By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
With every generation, Apple’s iPhone continues to improve as not only a mobile phone and computing device, but as a camera. It’s dominated the field so much that it has pretty much scuttled one entire category of camera and has two more – point and shoots and camcorders – in its sights. But one filmmaker is targeting a category of his own, and is earning awards hand-over-fist by shooting all his work on the iPhone. And the industry is starting to notice.
The iPhone is really making a buzz for itself, especially with low budget filmmakers who are short on cash and big on ideas. And it’s really starting to turn into a serious filmmaking tool, not only because of all the apps that the iPhone offers filmmakers, but because of dynamic range and improved lens elements.
And one such filmmaker is turning his plucky mobile phone into a bonafide art form. We’ve seen this before, to be sure, but when you rack up one award after another for best film, clearly something is happening that cannot be discounted as merely a mobile phone camera.
Conrad Mess, an award winning director from Spain, is carving out a brilliant niche of films that are part horror, part film noir that are heavily influenced by the likes of Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino. This kind of style allows Mess to rely on green screen and CGI to fill out the the scenes he’s imagined and make his film look far more expensive than his $400 budget allows. He shoots on the iPhone, and then adds his CGI with Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D for modeling.
“One no longer needs a multi-million budget to make a film or a crew of actors and supporting cast that can easily fill a major venue.” – Ruben Kazantsev, co-founder of iPhone Film Festival
His first iPhone short, The Fixer, won best film of the year at the 2013 iPhone Film Festival, with judges marveling that Mess could get such production value out of a mobile phone platform. Miguel Johnson, an iPhone Film Festival Judge, said the story and special effects are “awesome,” and the movie’s quality “… (is) so good that it was simply hard to believe it was shot on an iPhone.”
After his accolades at the IFF, Mess created three more films over the last year, including Russian Roulette, The Asking Room, and his current award winner – The Other Side, which was shot completely on green screen and then filled in with virtual sets to give it the big budget feel of multi-million dollar horror film, which Mess says mixes “Victorian aesthetics and 3D graphics in a comic horror style.”
“The shooting of The Other Side has meant a lot of hard work,” Mess tells Videomaker Magazine, “but it is a unique and innovative format that has made it worthwhile. Though this time Mess isn’t spending $400… He’s got a budget of $27,000 and it shows.
So much so that he wrapped up another best film accolade from the Phonetastic-Sitges International Film Festival in Barcelona, Spain. Of course this is get another mobile phone film festival, so he’s still the big fish in that small pond.
“You know, when you haven’t got resources, you do what you can,” Mess said. Mess also says that while he enjoys shooting on the iPhone, his real love is post production … crafting the film in the edit bay where it takes on its true character. “For me, this is the most enjoyable part of the process, the edit,” Mess says.
Filmmaker Brian Kowalchuck agrees that the iPhone may be a legitimate camera option. “The pro of using a mobile device is that people think it’s cool and cutting-edge,” Kowalchuck told IndieWire. “In a way, I agree. I am gaining access to a few major talent agencies and managers and other companies I might not otherwise have access to. People want to read the script, too. This is not a minor consideration.”
And animator Sascha Ciezata agrees, saying that the iPhone has been able to give him a portable studio in his pocket, even with animation. “I didn’t have the money to make my film,” Ciezata adds, “So, I decided to try using my iPhone as the camera… (it gave me) more control over the production process – when shooting film, you never really knew what you were getting until the film came back from the lab. With the iPhone, I got instant playback so if something isn’t working you can adjust accordingly.”
For Ciezata, his next feature may be shot on the iPad because it now shoots in HD. “With the iPad, I have a digital canvas in glorious HD,” he says. “I’m working on some longer form content in that style. The quality is so much better.”
But both Kowalchuck and Ciezata do acknowledge that while the iPhone has improved and can be used for short format films, as a feature there are challenges. And even when the quality does reach a point where it can legitimately compete, Hollywood will likely be slow to adopt it. “(I think) it will be a long-time before Hollywood accepts it as a new standard,” Ciezata told Indiewire.”
But with the indie world, it’s anything goes. So what I read just today on Twitter really rings true with these guys… Filmmakers don’t make excuses, they make films. And that’s what they are doing to great effect.