In 2015, the independent comedy-drama Tangerine wowed the Sundance Film Festival, not only with its true-to-life story of a transgender sex worker, but also for being shot almost entirely on an iPhone 5S.
Anyone, of any age, has at least the potential to become a professional filmmaker today, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphone cameras. Smart Phone Movie Maker (Candlewick Press), Canadian writer-director-producer Bryan Michael Stoller’s new book-in-a-box, helps instruct budding young cinematographers on how to create movie magic using only their phones and inexpensive items around the house. A fun, illustrated booklet discusses storyboarding, lighting techniques, and editing and colour correction. Most impressively, the box transforms into a smartphone projector with a lens for screening finished masterpieces.
As a child, Stoller began borrowing his father’s Super 8 camera – the popular home-movie format of the day –to create animated and stop-motion films. “I was kind of an introvert, so I spent a lot of time in my parents’ basement,” he says. “It was very creative. I was intrigued and I read up on filmmaking and animation and I graduated to making live action.” In 1974, Stoller, then in his early teens, co-hosted a summer replacement show on CBC called Film Fun that taught young people how to make their own films on Super 8. Eventually, he parlayed this job into commercial work and later attended the American Film Institute. After directing a popular parody of a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial, Stoller was befriended by the superstar, and Jackson made his final film appearance in Stoller’s Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls.
Stoller, who previously wrote the book Filmmaking for Dummies, knows that few kids of his generation had the opportunities he had. But now that smartphones have levelled the playing field, he wants to do what he can to encourage the next breakout Sundance director. “There was just a lot of stuff I really wanted to share,” he says. “Something as simple as making a dolly out of a paper cup for your smartphone – things anyone could do and they’d actually work.”