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The ocean’s vastness has inspired a great many movies. Using a GoPro,  Swiss filmmaker Simon Helbling adds to the sea drama genre with “For the Sea Which Is a Shining Desert.” This remarkable  short film about survival was honored as the Best Swiss Film at the 2017 MoMo Film Festival. Currently earning a master’s degree in filmmaking at the London Film School, the director takes us behind the scenes in an interview following the movie.

WINNER Best Swiss Film MoMo 2017 - For The Sea Which Is A Shiny Desert by Simon Helbling - YouTube

Interview with Simon Helbling

MMM: What motivated you to become a filmmaker?

Helbling: Unfortunately, I don’t have a fancy “epiphany story.” I never thought of doing anything else.

MMM:  How did you develop your filmmaking skills?

Helbling: I learned my skills working in theatre as a director for ten years. I always had a very visual mind.  But when I started working in movies, for a long time I was not able to communicate about technical issues such as  t-stops and focal length. That made me work very closely in communicating my “vision” to the crew.

MMM: So really you learned on the job?

Helbling: Yes. I made hundreds of commericals for online release. I  learned the “hard way” from the many mistakes that I made.  And then I learned the even “harder way” and worked in every possible department. I also read every book I could find, watched hundreds of youtube videos, went to film school, listened to podcasts, read interviews, and watched thousands of movies with an eye on “How did they do it?”

MMM: Did any filmmakers influence your work?

Helbling: I can name three.  Ava Duvernay inspires me with her relevant stories, Naomi Kawase who tells stories that are so humble and so honest, and Paolo Sorrentino who uses a fun meandering approach.

MMM: How did you come up with the concept for your movie?

Helbling: The idea came from a thought experiment: “Humans in desperate situations tend to support each other. So what might it take in a “laboratory situation” with two people completely isolated to make them turn against each other? This idea seemed so simple and clear that I wanted to craft a story out of it.

MMM: Could you explain the title?

Helbling: It’s a line from a poem of Jorge Luis Borges I really like. This juxtaposition of being surrounded by water and actually in risk of dehydration is very compelling.

MMM: How did you plan the shoot?

Helbling:  When I shoot with a mobile device, I work the same way as I work with any other camera instrument, meaning there was a script, a breakdown, a mark-up, a shot list, and storyboards.

MMM: Where did the shoot take place?

Helbling:  At the coast near Rome.

MMM: Could you talk about casting the movie?

Helbling: I was lucky enough to have worked with Salvatore Greco before. He’s a terrific actor and had just finished a big series in German television. We both wanted to work together again. I played the other role in the film just to reduce the costs of getting people there. This was literally made on set by three people: the DP (cinematographer) Andi Meyer who also recorded sound, the actor Salvatore Greco and me.

MMM:  Tell us about your approach to directing.

Helbling: The situation didn’t allow for us to do replays of what we have shot. So we rehearsed beforehand in the living room of the Airbnb we were staying in. We used the couch as the boat and rehearsed every shot to get it right.

MMM: Why did you decide to shoot using a GoPro rather than a traditional camera

Helbling: We couldn’t afford a proper water tight case for a cinema grade camera or a DSLR. As a joke, the DP said “Well, I have a GoPro,” and we laughed about it. But then I got a visual memory of all the Youtube and Instagram stuff we are constantly seeing. There is a tremendous intimacy evoked by the GoPro footage of surfers, for example. You feel like you are in the middle of the action. So I started to look closer about how I could use the GoPro look as a storytelling value.

MMM: How did you achieve those spectacular high-angle (bird’s-eye-view) shots?

Helbling: We just used a long GoPro stick. Thanks to the short focal length of the GoPro lens, distance gets exaggerated, and we were able to pull off those shots. We absolutely intended to have a drone kind of extreme long shot. But weren’t able to use drones because we were shooting pretty close to the Fiumicino Airport in Rome.

MMM: What other gear did you use?

Helbling: Regarding lights nothing but the sun. For audio we had a zoom mic in the camera boat. Grip stuff included a stick, a head mount and about three or four cameras.

MMM: Did you encounter any unexpected problems?

Helbling: Ha! Massively. Our schedule allowed only two shooting days, and we knew it was a high risk shoot because we would be on open water all day. We had the action prop boat, which was just a regular boat, and also a hard shell boat for the camera. Both wouldn’t be any good in the slightest waves. We had a long list of safety points in order to keep the shoot as safe as possible. We were ready, but then . the first day the sea was so stormy we couldn’t get anything. That meant we  had to adapt and make it happen in one day, which was also the day we had to check out the airbnb, go to the airport, and catch the plane. So  there was zero room for unnecessary retakes. In my opinion, problem solving—adapting without compromising—is the ultimate skill for a director.

MMM: Now what about editing?

Helbling: This was done with Premiere. Because of the unstable boats, we often drifted and had a coastline in the background while we obviously wanted to portray an open, endless sea. This meant there was a lot of frame by frame brushing involved to get rid of the land. The transitions—fading to black— were part of the original idea from the script, to mark clearly “chapters.” We didn’t want to be explicit about how much time was passing.

MMM: And the soundtrack?

Helbling: We originally used a music track but getting the rights would have taken too long and was too expensive, so I composed and recorded my own soundtrack using nothing but Apple music-making software.

MMM: You give onscreen credit to the cinematographer, the editor, and the costume designer. Could you talk about the contributions of these artists?

Helbling: The costume designer Carola Bachmann and I have worked together many times. What characters are wearing is to me a huge thing. It helps the actors discover their characters and can be a very strong, subtle and honest storytelling device. The editor Luca Faes is an experienced storyteller and working with him on the footage was a no-bullshit situation, meaning no matter how much I liked a shot, if it didn’t had any story value, he wouldn’t let me have it. I also had worked with the cinematographer Andi Meyer before, and his part in this film is huge. We carefully crafted the storyboard and shotlist, discussed in long exhausting sessions the best way to tell the story, and re-wrote parts of the story. This led the situation that on set I never checked the footage. I knew he would get it right. It was kind of “directing in extremis”, meaning that we had to have such a proper pre-production to work in these conditions. On set, I was able to watch the performance directly and not through a monitor or in replay, and knew the framing would be as Andi and discussed.

MMM: Do you have any advice for people who are just beginning to make movies?

Helbling: Be honest. Make mistakes. Learn from mistakes. If you think you are Kubrick or you’ll become famous, let it be. If you have a story to tell, tell it. If you think you can’t afford it, think again and check your pocket. There’s the camera—your phone.

MMM: Want to say more about that?

Helbling: Filmmaking used to be the most expensive art form. It was a very privileged thing. But with phones, we are actually in the middle of the probably greatest cinematic storytelling revolution since color came to the pictures. Mobile filmmaking enables literally everybody who has a mobile to tell visual stories. This means we will hear voices we never heard before. The privilege barrier gets knocked down by this technological advancement. Plus we filmmakers actually can do training. Without any other investment than time, we can perfect our skills: set up shot, evaluate our storytelling approach, etc. Sure, there are always limitations and we always have to adapt. But that’s true even on a multimillion dollar production. What counts is that we have democratized the most privileged art form. and I think we aren’t even aware yet of what this will mean. A good story will always be a good story, everywhere, and that means, that those voices that now have the possibility to tell the story will be heard.

# # #

You can find more about Simon’s work on Instagram, Twitter, his website,  and his Kickstarter campaign for his next film “The Weight Of The Land.”

The editors of MobileMovieMaking Magazine have chosen “For The Sea Which Is a Shiny Desert” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Sea Drama Shot with a GoPro appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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“Bounce,” the latest Apple commercial, carries on the tradition of providing amazing visual surprises. Here, normally rigid objects—such as sidewalk grates and car roofs—turn out to be trampolines in disguise. Directed by Oscar Hudson using an iPhone, the two-minute AirPods promotion involved some Hollywood trickery, like a set rotated 90 degrees to give the protagonist superhuman balancing powers. The budget must have been immense. Nevertheless, “Bounce” illustrates a dozen techniques—listed below— that you can use on no-budget productions to delight viewers.

AirPods — Bounce — Apple - YouTube

The Techniques

Actually, there may be more if you look closely. But here are the ones we spotted. If you see others, let us know in the comments.

  1. Turn color footage into black and white. “Bounce” was shot in full color, but the filmmakers must have thought a black-and-white scheme added to the drama. Today’s editing apps make it easy to turn some or all of a video into black and white.
  2. Milk your concept for all it’s worth. The fun here is that the filmmakers went way beyond the obvious bouncing things. For example, consider the amazing wall sequence. The same principle holds if you’re making a travelogue about all the things that can go wrong, or a music video that captures the dexterity of each musician’s fingers. Ask yourself: “What else can I do with this idea?” Brainstorming in pre-production is the key to delighting your audience.
  3. Look for a way to introduce your big idea. In the opening three seconds, the protagonist bounces a ball, a preview of things to come.
  4. Exploit silent-film acting. While dialogue can play a significant role in any movie, the real foundation for acting is gesture. That’s good because it’s easier to get excellent non-verbal performances than performances that rely on talk. Here, note the protagonist’s facial expressions and—in the boy-meets-girl bench scene—the use of eye direction.
  5. Omit inessential detail. In real life, getting dressed is a complex, time-consuming act (except maybe for firefighters). Here, the process is covered in two quick shots (shirt and shoes) plus that clever putting-on a-smile bit in front of the bathroom mirror. Even the significant act of inserting the earbuds takes only three seconds–made possible because one of the buds was put in off camera.
  6. Use close-ups. Even in an acrobatic film that demands long shots, “Bounce” includes several key close-ups.
  7. Give attention to minor characters. The little boy is onscreen for about five seconds, but he crucially introduces the idea of bouncing as part of one’s journey, plus his near collision with the protagonist previews the man’s agility. Note also the background characters who add realism to the scenes.
  8. Consider the hour of shooting. All those intriguing shadows let us know that the crew was shooting early or late in the day, not at high noon.
  9. Move the camera to add energy. While “Bounce” features a constantly moving character, still having a moving camera adds to the drama. For example, in the initial bounce sequence, note how the camera follows the protagonist down the street.
  10. Include reaction shots. A subtle example is the brief shot (0:39) that captures the moment that protagonist realizes the world is a trampoline.
  11. Use the frame-within-a-frame composition to highlight an action. The shot from inside the car (0:45) is made more memorable by the fact that the passenger is so involved in polishing her glasses, she misses the show. The same theme is carried through in the shot of the dance atop the bus shelter.
  12. Capture subjects on the diagonal. We tend to shoot subjects that are horizontal or vertical. But framing a subject diagonally  can add visual interest. Look closely and you’ll begin to notice how many things in the world are on the slant.
  13. Make it emotional. All successful movies carry an emotional charge. This is obvious with commercials, which—no matter the product—aim to persuade viewers that using the product will lead to happiness.  While Apple earbuds may be technological marvels, what’s being sold here isn’t improving sound quality and convenience but joie de vivre.

For more about the “Bounce” see AdWeek’s informative article “How Apple Built a Cityscape Out of Trampolines for Its Gravity-defying New Ad.” A related piece tells about Tessellated, the 21-year-old musician whose work is featured in the soundtrack.

# # #

The editors of MobileMovieMaking Magazine have chosen “Bounce” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Apple Commercial Teaches 13 Filmmaking Techniques appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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“Bounce,” the latest Apple commercial, carries on the tradition of providing amazing visual surprises. Here, normally rigid objects—such as sidewalk grates and car roofs—turn out to be trampolines in disguise. Directed by Oscar Hudson using an iPhone, the two-minute AirPods promotion involved some Hollywood trickery, like a set rotated 90 degrees to give the protagonist superhuman balancing powers. The budget must have been immense. Nevertheless, “Bounce” illustrates a dozen techniques—listed below— that you can use on no-budget productions to delight viewers.

AirPods — Bounce — Apple - YouTube

The Techniques
  1. Turn color footage into black and white. “Bounce” was shot in full color, but the filmmakers must have thought a black-and-white scheme added to the drama. Today’s editing apps make it easy to turn some or all of a video into black and white.
  2. Milk your concept for all it’s worth. The fun here is that the filmmakers went way beyond the obvious bouncing things. For example, consider the amazing wall sequence. The same principle holds if you’re making a travelogue about all the things that can go wrong, or a music video that captures the dexterity of each musician’s fingers. Ask yourself: “What else can I do with this idea?” Brainstorming in pre-production is the key to delighting your audience.
  3. Look for a way to introduce your big idea. In the opening three seconds, the protagonist bounces a ball, a preview of things to come.
  4. Exploit silent-film acting. While dialogue can play a significant role in any movie, the real foundation for acting is gesture. That’s good because it’s easier to get excellent non-verbal performances than performances that rely on talk. Here, note the protagonist’s facial expressions and—in the boy-meets-girl bench scene—the use of eye direction.
  5. Omit inessential detail. In real life, getting dressed is a complex, time-consuming act (except maybe for firefighters). Here, the process is covered in two quick shots (shirt and shoes) plus that clever putting-on a-smile bit in front of the bathroom mirror. Even the significant act of inserting the earbuds takes only three seconds–made possible because one of the buds was put in off camera.
  6. Use close-ups. Even in an acrobatic film that demands long shots, “Bounce” includes several key close-ups.
  7. Give attention to minor characters. The little boy is onscreen for about five seconds, but he crucially introduces the idea of bouncing as part of one’s journey, plus his near collision with the protagonist previews the man’s agility. Note also the background characters who add realism to the scenes.
  8. Consider the hour of shooting. All those intriguing shadows let us know that the crew was shooting early or late in the day, not at high noon.
  9. Move the camera to add energy. While “Bounce” features a constantly moving character, still having a moving camera adds to the drama. For example, in the initial bounce sequence, note how the camera follows the protagonist down the street.
  10. Include reaction shots. A subtle example is the brief shot (0:39) that captures the moment that protagonist realizes the world is a trampoline.
  11. Use the frame-within-a-frame composition to highlight an action. The shot from inside the car (0:45) is made more memorable by the fact that the passenger is so involved in polishing her glasses, she misses the show. The same theme is carried through in the shot of the dance atop the bus shelter.
  12. Capture subjects on the diagonal. We tend to shoot subjects that are horizontal or vertical. But framing a subject diagonally  can add visual interest. Look closely and you’ll begin to notice how many things in the world are on the slant.
  13. Make it emotional. All successful movies carry an emotional charge. This is obvious with commercials, which—no matter the product—aim to persuade viewers that using the product will lead to happiness.  While Apple earbuds may be technological marvels, what’s being sold here isn’t improving sound quality and convenience but joie de vivre.

For more about the “Bounce” see AdWeek’s informative article “How Apple Built a Cityscape Out of Trampolines for Its Gravity-defying New Ad.” A related piece tells about Tessellated, the 21-year-old musician whose work is featured in the soundtrack.

# # #

The editors of MobileMovieMaking Magazine have chosen “Bounce” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Apple Commercial Teaches 13 Filmmaking Lessons appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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Directing an animal is a big challenge especially if the role is psychologically complex. Mexico-city based  Silvia Santoyo made the task even greater. She wrote a script—”Escamol”—featuring four dogs. In the interview (below) Silvia shares some of the techniques she used to make her canine protagonist into a star.

Escamol | SmartPhilm Fest 2019 Finalist - YouTube

Interview with Silvia Santoyo

MMM: How did you develop your skills as a filmmaker?

Silvia: I used to be an actor. Now, I’ve been taking classes on directing actors, and I watch online tutorials about filmmaking all the time. I also  work on friends productions as a producer.

MMM: Are there any filmmakers who influenced your work?

Silvia: In smartphone filmmaking Sean Baker ( the director of “Tangerine”) is a true inspiration.

MMM: How did you come up with the concept for “Escamol”?

Silvia: It’s really a true story. Escamol is my dog. What happens is seen through Escamol´s eyes, or at least what I think he feels.

MMM: According to Wikipedia,  the name “Escamol” is a Nahuati  word for edible ant larvae. How does that meaning relate to your canine protagonist?

Silvia: When I adopted him, I wanted a Mexican name. He was so small that I thought he is a little escamol.

MMM: Could you talk about how you planned the shoot?

Silvia: I had a script and a shot list.  I started with exteriors and afterwards we shot the most difficult scene, which was having the dogs in the bed. We didn’t improvise, but because dogs are dogs, we adjusted to them and their movements.

MMM: Casting is always important—and certainly it made a difference with this movie. Could you tell us how you found the animals?

Silvia: All of the dogs are mine. Escamol is the lead role and its about him, I know him very well, and he is the only one of my dogs who “listens” when you talk to him.

MMM: Directing kids and animals is supposed to be extremely difficult. Could you talk about your method of working with Escamol and the other canine cast members?

Silvia: Escamol has had basic training, and he obeys commands. I asked his trainer to help me in this project. I couldn’t have done this without him. I had a very small crew and it was important for me that they loved dogs. As for motivation,  every time Escamol did something good we gave him little bites of food. He got crazy when he saw the big sandwich, but he got only a bite.

MMM: That was a terrific moment, with Escamol showing great restraint.

Silvia: That scene took us about 40 minutes.

MMM: There are many beautifully composed shots in “Escamol,” but one that especially stands out is the bird’s-eye view of the bed.

Silvia: When that image came to my head, I grabbed a tall ladder and with a selfie stick I shot the empty bed. I took the photo to the cinematographer, so he knew what I wanted. When the dog is in the bed, he started to lick me. Because he doesn’t usually do that, I was surprised.

MMM: The moment when Escamol tries to leave the house is really dramatic.

Silvia: That’s the fiction part. In real life, Escamol won’t leave the house, but in the story, he misses being  the only dog.

MMM: Well, he did a good job conveying his emotion. And the same is true about your performance. Could you talk about directing yourself?

Silvia: I wanted to hire an actress, but because animals are very jealous of their space,  it would have taken a lot of time to make the dogs comfortable with her.  So I had to do it myself. I communicated with the cinematographer and my AD what I wanted in every shot, but once I was in front of the camera I was in the actor’s mindset not in the director’s mindset. I’m not sure if I will do that again.

MMM: Why did you decide to shoot the movie on the iPhone rather than a traditional camera?

Silvia: If you wait to have funds it can be frustrating. But with the phone, you already have a camera in your hands, a powerful one… no excuses. The further advantage for this project was that for dogs the camera was not invasive.

MMM: Any disadvantages?

Silvia: When shooting with low light or dark walls, smartphone video can have a lot of noise.

MMM: You credit FiLMiC Pro upfront. Could say why you used that app rather than the native camera app?

Silvia: I learned about FiLMiC Pro from “Tangerine,” so I got the app. They do a great job, and I love  their cinematographer kit. You can do a lot with it. When I learned that FiLMiC Pro had a contest with an animal category, I submitted and I won.

MMM: Did you use any other gear?

Silvia: Beastgrip Rig and Moondog Labs lenses.

MMM: The film is beautifully edited. Could you say a few words about your approach to editing and to creating the sound track?

Silvia: I did the first cut, but an editor finished it. I wanted original music but I didn’t have the budget for it, so I bought the sound track at Premium Beat.

MMM: Is there any advice you might give to someone just beginning to make mobile movies?

Silvia: Don’t wait for the big budget. If you have a story to tell, just do it.  But you have to know that less the money means more preproduction effort.

MMM: Anything else

Sylvia: Practice. Practice a lot. Do camera tests with lights and remember smartphones have small sensors, so  avoid low light. Fixing noise in post is very expensive. And if you are going have dialogue, use as external microphone.

MMM: All this is very helpful. If readers want to learn more, how can they keep up with your work?

Silvia: I’m on Vimeo and Instagram.

# # #

The editors of MobileMovieMaking chose “Escamol” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Prize-winning Short Drama Explores a Dog’s Psyche appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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In “Southern Alps Air” mobile journalist Robb Montgomery illustrates a variety of techniques for filming in a small plane. Most notably is the fact that he had his second-unit DP (aka his wife) take a behind-the-scenes shot of Montgomery using his GoPro. An interview with Robb follows the movie.

Fly into Milford Sound - #Mojotrek - YouTube

Interview with Robb Montgomery

MMM: What gave you the idea for doing this piece?

Montgomery: This flying sequence is really just a quick sketch that was edited in LumaFusion in almost real-time. The scene will be combined with interview material I recorded with the female owner of the company.

MMM: This was part of your #MojoTrek series?

Montgomery: Yes,  we made a two-month filmmaking tour across New Zealand and also filmed at a naturist campground and along four of the legendary ‘Great Walks.’)

MMM: How did you set it up?

Montgomery:  I contacted the owner of the company a few weeks before we left for New Zealand. I simply asked her if we could hang around the airport and film what happens and to interview her and anyone else that may advance a story. On the second day, we took the flight. The owner of the plane agreed and I have an audio interview with her that reveals so much more of what’s going on and the amazing journey she has been on in building a company that now has five planes.

MMM: Besides capturing the beautiful terrain, what was your goal?

Montgomery: The shots in this scene shows what a typical tourist would experience on the flight and that is a great parallel to what the interview subject talks about.

MMM: What equipment did you use?

Montgomery: iPhone 6S+ and GoPro Hero 7.

MMM: Were there any difficulties in shooting inside the plane?

Montgomery: Rule number one is to secure the best shooting position. I asked the pilot if I could sit up front.  I had the GoPro on a hand stick and filmed with the hypershot and hyperlapse modes enabled. Those stabilization modes made the in-air shots possible.

Montgomery: The toughest thing to do in this situation is to film all of the shots from a single, seated location. You can’t put the GoPro on the windows of a small airplane with a suction cup mount. (I did ask, and the pilot said “no.”)

MMM: How did you get yourself into the movie?

Montgomery: My wife (and Second Unit DP) filmed from behind to get the over-my-shoulder and out-the-window POV shots.

MMM: How did you find the music?

Montgomery: I usually compose the music for most of my films using a suite of apps like Syntronik, Steel guitar, Kauldron, Figure and GarageBand. But  I didn’t write the score for “Southern Alps Air.” The music used in this first edit is called “Deep Thoughts” and it is a royalty free track that came with the LumaFusion app.

MMM: Could you say something about the editing—including the editing app you used?

Montgomery: LumaFusion is the killer app. I have been using it from the start and it has changed the game because you can ingest material from a range of mobile gear (from Sony mirrorless, Sound Devices MixPre-3, GoPro, iPhones, wireless HD, and drone) and cut together shots while still on set or or in the field.

MMM: Any advantages for doing it this way?

Montgomery: Editing your shots immediately after shooting has made me a better shooter and story finder. You see the holes in your story; you can also have insights and see new connections while you still have the chance to pursue them. I am advising the LumaTouch developers on their latest version of the app – and I can only say this without violating any trade secrets – it is getting even better.

MMM: Do you have any advice for others who might like to shoot in a confined space?

Montgomery: Limitations are good, in my experience. Pushing up against them and finding creative solutions under pressure are what helps4 you grow and gain confidence as a storyteller.

# # #

You can keep up with Robb Montgomery’s work by visiting his YouTube channel and his website.

“Southern Alps Air” was chosen by the editors of MobileMovieMaking as the Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Filming in a Small Plane appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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The ingredients: a deaf barista working to earn a pilot’s license; a hip musician planning to turn his music into light. The result is  “Lightning,” a beautifully crafted romance directed by London-based filmmaker Cristina Isoli. In the interview (below), Cristina tells how she came up with her original idea. She also explains the importance of finding the right cast, locations, and composers. The movie was produced by Giacomo Mantovani, whose time-travel comedy  “History Lesson” we featured here.

Lightning (ENG SDH Subtitles) - YouTube

Interview with Cristina Isoli

MMM: How did you develop your moviemaking skills?

Cristina: I started to work in partnership with Producer and Director Giacomo Mantovani, who taught me everything about indie production. In 2016 I did a short course for screenwriters at Raindance Film School and after that I wrote my very first short film LIGHTING.

MMM: Are there any  moviemakers who influenced you?

Cristina: I was inspired by Sean Baker, who was one of the first filmmakers to shoot a feature film with an iPhone. I said to myself, “If he did it in a professional way, we can do it too.”  Indeed I believe that mobile filmmaking will definitely grow in the future, as it is a more democratic way to approach the medium.

MMM: Anyone else?

Cristina: Yes, Wes Anderson. My love for his  movies  is the reason I spent lot of time working on the colour palette of “Lightning”  so that the locations and outfits of the characters match perfectly. His influence is also refleced by the choice of short focus. I wanted the characters to be part of the scene and melting in the scenography. Basically the idea was to create a portrait.

MMM:  How did you get the idea for “Lightning”?

Cristina: Funny enough everything start from a bet that the producer, Giacomo Mantovani, and I made. He was challenging me to push my boundary, arguing that I hadn’t done anything completely mine. So I decided to take over the challenge and write an original story that I would love to see in the screen. I was in a dark period of my life as I had just split with my partner. I wanted to remember how it feels—in that magic moment—when you meet someone with whom you share a connection. My idea was to show how important it is to find a way to communicate, because the lack of communication could ruin this very delicate and precious moment.

MMM: How did you plan the action?

Cristina: Everything was carefully arranged in order to optimize the production and respect the schedule given that the actors had other work commitments. The script was pretty rigid and left very small space for improvisation. Every single dialogue line was linked to the next one and allowed only one way direction. However there were some part in which actors suggestions were taken into account and actually added to the filming.

MMM: Could you give an example?

Cristina: There is the part in which the two characters exit from the launderette and they both go on the wrong direction and then they come back embarrassed and they switch side. That was actually a really nice suggestion made by Andy Steed—the lead actor who played Sean.

MMM: How long did the shoot take?

Cristina: Five days.

MMM: That seems like a tight schedule.

Cristina: Actually, it was fairly relaxed because there was much more dialogue than action. This allowed us to have some late starting morning to allow actors and crew to rest.

MMM:  Could you talk about your casting process?

Cristina: It was different for the various actors. Genevieve Barr (who played Summer) did not audition for the role. I had seen her performing at The Royal Court Theatre in London, where she was in a play together with Matt Smitt and Jojo O’Neill. I was completely blown away by her performance, and I could not believe that she was deaf in real life. Her voice was so powerful. She could hold the stage without problem, and I was completely mesmerized by the performance of this young woman. That night when I walked out of the theatre, I said to myself that she will be Summer in “Lightning.”

MMM: And what about Andy Steed?

Cristina: The process of casting him as Sean was very different. We looked for months. I even contacted some well-know actors, but despite that they liked the story, they politely said “No.”  Because I was a first time director they probably didn’t want to risk too much. That brought us to auditioning for the role, and that’s how we found Andy, who is the living incarnation of Sean. He was the first actor on the first day of audition. As soon as he walked into the room, I knew it! He was him! And not only me, but every single person in the room who knew “Lightning” and the character of Sean had exactly the same feeling. Originally Sean was supposed to have a Liverpool accent, but after meeting Andy, Sean was relocated from Liverpool to Manchester.

MMM: The locations are as perfect as the actors. Could you talk about how you scouted those places?

Cristina:  Most of the locations were easy to find as they were local places around where we lived at the time in North London. The only location that was a bit challenge to find was the café, as I had a specific idea in mind: a small, cosy and bohemian corner café in North London. Unfortunately, the location that we wanted dropped us at the very last minutes, so the producer did a massive online image research of all the best corner café in London. And believe me they are lots—more than 2000! He managed to restrict the research to only 20 cafés and we eventually got the right one, which was based in South West London, Wandsworth Town. This alternative location was actually better that the first one.

MMM: With script, actors, and locations set, let’s talk about your approach to directing.

Cristina: Once I found the right actors, directing them was pretty easy because the casting process helps to find the one more close to the actual character. Before the filming started, I met with the producer and the actors for a read through the script. That was the moment for addressing performance issues But they were such great actors that it was really easy to work with them. They got it from the very beginning.

MMM: Could you talk about the gear you used?

Cristina: We shot the film entirely with three OnePlus 5 phones. Having three phones allowed us to save time in production, because we could shoot static scene—such as the exterior of the cafè or the launderette—from different points of view at the same time.  The rest of the scenes were shot with the OnePlus 5 on a gimbal to produce more cinematic shots.

MMM: Can you tell us which brand of gimbal?

Cristina: We used DJ Osmo Mobile, but every film is different, and every filmmaker has a different point of view, we suggest that readers use the gear they feel more comfortable with and that can deliver the results they’re aiming for.

MMM: And what about editing?

Cristina:  We edited “Lightning” on Adobe Premiere. An important part of polishing the film was to cut some unessential scenes.

MMM: And the soundtrack?

Cristina: This was big piece of the production considering that “Lightning” is about a musician and a deaf person! I had more musicians working in scoring the films than actors. While there were three main actors, five people  were involved in scoring the film, all of them London-based artists. The opening song and closing song is Laura Maidment (in art MOCHUDI) a singer and songwriter based from Essex, but based in London, she is actually a really nice person, friend and musician and a real hippy soul, she also lives and composes music on a boat along the London canal.The background song on the launderette, it was an original score of ‘DogTablet’, which are also ex-colleagues that I met when I was working at EMI Music Publishing, back on the days. Whilst the theme songs was made by a London based young composer Oliver Lyu, who has his own record studios in Edgware Road in London. Doing the music was one of the best part of the post-productions.

# # #

Here’s  a fascinating three-minute behind-the-scenes video on the making of “Lightning.”

Behind the Scenes of Lightning - YouTube

To keep up with Cristina, check out her Avant-gard Pictures YouTube channel follow her on Instagram @cristina_isoli @gmfilmmaker

The post How Dark Times Led to a Light-filled Love Story appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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Texas-based Prakash Gandhi Natarajan recently won the People’s Choice Award in MobileMovieMaking Magazine’s first Instagram contest. The challenge was to shoot footage out various windows. On holiday in New York City, Prakash took the assignment to a higher level by including a clip taken from a helicopter. His high-flying selfie demonstrated the impact of including the filmmaker in the shot. It also attracted more than 2,500 views.

You’ll find a behind-the-scenes interview with Prakash below.

Out Our Windows - Teaser - YouTube

Interview with Prakash Gandhi Natarajan

MMM: What’s your background as a filmmaker?

Prakash: I’m an iPhone filmmaker. In my work I incorporate a little bit of DJI Spark drone footage here and there. My passion is acting, modeling, dancing and film making. I shoot weddings, private events, short films, documentaries, travel films, promos, and small business videos using my phone and other accessories such as Videomic Pro and Moment lenses. Several of my iphone films have appeared in film festivals.

MMM: What device did you shoot on?

Prakash: iPhone XS Max.

MMM: What editing software did you use?

Prakash:  Luma Fusion for the editing and the final touches in Final Cut Pro X.

MMM: Besides capturing the intensity of New York City, did you have a specific goal in mind?

Prakash: While you see out your windows every day, whether you notice things or ignore them depends on the state of the mind you are in.

MMM: Did you do anything to change or augment the colors?

Prakash: I did small color grading in Luma Fusion. But the lights in New York were more than enough to bring life to the video.

MMM: Could you tell us anything about shooting from a helicopter?

Prakash: When I was shooting for the “Out Our Windows” competition, I started with footage taken in a  pedicab. But I wanted to go bigger. So I contacted FlyNYON  a company that will take you in a chopper over thttp://FlyNYONhe City. The highlight is its open door option.  You can literally have your hands and legs dangling outside the chopper. Best way to see any city.

MMM: Anything else you’d like to add?

Prakash: I would love if you guys have contests frequently and inspire others to get into smartphone film making.

MMM: We intend to do so. Our current Instagram contest focuses on close-ups. You can read the details on our Instagram page.

# # #

Earlier this year MobileMovieMaking featured Prakash’s “Life in a Tiny Town,” a very  different kind of travelogue. You can see it here.

His “Out Our Windows” video was chosen as a Mobile Movie of the Week by the editors of MobileMovieMaking.com.

The post High-flying Selfie Draws a Big Audience appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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Memorable documentaries typically start with gripping subjects such as wars, scandals, and natural catastrophes. But what if you want to shoot a documentary and aren’t lucky enough to encounter a momentous happening? Award-winning mobile journalist Leonor Suárez has the answer: be ready. That was the key to making “El Colacho”  an impromptu mobile doc about a baby-jumping medieval tradition. It helps that the event offered eye-catching elements including an athletic devil, infants, and mattresses improbably set out on a public plaza.

El Colacho - YouTube

A prize-winning mobile journalist, Suárez posted a tweet providing background on the production: “The baby-jumping festival is a medieval tradition kept alive in Burgos, Spain, meant to free newborns from evil. I happened to be around during the last edition and shot this video on the go, just with the iphone 6s plus.” She edited the piece on an IPad.

Your always-present smartphone is the key to making impromptu mobile docs. But because you’re not likely carrying an external microphone getting quality sound is a challenge. Suárez cleverly solved the problem by using large, colorful text blocks to provide background information, for example, that the Catholic Church has embraced the festival for four centuries. One of the text blocks even comforted viewers with the key fact that—spoiler alert—no babies have been injured in the ceremony.

A subtle sign of the filmmaker’s professionalism: Each baby’s face was blurred in the post to provide privacy.

You can see more of Leonor Suárez’s work on Vimeo  and  follow her on Twitter.

The editors of MobileMovieMaking Magazine have chosen “El Colacho” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Impromptu Mobile Doc Features the Devil and Babies appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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A few months ago we identified Blake Calhoun’s gritty thriller “Miranda”  as one of the best mobile movies of 2018. Now the director is back with “First Dance,” a film that couldn’t be more different in terms of mood. That said, this short dance movie about a most unusual date, is as visually arresting as the Calhoun’s earlier work.  The interview that follows includes a number of moviemaking insights including one about creative casting.

"FIRST DANCE" | Moment Invitational 2019 Submission | by Blake Calhoun - YouTube

Interview with Blake Calhoun

MMM: Is there a story about how you came up with this concept? A book we recently read on cinematography proclaimed that the mid-shot carries the burden of film storytelling. It gave many examples, but not one on framing the main characters from the waist down. Can you talk about that decision?

Calhoun: I’ve actually had the idea about doing a movie with only showing feet for a long time. Probably more than 15 years.

MMM: Tell us more.

Calhoun: I used to live in a condo that had a very low window that almost touched the ground and it faced out towards a sidewalk. It was in my living room and when I watched TV I could see people walking by but only up to about their knees. Sometimes they’d stop and talk and I’d wonder what they were saying. You could tell if they were mad or in a hurry or glad to say hello to someone—so I thought this would be an interesting (and challenging) idea for a film. Show only feet with no dialog. It took me a while to actually make the movie though.

MMM: How did dancing come into this?

Calhoun: The dancing part actually came to me as I was writing the script recently. Thought it would be a fun and natural way to show someone was happy. And it so happens my niece is a very accomplished dancer and so I got her to be in the movie. My niece is basically a professional dancer although she’s only 13. She’s been dancing since she was a little kid and so I asked her mom (my sister) if she thought she could do the choreography and she immediately said yes. She also has aspirations of a making films herself.

MMM: Could you describe how you worked with your niece?

Calhoun: I storyboarded the entire movie and figured out the music and created an animatic and sent it to her to watch. I gave her the different story beats in the dance sequence (and some ideas I had for pacing) and so with that and the music she came up with what you saw in the movie.

MMM: The soundtrack contributes a lot to the movie.

Calhoun:  It’s actually stock music, although stock music today is really great and the better sites for it don’t sound like the “stock music” we used to get. I licensed it through the Artlist. I went through dozens of songs until I found it. I knew I wanted to have the music up front so I made a point to get that done early. Typically on my films I use original score. Even some of these smaller short films I do, but on this one it would have been too involved and costly. And I really like the song I found.

MMM: How long did the shooting take?

Calhoun: About 2 1/2 hours. I used an iPhone XS Max and a Movi Cinema Robot gimbal so I could move quickly.

MMM:  Did you encounter any difficulties during the production?

Calhoun: Only that I did the shoot by myself.  I usually have at least one other person on the camera crew, but this time it was just me, plus my daughter who handled music playback on an iPad for the dancing parts. And that live sound was probably the biggest challenge. Because it was very windy, it was hard for the dancers to hear the music. The dance routine was designed to sync to the song, so they really needed to hear the music. I had planned on recording a lot of natural sound using a Rode VideoMicro on the camera. That set-up usually would work, but it was so windy the sound we recorded on location was unusable. That caused lots of Foley work in post-production. Pretty much every sound in the movie was replaced.

MMM: You mentioned that your niece was one of the dancers. How about the boy dancer?

Calhoun: Actually, that dancer was another of my nieces. She played the boy role.

MMM: She fooled me!

Calhoun: Since we were only showing feet and legs it worked out she could play that part. She’s also a good dancer.

MMM: Any other advice you can give us about shooting a dance video?

Calhoun: Get lots of coverage – lots of different angles and shot sizes. I shot 4K and edited in 2K so I could reframe (and save time on set). That way my wide shots on location also were my close-ups in post. I had them do the dances probably five or six times each, but it would have been good to have more footage, more angles. As an editor I always want more coverage. On the other hand, as a producer I always want to wrap on time.

MMM: I suppose planning ahead of time can help reconcile those two conflicting needs.

Calhoun: Yes. You can see that our making-of video.

Easily Storyboard Your Movie! - YouTube

To learn more about Blake Calhoun’s work check out his iPhoneographers YouTube channel.

# # #

The editors of MobileMovieMaking.com have chosen “First Dance” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Creative Casting in a Romantic Dance Movie appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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A few months ago we identified Blake Calhoun’s gritty thriller “Miranda”  as one of the best mobile movies of 2018. Now the director is back with “First Dance,” a film that couldn’t be more different in terms of mood. That said, this short dance movie about a most unusual date, is as visually arresting as the Calhoun’s earlier work.  The interview that follows includes a number of moviemaking insights including one about creative casting.

"FIRST DANCE" | Moment Invitational 2019 Submission | by Blake Calhoun - YouTube

Interview with Blake Calhoun

MMM: Is there a story about how you came up with this concept? A book we recently read on cinematography proclaimed that the mid-shot carries the burden of film storytelling. It gave many examples, but not one on framing the main characters from the waist down. Can you talk about that decision?

Calhoun: I’ve actually had the idea about doing a movie with only showing feet for a long time. Probably more than 15 years.

MMM: Tell us more.

Calhoun: I used to live in a condo that had a very low window that almost touched the ground and it faced out towards a sidewalk. It was in my living room and when I watched TV I could see people walking by but only up to about their knees. Sometimes they’d stop and talk and I’d wonder what they were saying. You could tell if they were mad or in a hurry or glad to say hello to someone—so I thought this would be an interesting (and challenging) idea for a film. Show only feet with no dialog. It took me a while to actually make the movie though.

MMM: How did dancing come into this?

Calhoun: The dancing part actually came to me as I was writing the script recently. Thought it would be a fun and natural way to show someone was happy. And it so happens my niece is a very accomplished dancer and so I got her to be in the movie. My niece is basically a professional dancer although she’s only 13. She’s been dancing since she was a little kid and so I asked her mom (my sister) if she thought she could do the choreography and she immediately said yes. She also has aspirations of a making films herself.

MMM: Could you describe how you worked with your niece?

Calhoun: I storyboarded the entire movie and figured out the music and created an animatic and sent it to her to watch. I gave her the different story beats in the dance sequence (and some ideas I had for pacing) and so with that and the music she came up with what you saw in the movie.

MMM: The soundtrack contributes a lot to the movie.

Calhoun:  It’s actually stock music, although stock music today is really great and the better sites for it don’t sound like the “stock music” we used to get. I licensed it through the Artlist. I went through dozens of songs until I found it. I knew I wanted to have the music up front so I made a point to get that done early. Typically on my films I use original score. Even some of these smaller short films I do, but on this one it would have been too involved and costly. And I really like the song I found.

MMM: How long did the shooting take?

Calhoun: About 2 1/2 hours. I used an iPhone XS Max and a Movi Cinema Robot gimbal so I could move quickly.

MMM:  Did you encounter any difficulties during the production?

Calhoun: Only that I did the shoot by myself.  I usually have at least one other person on the camera crew, but this time it was just me, plus my daughter who handled music playback on an iPad for the dancing parts. And that live sound was probably the biggest challenge. Because it was very windy, it was hard for the dancers to hear the music. The dance routine was designed to sync to the song, so they really needed to hear the music. I had planned on recording a lot of natural sound using a Rode VideoMicro on the camera. That set-up usually would work, but it was so windy the sound we recorded on location was unusable. That caused lots of Foley work in post-production. Pretty much every sound in the movie was replaced.

MMM: You mentioned that your niece was one of the dancers. How about the boy dancer?

Calhoun: Actually, that dancer was another of my nieces. She played the boy role.

MMM: She fooled me!

Calhoun: Since we were only showing feet and legs it worked out she could play that part. She’s also a good dancer.

MMM: Any other advice you can give us about shooting a dance video?

Calhoun: Get lots of coverage – lots of different angles and shot sizes. I shot 4K and edited in 2K so I could reframe (and save time on set). That way my wide shots on location also were my close-ups in post. I had them do the dances probably five or six times each, but it would have been good to have more footage, more angles. As an editor I always want more coverage. On the other hand, as a producer I always want to wrap on time.

MMM: I suppose planning ahead of time can help reconcile those two conflicting needs.

Calhoun: Yes. You can see that our making-of video.

Easily Storyboard Your Movie! - YouTube

To learn more about Blake Calhoun’s work check out his iPhoneographers YouTube channel.

# # #

The editors of MobileMovieMaking.com have chosen “First Dance” as a Mobile Movie of the Week.

The post Creative Casting in a Romantic Dance Movie appeared first on Mobile Moviemaking.

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