Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cell Phone Movies

It's been a while since any mid-week posts have appeared here. That's mostly because I've been tied to that other kind of post -- the whipping post -- pretty much since the New Year began, and have been hard-pressed to put up the Sunday posts, much less anything else. That's a good thing, for the most part. Work is money and money is life these days, even when you're being ground into the dust by the jackbooted thugs of Disney... but don't get me started on that again...

Not so long ago, I wondered when – not if – some enterprising young filmmaker would find a way to shoot an entire feature with a cell phone camera. As is becoming the norm in this rapidly evolving digital age, fact outruns fiction/speculation every time, and it turns out there’s already been one feature - a movie called “Olive” – shot on a cell phone (albeit with the help of sophisticated lenses), and ready for release.

It probably wasn’t the first cell phone feature – just the first one one I happened to hear about – but it certainly won’t be the last.

While watching the Utube clip on the making of “Olive,” I was reminded of a cartoon that once graced the flim lab back in school, depicting a young man who finds a pencil on the sidewalk, then picks it up and gushes “Now I can write the great American novel!” One of our film professors pinned that cartoon to the wall as a reminder to his enthusiastic young students that a camera – like a pencil – is just a tool. There’s a lot more to telling a good story than the technology involved, whether your chosen means of creative expression is a pencil, a Panaflex, or a cell phone.

Unlike the cameras I see on set every day -- monster lenses and wires running all over the place -- a cell phone camera is neither visually impressive nor intimidating. It's just a goddamned cell phone, for chrissakes -- and everybody's got one.* That alone removes some of the mystery and bullshit from the process, and should allow newbies to relax and concentrate on the story they're trying to tell. I doubt if Michael Bay will shoot his next Transformers movie on an Iphone, but for an appropriate project, a cell phone camera can save a lot of money that might be better spent on sets, props, lights, wardrobe, sound, hair and makeup... and maybe even a nicer spread at the craft service table to keep the crew happy.

Or at least less unhappy than they’d otherwise be...

I have no idea if “Olive” is any good as a movie, but it should help open the door a bit wider for creative minds to put their stories on the screen – and that’s a good thing.

In that vein, I recently I stumbled across The International Movie Trailer Festival, a website dedicated to movie trailers from around the world. Their latest venture is a contest for two minute trailers shot with a cell phone camera. Early bird entries were accepted as of March 1st, but the contest officially kicks off on April Fool’s Day – which, I’m told, is a coincidence, not a joke. You can find entry information here, along with a snappy trailer for the contest shot on – you guessed it, a cell phone camera.

Whether you want to enter or not, this is a fun website with lots of great trailers to see.

Check it out...

* Well, almost everyone...


C.B. said...

Cool link. And yes, storytelling is primordial for movie making. Tools come second, so it is refreshing to see movies made on all types of devices. For the movie "Olive", it is interesting to see that they actually used a set of professional grade lenses and equipment to help produce better images. I can't help to think that if they went that far, why not use a better camera? I am curious to have seen how the movie projected on a big screen.
But there is a definite plus in using smaller, less intimidating cameras, they are easy to handle and the talent does behave differently, they feel like they are part of the process, and tend to participate more.
Smaller, less invasive cameras are less invasive for documentaries as well, where it is easier to mix mediums.

Michael Taylor said...

CB --

I had that same thought when viewing the "Olive" clip -- if you're going to use serious lenses, then why not use a real camera? Camera mounts on motorcycles and cars might be easier using a camera and lens system designed for making motion pictures... but the images the cell phone produced look pretty good, so I can't argue with the results.

We just might see a lot of interesting films being made with such unobtrusive technology -- shot on cellphones and edited on laptops. That's pretty cool...