Christopher Nolan would definitely disagree, but the industry is too far and wide. Smartphone filmmaking is the newest revolution in the entertainment industry and we are here to explore what the future looks like. Ready?
Today, smartphones don’t sell by the amount of extraordinary features, but by a single thing – camera. From the number of rear cameras to its pixel size, they are the USPs of today’s smartphones, and more or less their primary price deciding factor. Same goes for Apple’s iPhones, but after (or before) ‘privacy.’
Digital equipment in filmmaking usually makes up a major portion of the overall expenditure. This was the case until smartphones arrived. Amateurs who previously couldn’t afford expensive camera equipment can now deliver highly entertaining and thought-provoking content with just the help of their smartphones.
Smartphone filmmaking is a seismic shift in the industry, but will it stay? Let’s analyze.
The origin of the concept
While the arrival of social media channels like Dubsmash back in 2014 could be considered the origin of this concept, it must be TikTok who definitely sealed the deal. People around the world got comfortable using their smartphone cameras as a tool to capture and release videos publicly on the web. These apps offered something no less than a movie watching experience for an audience who for the first time witnessed a content format that was fresh and pioneering.
First feature film shot on phone
“Waarom heeft niemand mij verteld dat het zo erg zou worden in Afghanistan” (or Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me It Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan) was the first full-length feature film to be shot entirely on a mobile phone. Directed by Cyrus Frisch, this film premiered in festivals and garnered critical acclaim for being one-of-its-kind at the time.
The iPhone filmmaking craze
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh shot his movie ‘Unsane’ entirely using an iPhone. He describes the concept as a “game changer” and says, “I think this is the future. Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on an iPhone [or, indeed, any kind of smartphone]. That’s not part of the conceit.”
His second movie to be shot on iPhone was High Flying Bird. It was released on Netflix.
And Soderbergh is not the only director known for shooting a movie with a phone. Director Sean Baker too used smartphone cameras to shoot his film “The Florida Project.” About the experience, Sean shares, “While [the iPhone] has helped me become more mobile, no pun intended – running around, finding tight areas and different ways of moving the camera – to me it’s more about using this device to catch candid moments. That’s the biggest thing. Because nobody takes the iPhone as seriously as a regular camera, so they have lowered inhibitions.”
Even Apple based and advertised its 12 Pro model around the filmmaking concept.
What else the future holds
Smartphones have brought the vision of filmmaking to anyone with the passion. And the best part is that they are getting their fair share of credits by not just the media, but film festivals as well.
I think people don’t realize that smartphones are also an artistic tool, not just a way of communication,” says Susan Lee-Pierce, Co-founder TSFF (The Toronto Film Festival).
Besides, the never-ending pandemic – that has brought the revenue of mainstream films considerably down, despite their humongous production cost – has given a major boost to low-budget filmmaking.
To date, there are many movies like these:
- Olive (2011)
- Night Fishing (2011)
- Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
- Snow Steam Iron (2017)
- Detour (2017)
This has given rise to the concept of individual filmmaking. One can deliver a movie even with little field experience, training, and a low budget. However, the one problem that remains, in real filmmaking, is release and distribution.
Therefore, unless your target is not 75mm and the silver screen, smartphone filmmaking isn’t a wrong option at all – for present or the future.