Smartphone Filmmaking + MINA

Sean Baker’s Tangerine could be referred to as the first smartphone film that toured all major international film festivals, including a premiere at Sundance Film Festival (2015) and then was showcased at San Francisco, Seattle and Sydney film festivals among others. Tangerine was produced with $100,000 and the iPhone 5. Baker used the anamorphic adapter from Moondog Labs and the FiLMiC Pro app using a Steadicam rig, which are well known and commonly used in the international smartphone filmmaking community. Wired Magazine reported that Sean Baker used Instagram, Vine and Soundcloud to scout talent and music. He applied smartphone filmmaking techniques that are reminiscent of street photography or the French New Wave cinematography. Using natural light, filming handheld on location and following the actors through environments of everyday people who are not always in the limelight, characterises Tangerine, smartphone films by the pioneers or La Nouvelle Vague. In Baker’s feature, the narrative intertwines immigrant and transgender communities and speaks to the capacity of smartphone filmmaking to get as close to the subjects as possible. A slightly unsettling and intentional imperfection of images is seen in Unsane, Steven Soderbergh’s feature film produced using the iPhone 7 and about $1.5 million to make the American psychological horror.

Social Impact panel including (from left to right) Hilary Davis, Jason van Genderen, Tania Sheward, Adrian Jeffs and Max Schleser Social Impact panel including (from left to right) Hilary Davis, Jason van Genderen, Tania Sheward, Adrian Jeffs and Max Schleser | © MINA
The Mobile Innovation Network and Association, MINA, is an annual gathering of filmmakers, artists, designers and storytellers. In November 2018 the 8th edition of the International Mobile Innovation Screening (www.mina.pro/screenings) took place at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia. A panel discussion on experimental and emerging practices as well as one panel on social impact in relation to mobile, smartphone and pocket filmmaking was featured as part of the screening program. Emerging and established filmmakers such as Liz Burke, Jason Van Genderen, Seth Keen, Smiljana Glisovic, Dean Keep, Adrian Jeffs and Max Schleser among others, talked about their mobile moving-image work, smartphone films and mobile-mentaries (mobile documentaries) produced on and with mobile devices and smartphones. There are now a number of major feature film productions by independent filmmakers such as Soderbergh, Baker, Cherry, Alvarez and Fisch. In addition, some very notable screenings such as Park’s Night Fishing at the Berlin Film Festival (2011), commissions through Apple like Detour (2017) produced by Gondry and of course the Oscar winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man (2012) included iPhone filmed sequences.

Although the International Mobile Innovation Screening was not for the first time in Melbourne or on Federation Square, in 2015 the 5th MINA Screening was presented on Fed TV, it was a premiere for the screening in Australia’s national museum of film, TV, video games and digital culture. In the previous years as well as in 2017 and 2018, the MINA screening was also hosted in Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision in Wellington (NZ). The screenings were curated by Schleser and included mobile, pocket and smartphone films from all continents. For the last eight years Max Schleser curated the screening program and published on the aesthetics and conceptual developments in mobile, pocket and smartphone filmmaking. In comparison to about a dozen other mobile and smartphone film festivals internationally, MINA, is known for its exploration of experimental screen productions and showcasing work in the tradition of documentary, experimental filmmaking and the essay film. The MINA SHOW & TELL featured two panel discussions. Filmmakers such as Vivi Octaviani, Seth Keen, Smiljana Glisovic, Liz Burke and Dean Keep, discussed Experimental and Emerging Practices and the Social Impact of mobile filmmaking.

Now not only cinematography is possible on smartphones but also montage via mobile editing apps such as Adobe Clip, Adobe Spark Video or Adobe Spark.