Shoot your film with an iPhone?

Filmmakers the world over are working their ways around technical limitations imposed with low budgets by adopting iPhone and DSLR tech to shoot long-format films.

Despite the recent unraveling of the sneaky stuff Steve Job’s & Co. might have/ might not have been up to (like keeping tabs on the whereabouts of several million iPhone users), there is still something cool to do with it before tossing it into the sea to protect your geo privates…

Filmmaking, my dear Watson.

Savvy to the potential for huge market reach (and not in a sneaky way), mobile phone companies are heavily competing with each other to grab the eyeballs of billions of tech-savvy smart phone users. How to do it?
Reach out to high-profile filmmakers to collaborate on a film productions! In return, said companies (funders of the smart phone films) get to promote their movie-making apps.

To enlighten the uninitiated to the vast ocean of potential here, let’s use South Korea as an example. Despite the stability-twitching antics of their northern neighbor, South Korea has arguably positioned itself as the world’s most wired country; more than 40 million South Koreans are mobile phone subscribers, of which 7 million are smart phone users. That’s huge no matter how big your abacus happens to be.

Those numbers proved tantalizing enough for electronics giant Samsung to dive headfirst into smart phone film fun, and commissioned director Kim Dae-woo to shoot Age of Milk, a 20-minute romantic comedy starring TV celebs Min Hyo-rin and Choi Daniel.

I would have loved to be in the Samsung boardroom for that pitch. Since Age of Milk went active in December, Samsung’s micro site for the film has logged more than 3.5 million downloads. Office party!

iPhone Just Keeps on Giving
Not everyone has had a love at first sight relationship with iPhones and filmmaking. Director Kim Dae-woo is a one who did’nt leap onto the bandwagon, but eventually got in to the swing of things. Here’s his take on the tech;

“The question of finding the right story for a mobile phone is still baffling to me. I am not an early adopter. I was terrified of how the film would look on a larger screen. But I was very impressed with the overall picture quality.”

Looks like the more experimentation by filmmakers with iPhones, the wider the window of opportunity for corporate sponsors to pony up with some necessary funding to get films made. On the outset, this appears to be a win/win situation; filmmakers have the opportunity to garner a potentially huge audience for their films (via sponsored mini-sites), and the corporate folks get their app’s in front of the millions of tech savvy consumers looking for cool stuff to watch on their smart phone. Hey! Not a new approach, but one that still works.

Another mobile iPhone carrier, Korea Telecom, dropped 150 million won (that’s a nifty 130K USD) to fund Night Fishing, a 30 minute fantasy/ horror film directed by award-winning dynamic duo Park Chan-wook and his brother Chan-kyong (Winners of the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival 2011). Park spy’s the lay of the land; “The democratization of cinema through relatively inexpensive cameras is the way to go.” Nuff said.

Park Chan Wook saw the potential iPhone as an alternative to (expensive) professional equipment and went for it; size is a big asset, as well as the low cost of having multiple cameras on set, constantly. Park’s crew shot with ten iPhone cameras on Night Fishing saving time, money and providing tons of angles simultaneously. Reshoots & set ups were minimized, allowing the crew to maximize their time on set and locations. An added bonus; smaller cameras allowed natural interaction between the actors, proving less obtrusive during takes. The post productioon end of the budget wasn’t so easy on the pocket book, costing pretty much the same, only adding different concerns as per the iPhone footage. The savings were in the shoot itself, and the ability to get a bunch of camera’s on set simultaneously, speeding up the on-set time. That’s a big deal if you’re an indy filmmaker.

Gamma and Density have a great article in their production journal, HERE. Definitely worth a read, and check out the app’s these folks have for color correction on iPad! Brilliant stuff.

A Burgeoning Bubble of Film Apps about to Burst
Production on one off films are just the tip of the iceburg as telecom companies roll out ambitious marketing plans to garner attention int he market. Korea Telecom is hosting host a smart phone film festival in collaboration with South Korea’s second largest distributor, Lotte Entertainment. Locking in filmmaker interest with industry big wigs, the fest touts a jury led by veteran director Lee Joon-ik. Winning films will be screened at a local multiplex chain.

Director of Photography Hong Gyeong-po provides his angle on the convergence of smart phone tech and filmmaking: “It really has changed the perspective of a film. It’s hard to believe that I’m making a film in an age where people shoot, edit and watch their films on their mobile phone.”

Filmmaker Park Chan-Wook looks ahead: “When I grow older and less popular, there will come a time when I have to shot films on low budgets. This experience has meaning in that it has prepared me ahead of time.”

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