Has anyone actually ever said, “I have some cell phones, so I can make a movie”? YES. Yes they have. And every time I hear that, I cringe for them. This is why:
“Shot on iphone (insert model here)”. Sure you shot it on the iphone. I get it. It’s a challenge and it’s fun. But let’s be real. If anyone has ever seen a BTS film of how that is done, they will know that a NYU student using all of her connections in permitting, set design, art design, and parental cash set the iphone or cell phones are in a custom made rig that would support something more suitable like an ARRI cam or RED Dragon. Then, they edited it on professional software like Adobe Premiere for those great transitions, Adobe After Effects to take out the shake and add SPFX, and finally something like DaVinci Resolve to completely change the look of the shots with beautiful color enhancement. This dupes the audience (and commercial clients) into thinking, “I can do THAT with my OWN cell phones!”
Yeah, no you can’t. And why would you want to? Content creation like this is a TEAM SPORT of incredibly creative and talented people coming together for a one-off that they can brag about for a portfolio piece. The focus is on the stunt of using cell phones and not telling the story in a quality fashion. We must remember that story telling is the reason why me make stories in the first place. If the story is not communicated well, the audience will not care about the story and your communication will be lost.
But here is the part where I applaud cell phone “filmmaking”. It inspires thousands of young aspiring filmmakers to have a voice in a very accessible way. It gives students and those without means a foot in the door and a chance to tell their story. It requires innovation and fierce competition that really tests a screenplay to see if the words on the page hold up. It affords a chance for people to be discovered in a film festival or sixty seconds of fame as they trend on Twitter or Facebook. And most important of all, it exposes us to stories that we may never have seen otherwise due to lack of budget, lack of connections, lack of skill level, and so on.
So, no. Cell phones are not ruining filmmaking. They are enabling innovation and providing a proving ground to story telling. If you think you can make a cell phone story that is watchable, go for it! It will be a very educational process and you may have a lot of fun doing it (and if you’ve done it, please send it my way)!