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Mobile Phone Filmmaking

By Mike Ellis

It used to be that a mobile phone was just a mobile phone. It made calls and that was it. It has many more uses than that today, but one of the most interesting is its use to the filmmaking world. It may be hard to believe, but many films and videos are shot on regular everyday mobile phones, not expensive film or digital cameras. There are many advantages to shooting on a mobile phone camera, there are of course disadvantages as well but they are definitely a viable option for independent filmmakers today.

There are of course, examples of success in the mobile filmmaking world or as it is sometimes called, the Very Small Screen (VSS) marketplace.  One example was the video for the popular single “Some Postman” by the band The Presidents of the United States of America. Shot entirely on a rig of Sony Ericsson mobile phones and cleverly edited, this video shows the advantages of shooting on a VSS.  A 70-minute feature film by Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch titled “Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me It Would Be This Bad In Afghanistan,” has been picked up for several major international film festivals showing us that this type of technology can be used on a larger scale as well.

Mobile Phone MoviesThere is a long list of advantages that go along with shooting on a mobile phone.  For one, now anyone with a phone can shoot a film. The only thing stopping you, is you!  The camera is also able to shoot in locations that were before restricted by how large and bulky the camera was, with a phone; any room is now a set for your film.  This gives the films a sense of unpredictability and spontaneity because we can now almost literally go anywhere.  For the most part, the images will be too grainy if shot from too far away, so the subjects are kept close to the camera. Many people like the effect this has on the film as it makes it seem more intimate and engaging.

There are disadvantages as well, such as lighting situations (especially low light situations), as a cell phones ability to capture light is not as great as those of more developed cameras.  Also camera movement becomes much more limited because there is more of a chance of jerky shots and pixilation.  Sound recording must also be done separately from the camera in this circumstance as well; you simply won’t get good enough sound quality from a mobile phone.

Expect to hear much more about mobile phone filmmaking in the future as well, we already see many videos online being produced in this fashion as well as film festivals solely for films made on phones, such as the Pocket Films Festival held in Japan.

Since so many people have access to the technology, this seems like the next logical step, and phone cameras have already come a long way in terms of quality.  Soon enough we may see a generation of filmmakers turning to this type of technology in order to get their story across, because its important not to forget that it isn’t the technology you’re telling the story with that’s important, but the story itself. 

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About The Author

Mike Ellis Mike Ellis is a Cinema and Photography major at Ithaca College in upstate New York and is interning at Raindance while he studies in London.

He enjoys many things like film, music, old school Nintendo games, driving barefoot and watching old episodes of Full House.

He looks forward to entering the Raindance Film Festival one day and then reminiscing about how he used to intern there.

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