How the ShortList Film Festival Finalists Overcame Dark Subject Matters, Unexpected Productions Challenges

Entries ranged from a documentary on abortion helpline workers to a love story in space told with puppets

Steven Soderbergh wasn’t the first filmmaker to shoot an entire movie on an iPhone, but with his latest film “High Flying Bird” he’s proved yet again that it’s totally possible to have a professional, beautiful looking movie filmed with something that fits in your pocket. Here are some other feature films and a few shorts that have made use of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

  • “Night Fishing” (2011)

    “Oldboy” director Chan-wook Park made his 2011 short film “Night Fishing” on an iPhone 4. It’s a 30-minute fantasy horror film about a fisherman who catches a mystical shaman in a river. It won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

    KT Corp/Berlin International Film Festival

  • “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012)

    The Oscar-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” was saved by an iPhone app that cost just $1.99. Director Malik Bendjelloul used an app called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film after telling CNN that he had run out of money. 

    Sony Pictures Classics

  • “I Play With the Phrase Each Other” (2013)

    The filmmakers of “I Play With the Phrase Each Other” boast not only that their film was shot on cellphones, but that it’s the first feature film that tells its story entirely through cellphone calls. The drama starring Jay Alvarez won the Special Jury Prize for Original Vision from the Slamdance Film Festival in 2014. 

    Studio Mist

  • “Uneasy Lies the Mind” (2014)

    Imagine if Stanley Kubrick filmed “The Shining” on an iPhone. In this thriller from director Ricky Fosheim, a man slowly loses his sanity while on a retreat with his wife in an isolated mansion. Fosheim wrote an article for American Cinematographer saying that he purchased an iPhone 5 and a Turtleback SLR jacket lens adapter and compared his own footage to that of pricier cameras. “The results blew my mind: The iPhone footage was raw, dirty, vignetted and unlike anything I’d seen before.” 

    Gravitas Ventures

  • “Tangerine” (2015)

    Sean Baker’s debut film “Tangerine” was the most successful and critically acclaimed movie to date to be shot entirely on iPhones. Baker used three separate iPhone 5s to give the film a mobile, energetic quality, to reach into areas that would’ve been impossible for bulkier cameras and to pay homage to Dogme 95 directors who came before him. The film earned raves out of Sundance in 2015. 

    Magnolia Pictures

  • “Romance in NYC” (2015)

    Filmmaker Tristan Pope filmed this romantic love story in New York on an iPhone 6, and it’s novel for being filmed from the point of view of a boyfriend on a date with his girlfriend in the city. The film was funded on Kickstarter, it won the top prize at the now annual iPhone Film Festival in 2015 and is available on iTunes. 

    Tristan Pope

  • “9 Rides” (2016)

    Before he executive produced the Best Picture-nominated “BlacKkKlansman,” filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry made “9 Rides” about an Uber driver who gets life-changing news on New Year’s Eve. Not only did he shoot it on an iPhone 6 in 4K resolution, he also funded the film via Kickstarter. “9 Rides” eventually played at the SXSW Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival. 

    Cherry Entertainment

  • “Detour” (2017)

    Michel Gondry made his fantastical and colorful iPhone movie specifically as a commercial for Apple. The “Eternal Sunshine” filmmaker filmed it on an iPhone 7 Plus. The film is about a kid’s tricycle that miraculously tries to make its way back to a vacationing family. 

    Apple

  • “Snow Steam Iron” (2017)

    After he was removed from directing duties on “Justice League,” Zack Snyder turned to this short film called “Snow Steam Iron” that resembled some of his earlier films like “300” and “Sucker Punch.” Snyder used an iPhone 7 Plus and an app called Filmic Pro to give the short a cinematic quality. 

    Vero

  • “Unsane” (2018)

    The first time Steven Soderbergh utilized an iPhone for a film was for 2018’s “Unsane,” a claustrophobic B-movie set inside a hospital starring Claire Foy that he shot in just 10 days. Using apps and other tools on the iPhone 7 Plus allowed Soderbergh to achieve a gritty, 16mm look that captured the feel of a ’70s horror classic.

    Fingerprint/Bleecker Street

  • “High Flying Bird” (2019)

    The bright and lavish settings in pricey restaurants and powerful office buildings are far different than the settings of Soderbergh’s “Unsane,” but he still found a way to make the iPhone look work, particularly during a basketball game we see through cell phone video shot by teenagers.

    Photo by Peter Andrews

  • Steven Soderbergh,Chan-wook Park, Zack Snyder and Michel Gondry have all used iPhones on features and shorts

    Steven Soderbergh wasn’t the first filmmaker to shoot an entire movie on an iPhone, but with his latest film “High Flying Bird” he’s proved yet again that it’s totally possible to have a professional, beautiful looking movie filmed with something that fits in your pocket. Here are some other feature films and a few shorts that have made use of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

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