Entertainment

You Can Make a Professional Film Today with Nothing but an iPhone

Even directors like Steven Soderbergh and Zack Snyder are using easily accessible technology — good news for those sick of Hollywood

“Some day in the next five years, someone’s going to take one of these and make a feature film with it,” said Bruce Willis in a video filmed by director Quentin Tarantino on the set of 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.”

The “one of these” he was referring to was none other than a small personal video camera Tarantino was pushing in the actor’s face during a lighthearted exchange on set.

Willis continued, “Some 17-year-old kid is going to make this killer, drop-dead, poorly lit video movie that will be the hippest f***ing thing, and then there’s going to be hundreds of them and they’re going to cost about $60,000.” The video of the “Die Hard” star pontificating about the future of his industry went viral after it was uploaded to YouTube years ago. He saw the future.

It was exactly five years later that “The Blair Witch Project” took Hollywood by storm. The movie was made for a reported $60,000 — and was filmed in a found-footage style, employing what were considered to be personal video cameras, not the giant machinery lugged around on typical film sets.

“The Blair Witch Project” made over $240 million worldwide and inspired plenty of copycats. It was shot by completely unknown filmmakers — and its success was copied by cheaply made films like “Paranormal Activity” in later years.

After “The Blair Witch Project,” any old person felt like he or she could make a movie. It wasn’t the uphill battle it once was, at least not technically speaking.

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Now, though it’s hard to imagine, the industry has taken one more step forward — and the gatekeepers of Hollywood have lost even more power.

You don’t need to lug around a camcorder to make a movie now, and you definitely don’t need $60,000. All you need today is a cellphone.

The horror (and R-rated) film “Unsane” hit theaters Friday. One of Hollywood’s most experienced hands, Steven Soderbergh — who previously made such hit flicks as “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Traffic” — directed it.

He created the feature with only three iPhones; the trailers never give it away. This looks like a competent and professionally made movie. “The Blair Witch Project” may have shown there were ways around the glitz, glamour and machinery of a film set, but “Unsane” shows that nearly any movie today can be made with little technical hassle.

“It was really fun to shoot a movie on an iPhone because it’s portable, and you don’t need a ton of light,” “Unsane” actor Joshua Leonard — who also starred in “Blair Witch” — told Cinema Blend. “And it’s also such an omnipresent piece of technology in all of our lives … that it removes the kind of barrier, and that sense of elevation, that you sometimes feel on film sets … This was much more like, ‘Let’s get in the room and play.'”

Typically, a film needs multiple editors and a good year to put together. Soderbergh cut his movie with ease using available iPhone technology.

“One of the craziest points for me … was actually going up to his room and seeing the movie 80 percent done as [we were] shooting it,” said star Jay Pharoah. “He did it on the iPhone. And he’s like, ‘Wanna come in, have a drink? Watch it!’ And I’m like, ‘Watch it? We just shot it! You already put this together?'”

“I think this is the future,” Soderbergh told IndieWire about making the film on an iPhone. “Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory [of] the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.”

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The director said iPhones can shoot in the same high definition as the most high-end cameras. He called them a “revelation” and said that from now on, he’s only interested in using portable phones to shoot films.

“Unsane” is not the first movie to employ phones as cameras, but it’s the biggest film thus far to do so. If it performs well at the box office, it will be the game-changer.

“Tangerine” in 2015 found sleeper success as an independent movie shot completely on an iPhone, and “300” and “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder also recently released a short film called “Snow Steam Iron” through the online platform Vero. He shot it completely with an iPhone.

So where is the entertainment industry headed? Films have become increasingly agenda-driven as Hollywood becomes colder toward right-of-center artists; then there’s the sheer lack of originality of the studio-driven content today. Medium-budgeted original films are essentially disappearing as studios turn their attention to reboots, sequels, prequels, and attempts at creating Marvel-style fictional universes — which cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

A conservative shunned by the industry can reach into his or her pocket and make something happen.

What is certain is that it’s far easier to express oneself today. A conservative shunned by the industry can reach into his or her pocket and make something happen, while an artist who is not interested in joining Hollywood’s ranks can do the same.

Is it still an uphill battle? Of course. But many artists now have the opportunity to shun the industry — and create whatever they want. And opportunity is half the battle.

PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter

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