“Silence on the set,” ordered movie director Xavier Mussel as he grabbed his cell phone – not to make a call but to film another scene for his short film. Cheap, easy and accessible, mobiles-as-movie cameras are breaking the motion picture mold, putting a touch of Hollywood into amateur filmmakers’ hands.
‘How-to’ workshops have sprung up from Boston to Abu Dhabi to Rio de Janeiro, and Paris just held its second film festival devoted exclusively to movies shot with cells.
Some 8,500 visitors attended screenings at the recent three-day Pocket Films Festival at Paris’ Pompidou modern-art museum. In addition to nearly 100 shorts, the fare included three feature-length films – all shot on cells. “What we’re seeing is the democratization of filmmaking,” said festival director Laurence Herszberg.
“Now, you don’t need expensive equipment and years of training to make a movie. All you need is your phone, that little object you carry around in your pocket all day.”
Purists complain that poor image quality makes such films virtually unwatchable, but cell filmmakers insist the advantages of shooting on mobiles far outweigh the drawbacks. “First and foremost, it’s a matter of cost,” said Leonard Bourgois-Beaulieu, whose short, ‘Busy’, won Pocket Films’ audience-choice award for best film.
He acknowledged that cell cameras can’t match their conventional digital counterparts for quality – particularly when blown up to fill a full-size movie screen. While close-ups and still shots in ‘Busy’ were remarkably sharp, sudden movement and travelling shots reduced the image to a pixelated fog.