The iPhone has come a long way since the first generation release in 2007. With more advanced sensors and optics and powerful apps, we have seen a huge uptick in quality work coming from the little devices over the last several years. Now, a feature film shot entirely on the iPhone 5S will be hitting select theaters this weekend. Yes…an actual movie…shot on a smartphone…in theaters. (There was a time when people said man would never fly, either.)
Tangerine is about transexual prostitute Sin-Dee who learns from a friend that her boyfriend (and pimp) was unfaithful to her during her recent incarceration. The film follows Sin-Dee and her best friend on a quest to learn the truth about the rumor. (Warning: Video after the jump contains strong language.)
While the storyline and movie itself offers little of interest to me as a viewer, the work that went into it is very intriguing. In an effort to keep their overall budget under $100k, the creators had to think outside the proverbial box. “The iPhone 5S had recently come out with its better camera,” says director Sean Baker. “So we started thinking about how the iPhone could help us.”
“Nobody else had shot like this,” comments Baker, and he’s very right. The crew secured anamorphic lens prototypes that had just been developed by Moondog Labs to create a cinematic feel that is not customarily associated with smartphone footage. Director of Photography Radium Chueng describes them as giving the picture “a much more classical film look.” The footage was shot using the Filmic Pro video app, and a Steadicam served in place of the larger and more expensive equipment typically seen on a movie set.
Additionally, shooting with the iPhone afforded the crew increased flexibility on location. “It allowed us to shoot clandestinely,” says Baker. “We were able to have a very small footprint.” Plus, with some of the cast members being first time actors, they were not intimidated by giant sets and fancy cameras.
With all of the recent controversy over the U.S. Supreme Court universally legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s a little ironic (or, perhaps not so) that this film is hitting theaters now. For those interested in checking it out, you can find a list of theaters showing the movie on their website.
Perhaps this will be the first of many such films, putting large-scale, affordable production potential into the hands of the masses. If nothing else, all of these new examples of the true potential of the iPhone has me wanting to get one and give is a go at gun-and-run product.