It’s an oft-repeated adage that with a camera phone, anyone can make a movie, but few filmmakers have lived up to the potential of the phrase quite like Sean Baker. His film Tangerine, the story of two friends who also happen to be transgender prostitutes, wowed audiences at Sundance and won over critics in the past few weeks with its theatrical release.
Oh, and he shot it entirely on an iPhone.
Baker, who had made four films before, turned to the Apple device because of both monetary constraints and a desire to distinguish the look of his film from other micro-budget indies. The result is proof positive that a talented group of people can come together to make something great with just the phones in their pockets.
We spoke with Baker about his process making Tangerine, and he shared some tips for indie filmmakers considering the iPhone option.
Get the right equipment
“I came across this Kickstarter campaign for this company called Moondog Labs. They had basically made this anamorphic adapter for the iPhone. It allows you to shoot in true scope, in a real anamorphic aspect ratio, but capturing it in scope. I knew that that was just going to elevate the look of this into a cinematic level.”
Download the right software
“It was the combination of using that adapter and this wonderful app that was available for the iPhone called FiLMiC Pro that has all of these bells and whistles and allows you to lock the frames per second at 24.”
Go in with the right mindset
“I would just say — and this is such a cliche — think outside the box. Look at the iPhone and see what benefits you can get, how you can use the iPhone in a way that you can’t use a humongous 70mm camera. You have to embrace the benefits of it and the aesthetic of it and create your own aesthetic with it. That’s the way that you’ll make something unique and something you’re happy with.”