Movies in the information age: The best content shot on iPhone
Always the innovator, Steven Soderbergh headed to Berlinale last year with his fascinating project Unsane. Not only was it his first delve into the horror genre, but he also decided to shoot the entire thing on an iPhone . . . in just two weeks. Despite the significant restrictions, Soderbergh nailed it – the movie was met with warm reviews, showing what today’s everyday gadgets can do to push the limits of style on the big screen.
Speaking on this epic achievement, the writer-director opined, “This is a really fascinating time to be making films. The gap now between the idea and the execution of the idea is shrinking. I wish I had had this equipment when I was 15.”
While we all know the iPhone has singlehandedly changed the way we take photos and chat to our buddies, it’s starting to impact the world of professional filmmaking too. Of course, Soderbergh’s not the first to take advantage of this pocket-sized production tool; check out these ten movies that prove you don’t always need the most expensive equipment to make a feature-length film.
Sin-Dee-Rella’s back, bitch – and she’s going hard. Not only was Sean Baker’s Tangerine (about a hooker who tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart) hailed as a feat by the LGBTQI community, but it was also filmed solely using an iPhone 5S to accommodate the film’s tiny budget.
Baker told The Verge he and his team used three different iPhones, the $8 app Filmic Pro, a Steadicam, and some adapter lenses – and that’s it. Tangerine actor James Ransone pointed out the key to shooting the film was having a team well-versed in traditional filmmaking. “You still need to know how editing works. Yes, you can make a beautiful-looking film on a shoestring budget, but you have to know 100 years worth of filmmaking.”
Night Fishing (2011)
Oldboy’s Park Chan-wook also had a go at iPhone moviemaking with a 33-minute long piece about a fisherman (played by the always wonderful Oh Kwang-rok) who catches something unexpected and becomes entangled in his fishing line.
Despite being shot entirely on an iPhone 4, the film boasted a rather healthy budget of $130,000. Apparently, most of the money went to post-production, allowing the filmmakers to spruce up the movie’s visual appeal drastically.
Romance in NYC (2014)
This romantic love story is worlds away from the soppy Instastories you and your bae post on a daily basis. Touted as the first film shot entirely with an iPhone 6, filmmaker Tristan Pope’s POV film depicts two lovers’ everyday lives in New York City. Pope’s reason for shooting on the iPhone 6? He was due an upgrade. No, seriously.
In an interview with IndieWire, the director explained, “I absolutely love pushing technology to the limit and giving myself hurdles to cross. I own many prosumer cameras, but I always felt they were just too big and invasive for this particular film idea. To achieve the right intimate, candid feel, I finally found my medium – the iPhone 6.”
And Uneasy Lies the Mind (2014)
Billed as the first feature-length film shot entirely on an iPhone, And Uneasy Lies the Mind’s story is told in the form of the disjointed, distorted memories of a character who has suffered a severe head injury. This inevitably went hand-in-hand with the limitations associated with filming on a smartphone – sharp and precise production was not the order of the day.
Director & cinematographer Ricky Fosheim shot the film using an iPhone 5 and a Turtle Back lens adapter. “In the middle of the lens adapter is a glass focusing screen with a patterned texture, almost like a fingerprint,” explained Fosheim.
“Hair, dirt, and oil from my hands would always get stuck on these focusing screens. I completely welcomed these textured imperfections and chose not to clean or replace any of the dirty parts. At times I would even add dust and dirt.”
I Play with the Phrase Each Other (2014)
Filmed entirely on an iPhone with a mere $17,000 budget, this experimental drama from writer-director Jay Alvarez (Dizzy Pursuit) is fittingly comprised entirely of cellphone conversations. Alvarez expertly weaves the viewer’s perspective of what’s happening by giving audiences the sensation they’re eavesdropping their way through the story.
Not only was it hailed as a feat for being shot on a handheld device, but I Play with the Phrase Each Other was also the first feature-length film composed entirely of phone calls.
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Okay, so we’re kind of punking you with this one – Searching for Sugar Man wasn’t solely filmed on an iPhone. However, some scenes in the Oscar-winning documentary were – director Malik Bendjelloul ran out of money.
It seems this shortcut paid off, because this film remains one of the most beloved music-themed documentaries of all time, following two South Africans who set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero – the mysterious 70s rock ‘n’ roller, Rodriguez.
According to MacWorld, most of the film was shot on Super 8mm film. When funds ran dry, Bendjelloul used his iPhone and the 8mm Vintage Camera app to finish filming the scenes, including the one at the beginning where the producers discover Rodriguez.
The ever-experimental Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep) is known for his innovative approach to directing, so it’s no surprise that he decided to give the old iPhone filmmaking a shot. Using Apple’s iPhone 7, Gondry created the ten-minute short Détour – a charming story of a family on a road trip through the stunning French countryside.
In addition to uploading the movie to YouTube, Gondry kindly published six video tutorials that go behind the scenes of the movie’s production and offer tips on how to use the iPhone to achieve effects like timelapse, slow motion, stop motion, and night scenes. Now have a go at making your own iPhone movie!