25 Oct 2013

Neglab Promises Film Processing in Australia

  • Written by 
Film Cans Film Cans Phil Rhodes/ RedShark

A while ago, we reported on efforts to get Italian film manufacturer Ferrania back up and running. Welcome news though this was, processing labs have been dropping like flies all over the world, and in many places, finding processing facilities was starting to become a real bind. Regardless of the availability of stock, motion picture film was, and to some extent is, ceasing to be an option with widely-available services

No Processing in Australia

One of those places was Australia, which right now has exactly no places to get your negative processed. Deluxe stopped doing it back in April, having already absorbed, then shut down, Cinevex and Atlab. At the time, the Australian Cinematographers Society wrote an alarmed letter to the government outlining the problems this was likely to cause, but to no avail; the Australian government does not, of course, control what Deluxe chooses to do.

So, the only option currently open to Australian cinematographers shooting 16 or 35mm, being based in a famously rather far-flung place, is to allow unprocessed negative to run the gauntlet of airport security, X-ray scanners (they don't harm negative, honest) and oh-so-cautious baggage handlers to facilities in Thailand or even the US. The extended turnaround time and cost implications of this hardly bear thinking about, let alone the reliability issues.

Rejuvenation of Neglab

Anyone in this situation will, therefore, be very happy to hear about the rejuvenation of Neglab, a business which, just like Ferrania, shut down a few years ago as the tide inevitably began to turn. Owner Werner Winkelmann, who's been at this sort of thing for years, has assembled a team and intends to operate from the factory owned by Herbert Stegbauer's processing equipment company, which seems a logical fit. Neglab are intending to offer a pickup and drop-off service in central Sydney, but regardless of the transportation issues, it can hardly fail to be closer to any Australian shoot, even in that famously broad country, than, say, Bangkok.

Challenges of Development

All of this is good.

The thing is, much as making film stock is a complex process, so is developing it, at least in any manner that's repeatable and reliable, and the minimum practical amount of business for such a venture must be pretty large. Just as with Ferrania, it remains to be seen whether the company can make this situation work.

Australia, despite its vast size, has a population of under 24,000,000 and a not-enormous share of the world's supply of film and television production work. While it's worth shipping neg stock internationally, meaning that Ferrania's market is worldwide, the whole purpose of this enterprise seems to be to provide a domestic Australian processing option. Still, there are a lot of reasons to shoot in Australia, which has a lot of space and a lot of interesting terrain types, many of which otherwise exist mainly or only in parts of the world we might charitably describe as less professionally governed.

Bringing the Circus to Town

Neglab's reopening might, as the ACS hinted in their open letter, even make it possible for upscale productions to shoot in Australia which might otherwise have gone elsewhere, and everybody likes it when the circus comes to town.


Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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