Mobile Filmmaking

…Michelangelo was there first.

Sally Potter filming Lily Cole as Lettuce Leaf in 'Rage'

In RAGE, Sally’s 2009 film which defied all the usual conventions of cinema, the character Michelangelo, unheard and unseen throughout, managed to film his interviewees using only his mobile phone, before secretly posting the interviews on his website.

Throughout the film, the characters begin to open up to their interviewer, naively mistaking his age and lack of professional equipment as a sign of unimportance. The worry of minding what is said in front of the camera all but disappears, it’s a phone after all. If what was being filmed were being seen somewhere important, he’d be using a better camera, surely?

At the time of filming, back in 2008, the possibility of actually shooting the film on a mobile phone was strongly considered. Tests were shot, and a number of different phones and their capabilities were looked at, but at the time the technology just wasn’t able to produce a watchable film on the big screen (though it certainly would have been possible for Michelangelo’s needs). In the end, for creative reasons, it was decided the film be shot on the Panasonic HVX-200, a mid-range professional camera that produced the clean, almost amateurish look of digital that Sally and Steve Fierberg, the Director of Photography, were trying to achieve, while still feeling cinematic enough that an audience could stand to watch an entirely handheld ninety minutes of interviews in a cinema.

Jude Law as Minx in Sally Potter's 2009 film 'Rage'

Three years on, and as technology has advanced, so has the possibilities. The chips and lenses required to achieve a high-quality image have gotten smaller, and the feature-set of phones has rapidly expanded. South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, director of critically acclaimed Oldboy, Lady Vengence and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, joins the fast growing list of filmmakers who have produced films entirely on a mobile phone. For his latest short film, Paranmanjang, or ‘A Life Full of Ups and Downs’, Park made use of the iPhone 4.

“The new technology creates strange effects because it is new and because it is a medium the audience is used to,” Park explains, “There are some good points of making a movie with the iPhone as there are many people around the world who like to play and have fun with them”.

Park isn’t alone in this endeavor, a growing number of filmmakers are making the most of the possibilities this technology has created. You can view a number of music videos shot on the iPhone here.

RAGE was made on a budget of $100,000, quite a feat considering the end product and the cast involved. It was branded as a new style of filmmaking, ‘Naked Cinema’, and the point was to prove that films can be made on a budget, without being wasteful with your spending. The iPhone, and a number of other phones on the market, are staying true to this claim, making it possible for any filmmaker to make the project they want to make, without needing the budget of a blockbuster.