A growing number of filmmakers say, ‘Lights, iPhone, action!’

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The set of Time to Pay Off Debts, a film short made with the iPhone 6s.
The set of Time to Pay Off Debts, a film short made with the iPhone 6s.
Photo: Conrad Mess

Cult of Mac 2.0 bugApple guaranteed the iPhone would reinvent the phone. But filmmaking?

Writer and director Conrad Mess said the iPhone’s red record button turned him into a filmmaker. It helped another cash-strapped director win praise and wide distribution for a feature film he shot on the iPhone 5s that was the buzz of last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The iPhone also is reshaping video journalism, especially across Europe, where news organizations are using the iPhone video camera for an increasing number of stories — and live stand-ups, selfie stick in hand — because the mobile journalist can shoot, edit and share on one device.

Filmmaker has mixed feelings about his iPhone masterpiece

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Tangerine was filmed with the iPhone 5s but it's cinematic feel comes from an app, a lens adaptor and several hours of post production. Photo: Sean Baker
Tangerine was filmed with the iPhone 5s, but its cinematic feel comes from an app, a lens adapter and several hours of post-production work. Photo: Sean Baker

There was the buzz going into Sundance and the applause of satisfied audiences at the end of the movie’s screening. But there was also a collective gasp as the last line of the credits rolled past.

Shot on the iPhone 5s.

Sean Baker’s Tangerine, the story of two transgender sex workers in Hollywood, was a break-out hit at the renowned film festival in January. The Hollywood Reporter said the film stands out as “crisp and vigorously cinematic.”

Oft-praised for the rich fringe characters in his independent films, Baker did not set out to change the filmmaking landscape by shooting with a cellphone. Like most indie filmmakers, he had no money.

One of Sundance’s hottest films was shot on an iPhone 5s

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Tangerine has been a breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The indie flick is drawing crowds thanks to a plot that features transgender prostitutes, Hollywood, meth addicts, pimps, and beat cops. But the craziest thing about director Sean Baker’s film is that instead of using a professional camera rig, he shot it all on the iPhone 5s.