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Smartphone cinema - can you make a movie on your mobile?

Mobile phone cameras are one of the main features everyday consumers look at when they’re thinking of buying a new smartphone. They’re certainly the main focus point of most new phone launches. Just look at recent releases such as the Apple iPhone 12 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 and you’ll see launch events dominated by boasts, brags and claims of incredible cameras that will take your photography to eye-catching new levels.

And of course, video recording is becoming an increasingly big part of that. More and more everyday smartphone users are interested in shooting video clips, with the rise of video content platforms like TikTok proof of the picture.

As such, the video features you get on smartphones are also touted as standout specs. From editing suites and slo-mo, to ready made filters and 4K UHD recording, there are plenty of ways you can make your mobile videos stand out.

But can you actually use your smartphone to make a movie? It’s one thing shooting a 90-second TikTok clip, but what about a 10-minute short film, or even a 90-minute feature?

The quick answer to this question is - yes, you can. There’s enough tech in your iPhone to genuinely shoot a movie worthy of the big screen, but it’s certainly not as easy as going out and hitting Record. You’ll need directing skills and the ability to use an editing app. You might also need some extra equipment, along with a lot of storage space - especially if you’re shooting in 4K.

Let's take a look at some efforts from the experts. After all, some of the biggest names in cinema have already made movies on a smartphone - you may even have seen one and not realised.

Here are five movies made on a smartphone.

Unsane - directed by Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh is a Hollywood heavyweight. The director of huge feature films including Oceans Eleven and Contagion made one of his recent films entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus.

Unsane is a 2018 psychological thriller starring Claire Foy about a woman who is being stalked by an ex-boyfriend… or is she? Soderbergh used the iPhone 7 Plus to create a claustrophobic, frantic feel that helped depict Foy’s mindset. Unsane was a hit at the box office and received favourable reviews. And if you weren't told, you probably would have no idea it was made on an older iPhone.

High Flying Bird - directed by Steven Soderbergh

Soderbergh picked up an iPhone again in 2019 to make another film entirely on an Apple smartphone. This time, he used an iPhone 8 to make High Flying Bird, a drama about a sports agent who has 72 hours to help an NBA rookie find a team.

Tangerine - Sean Barker

Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win a number of awards. An edgy indie tale revolving around a transgender sex worker, the film was lauded for its subject matter as well as its striking visual style.

Shot entirely on three iPhone 5s handsets, its impact on filmmaking is such that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently put one of the iPhones up for display in the Academy museum.

Night Fishing - Park Chan-wook

Celebrated South Korean director Park Chan-wook has been wowing international audiences with his filmmaking for decades, with films like Oldboy and The Handmaiden garnering critical acclaim and award wins alike.

Interestingly, he was also one of the first directors to use a smartphone to make a movie. He actually filmed the short film Night Fishing on an ancient iPhone 4 back in 2011! It went on to win the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Snow Steam Iron - Zack Snyder

Famed for big budget blockbusters like DC’s Justice League, and the epic 300, Zack Snyder took his big screen skills to the smallest screen and made a short film on an iPhone 7 Plus called Snow Steam Iron.

The short film focuses on a woman out for revenge against a gang of corrupt cops. Visually impressive and every bit as engaging as Snyder’s other films, Snow Steam Iron shows that, with the right talent, you can really make a film on a smartphone.

If you want to try out some smartphone filmmaking yourself, your smartphone has the tools to help bring your ideas to life. So get yourself some equipment like a mini tripod, download an editing app like iMovie or FiLMiC Pro, and start shooting.

Category: Features
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