Some people use phones to make films. TUCHONG
Filmmaking usually brings to mind a video camera, sound equipment and a sky-high budget. But what if you could make a movie with just the device in your pocket? Filmmakers are reimagining what it takes to make a movie and inspiring those with little more than a smartphone.
SMART: the London International Smartphone Film Festival will begin on June 21, to “celebrate the creativity and diversity of smartphone films, long and short”. It’s a new international festival set up by the team behind the first smartphone film to win an Academy Award.
“Anyone can now make an amazing film,” British producer Adam Gee, who set up the festival with director Victoria Mapplebeck, told the Observer. “All you need is the vision and the talent. It is not a question any more of being able to afford the right equipment or securing a big distribution deal.”
In 2019, Gee and Mapplebeck won a BAFTA award, beating the bigger budgeted competition with their short film, Missed Call. Since that time, a demand for more diverse films – as well as lockdowns due to the pandemic – have resulted in a boom in smartphone filmmaking.
“We set up the festival around smartphone films because it enables greater access and diversity, as well as innovation,” Gee said. “Our competition categories cover all the genres, both scripted and unscripted. And there are no implications now about quality. You can have brilliant pictures and brilliant audio, and there are even new apps that give you more control, allowing for remote direction.”
Filming with a smartphone does not solely belong to the world of indie cinema, however. High-profile American director Steven Soderbergh experimented with the form in his first iPhone-shot movie from 2018, Unsane. A-list actors such as Sir Ian McKellen and Kristen Stewart have also starred in films shot with phones.
The future seems bright for filmmaking with digital devices. Its ease of use and accessibility to all will surely draw in more aspiring filmmakers. Soderbergh is reportedly such a fan of filming on digital cameras that when asked if he’d return to film, he said it would be like “writing scripts in pencil”.