Smartphone Feature Films

Smartphone film: From small screen shots to big screen features, use your device to become a filmmaker.

Handheld Screen to Silver Screen

It’s no secret that we at Cellular Sales love using our smartphones in unconventional ways. Taking video, for example.

We know, taking video with phones is nothing new … but what about using our smartphones to make feature-length films??

Move over, selfies! Starting just a few years ago, indie filmmakers have embraced using their phones for more than just calling in the talent or finding directions to a location. Now, they’re using smartphones to shoot and edit feature-length, narrative-driven movies. It’s an edgy genre of filmmaking, so it’s no surprise that smartphone movies tend to be edgy, too. “Tangerine,” a 2015 Sundance Film Festival favorite, follows unconventional, fringe members of society. “Uneasy Lies the Mind,” billed (some say incorrectly) as the first full, feature-length film shot entirely on iPhone, is a psychological thriller.

The Struggle is Real.

Some artists choose to make big movies on little screens for artistic reasons, and some for budget reasons. But using such unconventional tools is both freeing and frustrating.

The biggest challenges?

In “Uneasy Lies the Mind,” the battery for the iPhone 5 died. Like, a lot. It was so cold during filming that a fully-charged battery would only last about two minutes! Many scenes needed to be reshot as a result. Director Ricky Fosheim had to improvise, sticking his iPhone in his armpit to warm it up.

Dirt and dust were also a problem, specifically on the lenses. Fosheim decided this lent itself well to the gritty feel of the movie, so he just rolled with it (pun intended-heyo!) Sometimes he even added fingerprints and dust to up the grit ante.


Using something as small as an iPhone allows for tons of versatility. For example, some of the shots in “Tangerine” were filmed as writer/director Sean Baker rode around the actors on a bicycle. And, there’s the simple advantage of accessibility when using a smartphone to make films. Anyone can take a shot—hey, we’re on a pun streak!


While it’s true you can just go right out and film something awesome on your iPhone or Android phone, these feature-filmmakers all used some extra equipment, too: tripods and/or gimbals, and separate sound equipment, for example.

In “Tangerine,” Baker used Filmic Pro, an $8 app, to get that ultra-detailed control over film quality. He also used a Steadicam, because he didn’t want the shakiness that inherently comes with small, hand-held recording devices like his iPhone.

These directors also have tons of experience in more traditional forms of filmmaking, and it helped inform how they could use this tinier camera to the best advantage. But, really, one of the most fun things about this emerging trend is that these tiny, hand-held cameras (with phones attached ;)) level the playing field for filmmakers! Top-notch filming equipment can throw you into a second mortgage, but getting experimental with your smartphone means you can spend just hundreds to make your big film dreams a reality.


Home Videos

You might be thinking, “This is great, but … I don’t want to make a feature film. How can I take better videos of my kid’s ballet recital?” Funny you should ask, because we have a couple of tips for ways you can make your own home videos more exciting and more dramatic!

  1. Don’t be afraid to try that unusual shot! Lay down on the ground while your child swings her light saber overhead. Climb a tree to catch the Thanksgiving family tag football action. Just, you know … don’t get hurt.
  2. Use smartphone video editing apps! We like Adobe Clip and Filmic Pro. You can polish your own family video memories right from your phone with these apps.
  3. Save your videos to the cloud to share easily with your biggest fans!

The Award Goes To …

Maybe this new film trend will culminate in its very own category for the big awards shows! We’re thinking “Best Use of a Popsocket,” or “Best Use of Selfie Stick in Biographical Documentary—Short Form.”