The feature film that blew away everyone at Sundance was shot on an Apple iPhone 5s

“Director Sean Baker’s feature film Tangerine, which got picked up by Magnolia Pictures, is one of the most talked-about films at the Festival this year even though it doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a buzzworthy entry,” V Renée reports for No Film School. “Firstly, it features unknown actors; no Kristen Wiigs, no Ethan Hawkes. Secondly, it’s a story about two transgender women on a Christmas Eve odyssey through the many subcultures of L.A. to ‘get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor.’ So, mass appeal? No.”

“Lastly, it wasn’t shot using an expensive, top of the line cinema camera. In fact, it was shot using the device I use every day to take notes, check emails, and dodge calls from bill collectors,” Renée reports. “That device, of course, is the iPhone 5s. Tangerine was shot completely on the Apple device, but this smartphone camera setup also included the 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter from Moondog Labs, the FiLMiC Pro app, and external recording devices.”

“The overall cost of this setup — a setup that shot a feature film that is just killing it at Sundance?” Renée reports. “Well, Moondog’s adapter costs $160, FiLMiC Pro is $8 in the App Store, and iPhones range from — what? $200 to $600 depending on service and features? So, you’re looking at $168 to $768 to get high quality images for a feature film. ”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Craig McCulloch” for the heads up.]


  1. Thanks to today’s technology, everyone can be a filmmaker. There are hundreds of millions of people walking the surface of this planet with a film making device in their pocked — an iPhone.

    Of course, there are many cheap cameras (cheaper than the iPhone) that can record video (and many of them in better HD quality than the iPhone). But that is beside the point. Today, anyone and everyone can be, and many claim to be, a filmmaker. Vimeo is full of films made by these ‘filmmakers’. Some are quite good, but nobody can find them among the white noise of crap, because anyone can now go out and make films.

    So, if you are a talented writer/director, with a motivated and skilled cast and crew, an interesting and intriguing story and well-written script? You can do what millions of other filmmakers do and get a DSLR and some other gear and shoot your movie. Or you can use a great gimmick, and shoot your film with an iPhone. When your press release and promo kit announces “An independent feature film shot entirely on an iPhone 5S!!!”, very many people will be intrigued enough to want to see it. If your movie is actually any good, the “iPhone” buzz has done its job and the film’s quality itself will do the rest.

    In my work, I often shoot video for online and broadcast TV distribution. There are quality standards with which I must comply in order to be accepted for broadcast. Every once in a while, I am able to sneak in a shot or two made on my 5S. While we have pro gear which I use regularly, there are situations where I don’t have the pro camera with me, and the iPhone can capture an interesting and valuable shot because it is there. The quality of that camera on the iPhone is such that under certain optimal conditions, the resulting video can pass and I can sneak it into a broadcast-quality footage.

    These are great times for creative people…

    1. Predrag’s right, these are great times for creative people.

      I believe a large number people are wondering around the planet with the traits needed to create a great movie. But, the cost and equipment needs have prevented the great, great majority of them from ever trying to make a film. Now they can.

      Is that great or what!

      1. As recently as ten years ago, if you wanted to make a movie that can be shown in theatres, you had to shoot on film. Just for the equipment, film stock and lab fees, you needed to spend at least $30-50k for a feature film and enough film to afford decent number of different takes. With the arrival of HD video and DSLR cameras, that expense is largely gone.

        The only obstacle today to making a good film is talent and skill. In order to shoot a good movie, you need to know what you are doing; good camera most certainly won’t produce results on its own. The skill set necessary to shoot and edit a film takes time and effort to acquire, and that is in addition to the prerequisite talent and zeal. More importantly, unlike many other art forms, filmmaking is a collective effort, and a group of talented, motivated and creative people is required for success.

        What I am saying is, it is great that we now have this technology that completely obliterates technological obstacles to filmmaking and democratises the industry. However, I think the technology obstacle is not nearly the biggest one to someone wanting to become a filmmaker and make a feature film. It never really was (except to a very small group of would-be filmmakers, who had zero money, but everything else in place).

        For the film in question, the filmmaker had a full team of like-minded people who worked together with a common goal, and a complete cast of creative talent who were committed to the project. The crew had the necessary skills to plan and execute the project. The minor aspect of the film, the technology they used, was not a major factor in the final result (although undoubtedly, compromises had to be made in order to overcome limitations), and the choice was clearly made for the promotional values of it.

        Filmmaking is one of the more complicated art forms, and it requires a sizeable group of committed people, whose personal calendars are in sync for a number of weeks. The camera they use is just one consideration out of many.

      1. And in the case of this movie, while their image acquisition gear totaled less than a $1,000, the audio recording equipment was close to $5,000.

        And this reflects proper ratio of importance between audio and video. People will watch grainy image that occasionally gets out of focus, but if they cannot understand dialogue, they will tune out right away.

    1. My very good friend was android all the way for a long time. We would go to concerts and both take vids of the shows. I had my iPhone 4s an he had his top of the line Samdung at the time. I would post my vids on YouTube and the sound was very good. He had to stop posting his because the sound was just unbearable. That’s what clinched it for him. We both are still with the 5S and ready to upgrade this fall. The camera alone is worth every penny we’ve spent on the iPhone. Meanwhile I’ve stopped carrying around my nikon as well. My neck and back are very grateful too!

  2. “… it’s a story about two transgender women on a Christmas Eve odyssey …”

    So was it two men altered to be women, or two women who wanted to be men?

    1. I think it is pretty clear that when it is said ‘transgender woman’ it means a woman in a man’s anatomical body. The opposite would be a transgender man.

        1. Answer to those who are asking honestly: the general rule of thumb is to let people choose their identity. So, if the writer is respecting the people they write about, “transgender women” would mean they are people who identify themselves as women, but were not given that assignment at birth.
          The whole thing about talking about transgender people is easier when you start from this concept: people get to choose their own identity, rather than having society tell them who they are. It’s an autonomy/freedom thing, combined with the golden rule.

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