While photography and video recording are basic features of smartphones, can a full movie be shot on them? Celebrated filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj’s recent short film Fursat has been entirely shot on Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro. The film delves into concepts like time travel and stars Ishaan Khattar and Wamiqa Gabbi in lead roles. Interestingly, Fursat is not the first one to be filmed on a smartphone.
During the Covid lockdown, Indian cinematographer Kalpak Pathak shot his entire film on an iPhone in the US. The 90-minute feature film, Amidst My Own, was shot on a phone, setting a precedence of making low-budget films using just a phone during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, a slew of films were shot on phones. Take the case of the 2019 Tamil feature film Adadae, directed by Kamal Saro Muni, which was shot on an iPhone 5. In fact, several films in south India have followed the same route. Upcoming Tamil film Viduthalai has been shot entirely on an iPhone 12. Another Tamil film Agandan, directed by Santhosh Nambirajan, was shot on iPhone 11.
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Naturally, this phenomenon is not restricted to India.
Director Zack Snyder, widely known for 300 and Justice League, shot his 2017 short film Snow Steam Iron on an iPhone 7 Plus. The film is said to have been shot over a weekend. Another short film to be shot on an iPhone 7 Plus is the 2018 psychological horror Unsane.
The film, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and starring The Crown star Claire Foy in the lead role, was shot in just 10 days. Soderbergh is a fan of films on phones, it seems. His 2019 sports drama High Flying Bird, too, was shot on an Apple phone, this time on iPhone 8.
It is no small feat to shoot an entire film using a phone. It becomes an even greater achievement if one wins a BAFTA for it. Victoria Mapplebeck-directed short film Missed Call was shot on iPhone X and won a BAFTA in 2019.
Celebrated South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook co-directed the 2011 Night Fishing with his brother Park Chan-Kyong on iPhone 4. The 2013 film I Play With The Phrase Each Other was also shot on iPhones.
Although iPhones are often considered the best when it comes to camera quality and video recording, it is not that other phones haven’t been explored for the same.
Way back in 2008, the Malayalam documentary film Veenavaadanam was shot using a Nokia N70 music edition phone. It was written and directed by Sathish Kalathil, and is considered the first Indian film to be shot on a phone. Not just films, visual artist Harald Haraldsson filmed a commercial using Samsung Galaxy SIII.
Not just films, but professional film cameras have been ditched while shooting several shows and music videos too. Due to the pandemic, popular talk show host Conan O’Brien shot his show using an iPhone. Pop megastar Lady Gaga’s Stupid Love music video, released in 2020, was shot on iPhone 11. Similarly, Selena Gomez’s Lose You to Love Me was shot on iPhone 11 Pro.
Although phones have their limitations compared to advanced video cameras, an upper leg they have is in terms of economic viability, and more and more filmmakers, new and starting, can go down this road to give themselves a break.
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They are not the only ones. Eleven-time Grammy winner John Legend, too, opted for a smartphone for his 2018 music video A Good Night. Google’s Pixel 2 phone was used for it.
Among the benefits of using a smartphone for making films, music videos, shows, etc, is the budget.
However, even if budget is not an issue, newer innovations and increased sophistication in smartphones are set to further steer this trend. Suffice to say, it can turn to be a boon for new and emerging filmmakers.