Fancy making a feature film that captivates audiences at Sundance Film Festival? I can hear you already thinking – sure,would love to, but don’t I need headline actors, story with universal appeal and some very fancy and expensive camera kit?
Actually, maybe you don’t. Sean Baker’s Tangerine has got everyone at Sundance talking. It’s a film that seems to upset every touted convention for getting your film noticed – it features unknown actors, appears to have no ‘universal mass appeal,’ as it features the story of two transgender women, and it was shot on the iPhone 5S!
Before we get carried away let’s clarify, that although completely shot on the iPhone 5S it did have some upgrades, namely the 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter from Moondog Labs, the FiLMiC Pro app, and external recording devices. Irin Strauss, the film’s sound mixer, shared on Twitter how they went about recording the audio on a dual system with an SD 664 field recorder, using lav, and boom microphones.
So, let’s break the cost of this camera kit down. If you didn’t already have an iPhone 5S, you’d probably need to purchase one (Tangerine used 3), which retails in the apple store for around £450-£499. Then you’d need the 1.33 Anamorphic Adapter, for $160 (£105) from Moondog Labs, which is currently only available to order from the USA, and the FiLMiC Pro app available in UK itunes store for £5.99. All of this will set you back around £560 per camera.
Pretty amazing for a piece of kit, which can take you all the way to Sundance.
And as the Guardian pointed out, using the iPhone 5S facilitated the films story as camera permits were not required, enabling them to show a part of LA rarely captured on film, and, as Sean Baker relays, shows the reality of these women working an “unofficial red light district.”
But it’s worth being realistic about what’s achievable. Is your film going to look the same as those shot on more expensive and traditional kit? No, of course not. At least, not yet. If you shoot with an iPhone you’re going to lose some control over the instrument, and of course you’ll use some image quality. And for many film-makers, filming on a smart phone is far from an accepted form of feature film making.
Personally, I find this exciting. It’s another step towards putting the power of film making into everyone’s hands. We all have amazing stories to tell, and the more we remove barriers such as expensive kit, the more empowered people will be to share their stories with the world.
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By Lara Barbier, producer and writer for Be Inspired Films.