1) What drew you to the story and compelled you to make your film?
I was fascinated by the mumblecore movement in American indie film scene – the raw, DYI, micro-budget approach, and improvised dialogues. Forming the impression that this movement is primarily dominated by quirky romantic comedies, I figured it would be interesting to try applying it in a crime thriller.
We’ve got a so-called “kitchen sink realism” type of movie in the UK, favored by British cinema masters Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. Their films focus on social-realism and usually are quite heavy. I was curious to see how this kind of realism would appear in a slightly lighter, perhaps more playful tone, apparent in these mumblecore indies. Our film is never really a comedy, but I strongly believe that when striving for realism, occasional levity is necessary for the more dark or dramatic moments to ring true. The subject of the father-son relationship was particularly close and personal for me as I lost my own dad a few years back and decided to explore it through a lens of a gritty crime drama, the kind of movie he loved the most.
2) What prompted you to make the decision to shoot your film with FiLMiC Pro on a smartphone instead of a traditional camera, and was this your first experience using our app?
Sean Baker’s Tangerine came out a couple of years before and was a major influence – the idea to shoot a feature on an iPhone was extremely liberating. Coming from a very traditional, Hollywood-style school of filmmaking at the University of Westminster, I felt somewhat constrained by the demanding focus on high production values. I remembered how I used to make various film experiments back in high-school, which were a pure form of creative expression and exploration. After almost a decade of making shorts adhering to the industry standards, I looked back at my earlier experience and how it resonated with the ideology behind the fiercely independent works of John Cassavettes as well as more recent revolutionary filmmakers like the Duplass brothers and Jim Cummings. Finding out that the debut features of major directors, such as Christopher Nolan’s Following, were also created with incredibly humble means, was that final nudge to just go for it. We came across the first news of Steven Soderbergh’s iPhone movie Unsane on the day we started shooting, which was encouraging as well. FiLMiC Pro app was essential to the making of this film by enabling manual control of exposure, color balance, and resolution, which enables the iPhone to become an actual film camera. Coupled with Moondog anamorphic lens and DJI Osmo Mobile gimbal, it enabled us to create a look that allows the audiences to forget it was shot on a smartphone.
3) Please describe the experience of shooting your short film with mobile devices and FiLMiC Pro.
My personal experience using the app was very smooth and, fortunately, the results were perceived well by the audience as well as the film critics. The surprisingly cinematic look is probably the most universally praised aspect of our film. In order to use the anamorphic lens, we had to go for the single-camera iPhone 8 instead of the dual-cam plus version, so the biggest challenge was the single wide lens and a sharp depth of field, which removed the aesthetic blurred background/foreground opportunities of traditional film cameras. Therefore we opted to cover most of the scenes by long takes, which freed the cast to embrace improvisation and experimentation. It comes down to taste and what works for the story, but I believe this kind of look really suited our overall approach. The challenge of certain technical limitations only incited us to come up with some interesting solutions, and I must admit occasionally even forgetting that it was an iPhone instead of a proper camera, which is only a compliment to the FiLMiC Pro app and other technical advancements available to us today.
4) What did shooting on a smartphone allow you to do that you otherwise might not have been able to?
Our process was very much run-and-gun, DIY, guerrilla-style and the flexibility of the smartphone was a key ingredient to pull it off. The film is set in many various locations throughout the massive metropolis of London, hence the production entailed a significant amount of travel and we benefited from the super easy to carry and set-up factor of our kit. Operating it required only one person, who, in contrast to most professional cameras, doesn’t have to be highly trained. The smartphone technology is inherently ergonomic, stemming from the design aimed at casual everyday use. This fast point-and-shoot approach enabled us to cover two scenes per day on average on locations based on opposite sides of town, which would have been impossible with the traditional kit. Also, with shooting being so quick and inconspicuous, we were able to experiment, grabbings various shots on the way between locations.
5) What is your next project? Where can people find you on the web?
I’m always interested in exploring new techniques and genres, so I believe the next project would be something entirely different. Currently, we’re developing a romantic drama and a horror movie. Anyone interested can follow our filmmaking journey on story-image.com and Twitter / Facebook / Instagram @storyimagefilms.
Watch EX-CON: REDEMPTION here:
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