The production of feature films on smartphones increases and increases
With government funding for Australian feature films primarily through compensation, which now excludes films costing less than $ 1 million, independent filmmakers are finding it increasingly difficult to make feature films. But is there an option for this model that sits in most filmmakers’ pockets?
Sydney based Angela Blake SF3 smartphone film festival think there is.
âSF3 has been around for 7 years now and right from the start we have seen a few feature films made every year on cell phones. The number has continued to grow and to honor these filmmakers we presented the SF3 Award for Best Feature Film in 2019. In our first two years we received 11 nominations each year and then this year we have had more. had 18! “
Filmmakers are discovering that the smartphone is an extremely versatile tool with its own disciplines and aesthetic possibilities, but low-budget creators rarely reach the mainstream. Instead, they are turning to self-distribution through aggregation to SVODs or Vimeo On Demand.
Ten old conferences
Melbourne academic Dr Max Schelser of Swinburne University heads the Mobile Innovation Network Association (MINA) which held its tenth conference in Melbourne and online, with presentations from mobile filmmakers and academics from around the world whole. Schelser’s book, Making Movies on Smartphones: Theory and Practice, is published today by the British company Bloomsbury Press.
He chaired a panel of film festival organizers including Angela Blake of SF3, Robert Fitzhugh of the Dublin Smartphone Film Festival and Michael Osheku of the African Smartphone International Film Festival.
Some emerging trends in the production of feature films on smartphones have become apparent. Until recently, smartphone film festivals were primarily aimed at short content, but many now include screenings of feature films and competitive categories, with Angela Blake noting;
âThe making of feature films was reserved for a few. Now, with smartphones, and in particular the new generation of smartphones, the making of feature films is more affordable and accessible than ever. It really opened the doors of possibility for independent filmmakers around the world, many of whom have solid feature film scripts but no way to make them happen, and these films are pioneering and really breaking new ground.
Blake then commented on the emergence of Australian smartphone functionality, with the latest iteration of SF3 featuring not one but two theatrical screenings of an Australian smartphone feature film.
âWhen people think of feature films on smartphones, they only think of Sean Baker’s Mandarin or one of Steven Soderbergh’s films and the conversation ends there. But a whole world of smartphone feature films exists and we need to start talking about it. Here in Australia we currently have features playing in SF3 this season that everyone needs to see. On the other side of the pond, Blue Moon by Stef Harris, took the world by storm two years ago. These films are changing the landscape of cinema and opening the doors to new Australian voices in cinema. ‘
But how did we get there? Schleser was there from the start.
âWe saw the first wave of mobile feature films released between 2005 and 2010. In France, Jean-Charles Fitoussi produced Nocturnes for the King of Rome (Nocturne pour le roi de Rome) in 2005. Their contributions to on-screen narration were made during the first screenings of feature films, such as FILMOBILE in London or Pocket Film Festival in Paris and their mobile-specific qualities still resonate in contemporary feature films on smartphones. ‘
Titles included Nausea, Max with a Keitai, Sochi 255, Two-handed newspaper, The Brown Line, The world seen through my toys and Max with a Keitai, all presented in his book. Schleser also cites many groundbreaking smartphone films made since those early days.
Below is a comprehensive list of the most influential smartphone feature films made to date, who made them, and where you can (or can’t) watch them.
SMS from the sugar man, 2008 (1h21)
Typically considered the first smartphone feature film, this dark and raw film about a pimp traveling on business to Johannesburg at night was shot on a Sony Ericson W900i by Aryan Kaganoff. Its 3G aesthetic has a beauty that’s hard to describe.
olive, 2011 (1h28)
A seemingly failed adventure in trying to make a commercial feature with smartphones, olive was announced with great fanfare in 2011. And then faded into oblivion. The story of a young girl who does not speak, influencing the lives of three people, was titled by Gina Rowlands, and used cinema lenses taped to a Nokia N8 smartphone. Producer / director Homman Khalili raised a budget of US $ 500,000 and many trades of the time mention his Oscar aspirations, but the film eventually fell into oblivion. You can see the first 5 minutes on the official website.
I play with the other’s sentence, 2012 (1h50)
Using the device of shot phone conversations with cell phones, Jay Alvarez shot the film with the iPhone 4 and married smartphone photography with Mumblecore’s narrative style in a smart and engaging feature. The film premiered at Slamdance in 2014 and follows the lives of eighty-one years as they navigate their relationships and early career stages. You can see it in full on Alvarez’s YouTube page.
And uncomfortable lies the mind, 2014 (1h30)
Ricky Fosheim directed and shot this horror thriller using the iPhone 5 and setting movie lenses using a Turtleback adapter. The image looks like 16mm film and has a rough edge due to lens vignetting which works for the story. The film premiered at SXSW in 2014.
Mandarin, 2015 (1h28)
This is the smartphone feature that most people use first. After its successful screening at Sundance, Mandarin passed through most of the major festivals, winning numerous awards for non-stop cinematography, performance and storytelling. Following transsexual prostitutes on the streets of Los Angeles as they seek love and validation, Sean Baker’s film brought a first taste of legitimacy to smartphone filmmaking and uses small phones. and anamorphic lens adapters to improve rugged history. Mandarin is available on YouTube on request.
9 rides, 2016 (1h23)
Matthew A. Cherry’s film follows an Uber driver on New Years Eve, as he navigates his customers’ personalities amid a personal revelation. Shot on an iPhone 6s, the film was shown at SXSW and used the location of a car overnight to tell a complex and dramatic story. Cherry has since seen her career grow, including winning an Oscar for her animated short, Hair love, in 2019. You can catch 9 rides via Amazon Prime.
High fantasy, 2017 (1h11)
Taking the body swap genre to new heights, director Jenna Bass follows her protagonists on a camping trip that requires them to examine their friendships from a new perspective. The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 and uses the reflective first-person camera style to tell the story. High fantasy is available on Vimeo upon request.
Insane, 201. (1h38)
Steven Soderbergh memorably bends the mind with this paranoid thriller about a woman harassed by a stalker. The main role is played by Claire Foy (The crown) and the film was shot on an iPhone 7+ but with a large crew and prime lenses. Unsane got a theatrical release in the US and performed well on SVOD platforms, and Soderbergh showed his appreciation for the format, using smartphones to shoot his 2019 drama. High-flying bird. foolish is available on most SVOD platforms and High-flying bird is on Netflix.
Blue Moon, 2018 (1h25)
New Zealand filmmaker Stef Harris used the flagship iPhone 7+ film for his tense thriller set in a small town in New Zealand. What starts off as a mundane night for gas station manager Horace turns into a cat-and-mouse game when a figure from his past arrives with a diary. The film has won numerous smartphone festival awards and premiered at the 2018 New Zealand Film Festival. Blue Moon is available via Vimeo on Demand
Ghost, 2020 (1h25)
British filmmaker Anthony Z James’ debut feature uses iPhone 8 to transport audiences to London and tells the story of a recently released prisoner reuniting with his son. The film has a lyrical feel that follows the cast through the back streets of London and evolves through a series of conversations to a tense finale. The film was distributed online via Vimeo On Demand https://www.story-image.com/ghost
Charon, 2021 (1h23)
Jennifer Zhang used her time during the global pandemic to produce her feature film Charon about a hacker in house arrest who faces increasingly bizarre requests from her boyfriend. Zhang did pretty much everything on the film, filming and editing on an iPhone 8+. The film was distributed and won the award for best feature film at the Mobil International Film Festival in 2021.
Twice x 2, 2021 (1h26)
Russian filmmaker Vitaly Manukov set out to shoot a commercial-looking film with smartphones, and the resulting film about two couples arguing looks well produced and professionally lit. The film was shot with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and was released to Russian cinemas in early 2021.
No. 1, 2021 (1h43)
African filmmaker Oladipo O’Fresh’s film tells the story of a young man immersed in crime. Set in Nigeria, the film uses tons of natural light and real-life locations to explore the contemporary issues of African youth.