans to reduce grain size for the slide film, maybe not at start, but later on? There has been a decade long quest for finer film grain, i.e. higher resolution, which was only interrupted after the success of digital sensors. However, AFAIK, Kodak still reduced the granularity of their Vision 2 negative film, in order to improve Resolution and, hence, scanability. Would be great if this could also be achieved for slide film.

FILM Ferrania: To be perfectly honest, thylmuc, the size of the grain in slide film is not really the focus of our plans for the future. The character of our films, more than their technical data points, is of utmost importance to us. This doesn’t mean that finer grain film is not possible – but that it will be a product of the overall character of the film.

We do aim for a high scanability factor, because we know that a large portion of the community captures on film and moves to a digital workflow afterward. But from our perspective, this issue is more about the base material than it is about the size of the grain.

 

 

Community question 06

From the series "Visitors from Milano"

From the series Visitors from Milano

Vaidotas MIKŠYS:

  1. How do we process the P30? Are there two different processing possibilities: slide and negative?
  2. Will you make other formats: 120, 4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 126 (instamatic), etc.?

FILM Ferrania: Hello Vaidotas. It seems you may have written your first question before we published our Best Practices document on our website. You can download this document right now and process P30 with any of the chemistry that we have tested.

We are still testing and learning, and we will continue to add developers and techniques to this document over time. But if you know a thing or two about the equivalencies between different black and white film developers, you can take this baseline data and translate it to the developer of your choosing.

So far, all testing has been focused on processing negatives, however, we have had some good reports for reversal processing from one user and we will be doing further reversal testing. When we have solid data, we will update the Best Practices.

Your second question is addressed in our FAQ. Producing other formats is inevitable, but each has its own unique challenges for coating, converting and finishing. As we have said many times before, we have a lot of machinery in storage – and much of it is for converting and finishing many many different formats. But it should be clearly stated that we will require time, resources and manpower to integrate any new format into our workflow.

 

 

Community question 07

The LRF is a 50/50% mixture of pipes and walls. All pipes are in stainless steel to avoid bacterial contamination of the fluids for film manufacturing. The core of this “organism” is the “engine room” located at the ground floor of the building, a quite exact cube of 40m per side. - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

The LRF is a 50/50% mixture of pipes and walls. All pipes are in stainless steel to avoid bacterial contamination of the fluids for film manufacturing. The core of this “organism” is the “engine room” located at the ground floor of the building, a quite exact cube of 40m per side. – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Valentin Sama: Question 1: How stable are the color images going to be? Archival time. Question 2: How “robust” will be the color emulsion in regard to processing in many different labs around the world?

FILM Ferrania: Until we make color film, Valentin, there is simply no way to answer these questions definitively.

We can say that in general terms, all color film is very stable when kept in the right conditions. We will of course stress-test each product we make and share longevity data as it is available.

We can also say that we found negatives and slides around the factory that had been exposed to the worst possible conditions – extreme changes in temperature, direct sunlight, etc. Most of these were from the early 60s and you can see what they look like on our website.

With regard to labs, we must always strive to make products that can be lab processed anywhere in the world with readily available chemistry – there is simply no alternative.

 

 

Community question 08

Michele Cappelli, shown seated between his wife and F.I.L.M. president Franco Marmont, at the sale of Cappelli to F.I.L.M. in 1932 (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Michele Cappelli, shown seated between his wife and F.I.L.M. president Franco Marmont, at the sale of Cappelli to F.I.L.M. in 1932 (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Douglas King: First Film Ferrania – thank you for the commitment, tenacity and hard work it took to get to this point. I am a Kickstarter backer. I am pleased that you stuck it out and addressed all of the challenges encountered. Congratulations!

I am looking forward to trying P30 and anticipate your success in fulfilling the Kickstarter. More importantly I am pleased to see a new film manufacturer emerge.

My question is – Would a high silver IS0 400 black and white film be possible? Would it be viable in medium and/or large format? I for one would be very interested in buying it.

FILM Ferrania: Hi Douglas, and thank you for being among the majority of supportive members of our community. Your patience and encouragement is continually inspiring to all of us – and we mean that very sincerely.

We do already have plans (but plans only) to produce P30’s “cousins” from the past – P33 which is 160 ISO and P36 which is 320 ISO. They will share many aspects with P30, among them the high silver content, however at higher speeds, it’s likely that the grain will be more pronounced.

We also plan to make all products in all formats (with few exceptions), so yes, you would eventually see P33 and P36 in large formats. “Viability” will be determined by the market alone, because it’s a non-issue from a technical perspective.

We have every intention of supplying a wide range of products. Each will be released in a limited ALPHA version to both test the market and learn more about the way the product works in various situations.

It is extremely likely that we will publish polls so that the community has input in the order that these products are produced. A perfect example would be regarding other speeds of B&W film. Maybe the world wants P36 first before P33…

 

 

Community question 09

Visitors from Milano

From the series Visitors from Milano

Davide Marcelli: Seeing the impressive quality and beautiful contrast of the P30 alpha, are you planning to produce also photographic paper with the same emulsion?

 

FILM Ferrania: Hello Davide, at this point in time, we do not have plans to produce photographic papers. We have mentioned before that we salvaged a paper coating line from the old buildings, but it would require significant investment to refurbish and install. We consider it only as “insurance” for the future, should we ever need to produce papers.

 

 

Community question 10

The utilitarian “Soviet” style of original LRF office furniture is a distinctive trait in all rooms. - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

The utilitarian “Soviet” style of original LRF office furniture is a distinctive trait in all rooms. – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Alexander Mikhaylov: Здравствуйте! Вы будете поставлять фотоплёнку в Россию? Есть ли у вас дилер в России? Hello! Will you supply the film to Russia? Do you have a dealer in Russia?

FILM Ferrania: Good news Alexander, we will be offering films to Russia through our website and we have been in contact with at least two shops who are interested in carrying our products.

 

 

Community question 11

A cinema film test at the Ferrania studio, 1930s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

A cinema film test at the Ferrania studio, 1930s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Brian: What are the estimated price points of each film type? Will they be similar prices to those from Fuji and Kodak?

Are there plans to create experimental film types once the initial color films are perfected?

 

FILM Ferrania: Hello Brian, we are not thinking in terms of comparing our pricing to other films in the market, especially not mass producers like Fuji and Kodak who obviously have much lower costs than we do because of their size.

We can only say that P30 film is $8.50 per roll and that we assume we will have similar costs to produce other films in the future, with some small variation. As noted above, our policy about pricing is simply to measure our costs, add a small profit margin to continue our growth, and sell at the best possible price.

Regarding your second question, we are not so interested in making “experimental” film types for a few reasons. For example, as mentioned previously, our focus is on making best-possible products.

We do have some documentation of experimental films from the old company, but since these were lab projects only and never produced, there would be a big cost in money and time to research and develop these into real products. We would prefer to put this effort into the first reason.

We feel that other brands have “locked-in” the market for so-called experimental films. In the past, Ferrania produced products for those brands – and once we are at full scale, we imagine that it would be better to resume these old relationships rather than creating new markets. We will always seek to collaborate rather than directly compete, if such an option exists.

 

 

Community question 12

Visitors from Milano

From the series Visitors from Milano

W.W.: Dear Film Ferrania Team! I’ve gotta say that I’m totally amazed by what you’re doing. I have to say that I’m absolutely fine about you’re starting with P30, but what I’m really waiting for are transparency films. I have to admit, my questions are a bit like a wish list.

  • Will you able to make 8×10″ films eventually? Is there any chance you’re going to do that?
  • What I’d also love to use is a high ISO 4×5″ transparency film. Since you already talked about making high-ISO slide films eventually, ist there any chance to get that goodness in 4×5″ too? (It would be awesome for handheld 4×5″ photography.)
  • Are you willing and able to experiment? For example, things like: Transparencies with low contrast and more exposure latitude or: very high / very low ISO films?
  • What about 220 film?

I want to add that I understand that these things require a lot of time. You surely can’t start off with the difficult things. That’s totally fine for me. I will wait. But it would be cool to hear about what you potentially could do and what I can wait for. Thanks again, W.W.

FILM Ferrania: Hi W.W., again, we ask everyone to have a look at our FAQ from time to time…but to answer your wish list:

  • 8×10 films? Yes! We expect to make 8×10 batches for all films we release, if we determine that it is feasible for any particular film.
  • High ISO 4×5 reversal film? This is very likely, but it will not come for some time yet.
  • Willing and able to experiment? Yes and no would be the proper answer. We expect to keep our team extremely small so that we can respond to the market as it fluctuates without fear of closing. This will of course limit our ability for raw experimentation. We must also know that there is a clear and defined market for any film we produce. It can be a small market, for sure, but we must know it’s there and we must weigh the cost of experimentation with what revenue we could realize from the final products.
  • 220 film? This will require some expensive modifications to our 120 converting and finishing lines, but it can of theoretically be done. We do hope to eventually make 220, and we have a few ideas about how to do this without endangering production of other products, while at the same time understanding what the total market for this format could be.

 

 

Community question 13

Original electric board within the LRF are transparent because so that technicians can see the electrical scheme at glance. - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Original electric board within the LRF are transparent because so that technicians can see the electrical scheme at glance. – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

nardupirelli: Do you plan honoring deadlines and promises?

FILM Ferrania: I was awaiting such a question nardupirelli! We deserve such a question after so much time has passed, although it implies that we have somehow been dishonest.

That is not the case.

We have never said anything that we did not believe to be the truth at the time we said it. What is crucial for everyone to understand is that unlike most companies on the Earth, we have opted for a form of radical transparency – and this has meant sharing info with you as it is available to us. As we all have witnessed, this policy has it’s own built-in flaws, and we have been forced to choose our words far more carefully.

The only promise we have made thus far is to our Kickstarter Backers, and that is for 100 ISO color reversal film in four formats. This promise will be kept, without question.

We have learned many lessons about announcing deadlines. There was some degree to which we felt we owed the public a deadline at certain points in the past, and so we speculated based on the best data available at the time. This will not happen again.

In the future, there will be no deadlines or promises – there will simply be products. If we make claims about the products, they will be backed up by facts. If we don’t have ALL of the facts, we will say so, and reach out to the community to learn more – just as we have done with P30 ALPHA. If we announce the availability of a product, it will be when that product sits in a warehouse, ready to be purchased.

In this Q&A, I have made many statements about plans for the future. It should be clear to everyone that these are not promises or deadlines. They are only plans. Some of them are hopes and others are just dreams. In the future, if someone sends us a message that says, “But you promised you would make high ISO 4×5 chrome film!” – I will send the URL to this article, pointing out that I said simply that it’s very likely, and I will note that I said this in May of 2017 and based on the information available to me at the time.

 

 

Community question 14

Workers exiting the Ferrania railway station on their way to work, 1920s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Workers exiting the Ferrania railway station on their way to work, 1920s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

dmitrizzle: Hi FILM F! I’m an original Kickstarter backer. Very excited about your steps forward; congratulations on your new shop launch!

Question: Seeing as more companies are resurrecting film production or starting from scratch & entering the market again, how sustainable do you think this trend is? I’d like to think that we’ll be shooting film well past my old age, but I would like your honest opinion on what’s the expected half-life of this medium. If this trend slows again, will we be able to pick it up like we did in the past 5-10 years, or are we experiencing the last breath of a dying (beautiful) beast? Thank you!

FILM Ferrania: This is an excellent question dmitrizzle and one that nearly every film company is asking itself, to one degree or another. But I can only speak to FILM Ferrania.

First, to set the record straight, there are really only 4 companies who make products entirely from scratch. Kodak, Fuji, Ilford and the various pieces that comprise the former Agfa company. And one of these companies is technically no longer in this list due to downsizing from a few years ago.

With this being the case, nearly every OTHER brand of film on the market (including us) relies on one of the major players for one thing or another. So far, this has worked well, but it’s fair to say that no one truly knows how sustainable this crazy mix of collaboration and competition is for the long-term.

The one thing that everyone agrees is that the state of the market today is not necessarily a trend – meaning a short-lived bump before everything falls apart. Film is not a Pet Rock or a Furby or Ugg boots. Film is an artistic medium and most everyone in the industry agrees that after the precipitous fall to less than 1% it’s original volume, the market has stabilized.

Sure there will be up and down variations over time, but the entire industry is focused on right-sizing their operations to remain viable in this new market.

FILM Ferrania occupies a unique position within the industry. In our storage building and our archives, we have everything necessary to become the 5th company who make everything from scratch. We also have the potential to be entirely self-contained and free of the necessity to rely on others for products or services. Most importantly, we are a tiny fraction of the size of any other manufacturer and thus we do not believe we will be as sensitive to the fluctuations in the market as our much larger peers.

As you know, our Kickstarter campaign was called “100 More Years of Analog Film” and while this might be a bit of hyperbole, it is truly our ambition and the way we approach nearly everything we do. We believe that once we achieve our goal of self-sufficiency, as well as the production equilibrium I spoke about earlier, we can remain viable and sustainable far far into the future.

 

 

Community question 15

Visitors from Milano

From the series Visitors from Milano

bsaraccini: Do you have a new detailed timeline for the production of slide film after you missed the original one? What are the main impediments that are slowing down the process (now that asbestos has been removed)? Technical or R&D issues? Lack of funds? How much the steps ahead on the slide / colour production are dependent on the sales of the forthcoming P30 black and white film?

FILM Ferrania: Hi bsaraccini, as noted in previous answers, we are no longer announcing timelines. With regard to Kickstarter rewards, the best we can say is that we have not forgotten our obligation and we are working very hard every single day to keep our promise to Backers.

The impediments are myriad, but of course the main thing is lack of funds. With money, we could hire more people and begin the process of putting more machines online from our storage. These things would help to speed things up a bit. But even with that said, there are many things that no amount of money can speed up and that ONLY time can solve.

Fortunately, time is the one thing we have in abundance. We have not sought investment, nor do we think this is even an option. We have not gone back to Kickstarter because we already owe rewards from the first one. We took a big risk launching P30, but so far, it seems as if the sales of this product will at least keep us operational and allow us the necessary time to continue solving the many, many, many different technical, mechanical, R&D, supply, staffing and logistics issues.

The path we are on today is the necessary path. Not the one we have chosen, nor the one we even wish to take – but the one that we must take to get to next month, and the month after that and the month after that…

As I said in an interview recently, if some angel investor would fall from the sky and land on the LRF with cash in his or her pockets, then of course we could push many projects along at a faster rate. (If such a person is reading this, please get in touch so we can install some giant airbags on the roof.)

Until such a person materializes, we will continue moving forward at our best speed.

 

 

Community question 16

In the coater room, depending what material you coat, different types of color light are available from various switches. Regardless, the light is always very low and the white color of the phone helps to find it when necessary. (During coating runs, smartphones are forbidden - the film really does not like the light from LCD screens!) - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

In the coater room, depending what material you coat, different types of color light are available from various switches. Regardless, the light is always very low and the white color of the phone helps to find it when necessary. (During coating runs, smartphones are forbidden – the film really does not like the light from LCD screens!) – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Michal: First of all just like to share how excited I am about the fact that we will have new film to play with. I have simple questions when can we expect the film on the market. Possibly in U.K. And what can we expect next will it be 120? Or you are planning to launch 135 and 120 at the same time? Thanks.

FILM Ferrania: Hi Michal. If you’ve been reading the other questions, you’ll understand that we are not making any promises about dates or even timelines.

That said, based on the ramp-up taking place in the factory right now, we hope (emphasis on hope), to re-open our online shop in September 2017 and begin selling to a small number of retail shops this fall. The web shop will be first, of course, and soon after we will ship film to a very very small number of resellers, carefully chosen in key markets. As capacity permits, we will add more resellers over time.

But this will only be for 35mm film.

We are certainly spending some effort to find a solution to produce 120 and larger formats soon. Based on our Kickstarter and our poll from 2014, plus everything we have learned since then – 120 and 35mm film are practically equal in terms of demand. So we are approaching 120 production with great urgency, while at the same time not interfering with our production ramp-up, which needs to happen regardless of anything else.

 

 

Community question 17

Gala employee luncheon in Venice, 1930s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Gala employee luncheon in Venice, 1930s (archival image courtesy FILM Ferrania)

Pierluigi Tolu: Ferrania! An emotional name for whom is involved in film photography! Even more if Italian, as this brings back memories of time when one of the biggest film company producer was Italian, so Ferrania, that was an end-to end producer. After ups and downs times, and after the darkest hours of final closure, thanks to you project, it seems that times of renaissance are coming soon! And more in these times the rumors on film manufacturing are more and more growing up!

As finally seems that we will see soon the new B&W P30 Alpha film on stocks, and immediately after the color one, original goal of your project, I would ask you which obstacle or difficulty has been the major one during your long journey, still not finished, by chemistry point of view (emulsion preparation and test), by engineering point of view (buildings, utilities, equipment), and by bureaucracy point of view (documentation, paperwork, permits, etc), and which one has been your major satisfactory moment.

My second question: are you thinking also to sell bulk film in the future? This bulk production, in my understanding, should be easier than the film already in sprockets, isn’t? Or do you see any big issue that can prevent you doing it?

FILM Ferrania: Ciao Pierluigi! Looking back, the single biggest obstacle has been The LRF itself. We have said many times that The LRF is very much like a body and the machines inside are it’s organs. The body was abandoned, empty and inactive for many many years before FILM Ferrania was born – and as anyone will tell you, the worst thing for a body is inactivity.

Restoring just two of the five floors to full working order occupied the majority of our time for more than three years. The asbestos was merely one problem among many and had the unfortunate consequence of closing the one window we had to produce the Kickstarter batch of film in 2015.

If you were to ask just me, the most satisfactory moment was the day in December when Luisa called Marco to say that we had successfully coated 30 meters of P30 film. I wrote about this moment a while back.

However, if you were to ask the rest of the team, I’m sure each would have their own specific moment of ultimate satisfaction. I cannot even begin to imagine what answers you might receive.

Regarding your second question, I can say yes, we are thinking about selling bulk rolls. The only issue that prevents us from doing this right now is the raw capacity of the factory. Once the production has reached a certain scale, bulk rolls can be a reality.

 

 

Community question 18

Tom Rayfield: With Film Ferrania being such a success, and with film really beginning to make a comeback, based on your experience with the industry do you think we will see new film cameras (aside from companies like Mint, Lomography and the instax series) any time soon?

FILM Ferrania: Tom, we are extremely happy to hear that you consider FILM Ferrania to be such a success!

Looking back over everything that we have done to get to this point, and the tiny number of staff who have brought us here, we consider every single day that our doors remain open to be a raging success, regardless of the thousands of problems that remain to be solved and the enormity of our long-term goals. So, thanks!!

At some point in the future, we will tackle the task of making new cameras ourselves (see below) – but regarding other makers, we think the market will have to continue on its upward trend significantly before any of the traditional camera makers will re-enter the market with a new film camera.

What we hope is that some clever, resourceful and passionate people will take the initiative and work toward creating new cameras. We even have one very clear example – Intrepid – who have created a new and very reasonably priced 4×5 camera. And of course we have the team at Logmar who have created an entirely new Super 8 camera.

Making new cameras is of course incredibly expensive – even the plastic ones. Producing a new “pro-quality” camera is even more expensive, just ask the Logmar guys. But it’s far from impossible and we hope the entrepreneurial spirit will take hold.

3D printing has also made HUGE strides in just a few short years. Quality has increased dramatically and prices have decreased in tandem. I see a very feasible and near-future situation where some entrepreneurial folks create a business around printing and assembling prosumer-quality bodies for existing lenses…

 

 

Community question 19

In the heart of the LRF, located in the coater room, there is “Little Boy” - or in more technical terms, the Precision Coater. “Precision” because of the three original coaters present in Ferrania, it was the most versatile and able to coat any type of product. - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

In the heart of the LRF, located in the coater room, there is “Little Boy” – or in more technical terms, the Precision Coater. “Precision” because of the three original coaters present in Ferrania, it was the most versatile and able to coat any type of product. – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Marcus didius falco: Dear Film Ferrania, as I post this, the countdown to pre-orders for P30 is merely 72 hours(approx.) away – congratulations! As one of the people who backed your Kickstarter campaign in the dim & distant past(October 2014!), seeing Film Ferrania finally rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the Digital induced Argentique Apocalypse makes me very proud & happy:)

Now for my first question: What is the timeline for the production of Colour Negative film, what film formats will be available, what ISO’s will be available & what are the future research goals for the development of new Colour Negative emulsions e.g. a stable, room temperature capable version for Colour Infra-Red Photography?

Second Question: As a company, Film Ferrania took a risk in deciding to restart film production. Will it in the future take a similar(or bigger) risk in restarting the design, development & production of a completely new film camera e.g. J-1 camera for the Impossible Project? This would be the key to securing the future viability of film photography for the long term.

FILM Ferrania: Hi Marcus, it’s now been quite a while since you posted these questions and we’re now ramping up to deliver all of the pre-orders we took during the P30 pre-sale.

Your first question is mostly answered by our FAQ. As mentioned above, no more timelines… Suffice to say that color negative film is of course on our to-do list, and will be available in all formats and a “full-spread” of ISOs. We are of course very interested to produce a color infrared film, but it’s truly impossible to say at this moment whether or not that will be feasible.

Our road will be a long one. I think everyone should understand this by this point in time. There are some things – like infra-red, for example – that will depend on us having free time to do some real R&D. THAT means we have to have excess capacity, both in terms of people and resources (money and chemical). And THAT, by default, punts this idea into the distant future…

The second question is relatively easy. Yes, we do plan to design and develop new cameras.

We will not manufacture them, of course, because that’s not what our factory does – but we will find partners for this. What is likely to happen before this is that we will begin to repair/refurbish and sell existing cameras. I have direct experience in building a “camera reclamation” process, and this is the obvious first step. However, once we are in a better position in terms of staffing and resources, we will begin the process to make new cameras as well.

As with infrared, we advise that no one holds their breath, so to speak. Because long road…

 

 

Community question 20

In the mid-1960s, 3M built the Laboratorio Ricerche Fotografiche. In English, this translates to "Photo Research Laboratory" - a somewhat generic title that does not describe the potential this building offers to the future of film. The LRF is the home of FILM Ferrania. - FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

In the mid-1960s, 3M built the Laboratorio Ricerche Fotografiche. In English, this translates to “Photo Research Laboratory” – a somewhat generic title that does not describe the potential this building offers to the future of film. The LRF is the home of FILM Ferrania. – FILM FERRANIA P30, June 2017

Todd Reed: How soon before P30 will be released as 4×5 and can I be a tester?

FILM Ferrania: Hi Todd, we will re-open the shop as soon as all pre-orders are shipped and we have time to stock up our warehouses in anticipation of another rush. We will announce a date as soon as possible.

We are planning to produce a small batch of 4×5 later this fall, however, we have some small things to figure out before we can do so. First, we must get our general production capacity way up because dedicating our miniJumbos to 4×5 is “expensive” in terms of the raw square meters required. Second, we must procure and do some testing on a polyester base – not the triacetate we are using for our 35mm film. Then we must either modify our own finishing equipment, or find a partner to finish the film properly. We are currently pursuing both paths and we will use the one that comes together first and with the fewest resources necessary. As with all formats, simply coating the film – which is the only functionality we have restored in the LRF so far – is just the first step in the process of making film for sale to the public…

None of this stuff is extremely difficult and will not interfere with anything else going on in the factory – like color research or continued production of 35mm – so we’re pretty confident of making a single batch of 4×5 P30 very soon.

As you might guess, everyone wants to be a tester. We get hundreds of emails each week asking for test materials – and of course it’s tough to understand who can be a true tester and who just wants some free film.

Testers are of course very important to us for a variety of reasons. As such, we are formalizing a process to apply to be a tester. We will of course announce this everywhere when it’s ready.

 

 

The final word from FILM Ferrania

As mentioned before, we have the potential to produce various formats of final, finished products in-house – thanks to our Kickstarter Backers who allowed us to purchase hundreds of tons of equipment. But installing and making that equipment work has always been something planned for the future, and only once our coating operations are maximized and optimized.

We at FILM Ferrania hope it is clear from this Q&A session that so much of our fully realized dream of self-contained and self-sufficient operations remains in the future. Some parts of it in the distant future.

We hope it is clear that every step forward requires intense planning, problem-solving and the focused expertise of our small staff – and that we need both time and the resources necessary to take each step.

More than anything, we hope it is becoming clear to everyone that there is a very big difference between a film brand and a film manufacturer. There are many many brands, but only a tiny handful of manufacturers. We understand that many people see this as a matter of semantics only – but this distinction is at the core of everything we do at FILM Ferrania. We believe that the more people are able to understand this distinction, the easier it will be to accept that our slow-but-steady process is the only path to true success. In fact, it’s the only way to ensure “100 More Years of Analog Film,” as promised in our nearly three-year-old Kickstarter project.

~ Dave Bias

 

 

Up next

The Billingham Community Interview is still in-progress, so please keep an eye out for that one. A new Community Interview will is waiting in the wings and you can expect to hear more on that front next week.

Thanks again for reading and please make sure to leave your comments below!

As ever, keep shooting, folks!

~ EMULSIVE

 

 

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About The Author

EMULSIVE

Self confessed film-freak and filmphotography mad-obsessive. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn. It might not all be right but it's a start.

5 Comments

  1. Hello, Ferrania! First I’d like to say that I admire your heroic efforts to bring a fallen giant up on its feet again. Your stamina and unbreakable optimism is astonishing. Well done so far.
    I did not see any questions in this Q&A regarding the motion picture formats you aim to include in your selection, and I wonder what are your thoughts on super 8 and 16mm film at this stage (and 35mm for that matter)? How do you evaluate the market potential for these formats, and do you receive much interest from film makers, professionals and others? Although motion picture films may seem less relevant for the Emulsive readers, it maybe has some implications for the business you are trying to build. And after all, I suspect reviving the motion picture films used by de Sica, Antonioni and Fellini is not an unimportant goal for you.
    Glad to hear that you have ideas and plans for the “hardware” side of film photography as well. Something will eventually have to happen in that area for film to have a long future.

    Reply
  2. @filmferrania fascinating conversation; very impressed with the process undertaken by Ferrania.

    Reply
  3. After reading all of the questions and answers, I have 2 comments. First the questioners seem to have no patience and no understanding of just how complicated it is to coat and convert film. I have been in several coating facilities and truly appreciate just how difficult a task it is. My second comment is that the responses were non-committal as far as time. I understand that since there are just too many unknown problems that will pop up. I am very interested in seeing this project succeed, because I love shooting on film, (35 mm, 120, and 4 X 5)

    Reply
  4. I read, on some forums Italians, disgraceful and rude comments that border on the criminal complaint and unflattering remarks about each other Ferrania.
    I personally met Nicola Baldini at the presentation in Milan of the film P30 and we talked about it. I’m proud to defend the “Ferrania” guys who work for us analog users. My bann from those forums, consider it as if it were a merit medal ! Tomorrow I will develop the first roller thinking of all of you.

    Keep it up; I wish you a good job … Luigi ;/)

    Reply
  5. @filmferrania “I’m in a glass case of emotion!”

    Reply

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