Frank Capra, director of It’s a Wonderful Life and three times Academy Award winner once said, “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” One thing smartphones are not is dull. In fact, these modern day wonders are capable of exciting the senses in a myriad of ways, one of which, perhaps surprisingly, is shooting short films.
To find out what makes them so great for the job, we hooked up with Alice Bragg, the Creative Director of World Film Collective, an organization that teaches young people how to make films using cellphones.
They help you do risky business
Hollywood is famous for many things, taking risks isn’t one of them. You only have to look at the incessant stream of sequels to see that. Thankfully, short films as a genre buck this trend and smartphones make it even easier to be experimental. “You can do some really amazingly dramatic shots with smartphones,” Alice says. “Even simple things like attaching them to a skateboard can produce astonishing results. They really do free you to try something different.”
They put you in 24/7 heaven
Despite the increasing popularity of digital cameras, even the most dedicated filmmaker is unlikely to have one at hand twenty- four seven. Smartphones are different. In a Time magazine international poll conducted last year, a staggering 84% said they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile. While 50% of Americans said they sleep with theirs like a teddy bear. “Smartphones provide filmmakers with endless opportunities to shoot,” Alice says. “And what’s more, it’s far more spontaneous footage, the sort of thing you’d never get in a feature length movie.”
They allow you to just film it
We all know that practice makes perfect. But filmmaking is not an easy thing to practice, especially when you’re just starting out. You need to get hold of cameras, sort out sets, hire lights, buy tapes. According to Alice, smartphones are perfect to for turning words into actions. “They allow filmmakers to really practice their craft. In effect you’re learning by doing, becoming a filmmaker by making films rather than talking about making films. It’s a crucial difference.”
They teach one-handed movie making
Filmmaking can a mind-blowingly complex affair. Happily, for most filmmakers digital cameras carefully choreography pretty much everything, from the light to the movement and sound. “Not so with smartphones,” Says Alice. “With a smartphone you have to be really controlled. You have to be conscious of every little thing. The fact you’ve got limited depth of field, that light changes are very dramatic, that the weight of the phone makes it hard to keep steady. It’s like learning to drive one handed. If you master it, using movie cameras will come a whole lot easier.”
They turn you into a revolutionary
It’s not often really revolutionary filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen come along, but when they do they can change the way we think and feel about film forever. Short films allow you to experiment and do things differently. But smartphones allows you take that even further. “Another fantastic thing about smartphones is that they give young and up coming filmmakers the chance to be true pioneers,” says Alice. “You can get some really edgy, raw footage, and even do things that have never, ever been done in the history of film before. That’s something I find really exciting.”
And Alice isn’t the only one. We’re buzzing at the prospect of learning a whole new way to use our beloved Lumias. If you are too, why not check out the Nokia Music Short Film Competition, launched in association with Sundance London.
We’re sure Frank Capra would approve.