Not gonna lie, never made a film on my mobile.
Thought I’d get that out there now so if you’d rather hear from someone then has, then you’ve been warned upfront.
BUT! In my defence, that’s because when I started out filmmaking, mobile phones weren’t at a level where that was really possible. I started off making films with something much worse before I got my first (and only) DSLR camera; the Canon 60D which I’ll still use now and again. I like it.
Anyway, back to mobile filmmaking. It’s a thing now!
And it’s had quite some success. Did you know that there was a feature film made entirely on the iPhone 5S in 2015? And it was a win! Tangerine directed by Sean Baker was professionally made film with a budget of $100,00 (See? There are other things to spend money rather than the camera) and had a box office return of just under $1 Million.
That’s incredible! But the question you’re probably asking is why did they make the film on the iPhone 5S? I’d rather ask the question, why not?!
I’m gonna make the assumption that you’re convinced! You’re going to head out with your latest iPhone or Android and win yourself an Oscar. Woo-hoo! Go get ’em!
Oops, wait! Sorry, just got excited. Actually, there are a few things you can do to step up your mobile filmmaking game. No, some of these things aren’t free but will significantly help you make a better mobile movie (plus I’ve tried to find the most cost-saving versions of everything I’m about to mention). We’re gonna break them down to three main areas.
Camera. Action. Lights… that looks wrong doesn’t it?
So obviously we’re using the mobile phone as the camera – so when I say camera, I really mean everything you can do beforehand to help plan out what the camera is going to be doing on the day.
Get complete manual control of your mobile camera with this app. This is so important – more control over your image means more creative decisions.
Having a properly formatted screenplay is key to any production, mobile or not. Celtx is an online, cloud-based screenwriting software where you can write up to 3 projects for free.
Shot Lister is an incredible tool to use for preproduction and to share with your team. Check it out on their site.
These few simple tools will truly excel your production quality from just going handheld with an iPhone. I would say that all three of these options are a must!
Rode Mic Go
If you can help it, don’t use the inbuilt mic on your mobile. There are a whole host of options for good audio, but this is definitely a good start.
Stability in your image, stability in your life. Well… not at all really but I definitely recommend getting some sort of tripod. Great thing with these ones, you can put them anywhere! Anywhere!
If music be the food of love… then put it in your films! Yes, this post-production but music can really make a film. Royalty-free music can be expensive, but if you’re making loads of films – I would recommend these guys.
Lighting is key. To elevate the image quality you’re capturing in camera, it’s all to do with lighting. Even when shooting outside during daylight, you’ll want to think about how to diffuse or bounce it.
When indoors use as many practical lights as you can, and then use these great LED Panel lights to highlight where you want to draw the attention.
Hard light (like the sun) can create some really nasty shadows. Use cheap diffusion to soften it up to make your image even more stunning – yes the low budget option is a shower curtain. It works and I still use it.
Especially when outside, use a bounce to reflect some of the sunlight exactly where you want it – often into the talent’s face when the sun is behind them.
And that’s it. There is of course so much more you can get and upgrade to push your production levels higher and higher but I think this is a pretty great place to start.
If you do make anything on your mobile, I’d love to see it. Just sent it over to me on Instagram @paulsyrstad