The Use of Iphones in Filmmaking

By Kyler J. Minshull

Steven Soderbergh behind the scenes of “High Flying Bird”
Obtained from

In the last five years the use of Iphones has started to become more common in the film industry to make cheap professional looking movies. It started with 2015’s Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker, which gained acclaim at that years Sundance film festival and was noticeable for being shot entirely on three Iphones 5’s on a budget of only $100,000. The director used other DIY techniques to make his movie as cheap as possible. For example taping the Iphone to a painters pole so they could use it for high angle. The other technology in the film was kept cheap as well, they used the Filmic Pro app to control the focus of their scene and used a Moondog Lenses iphone lense for their wide angle scenes. The controversial story about two transgendered sex workers showed the world just how effective a simple Iphone can be in telling an award worthy story.

Iphone filmmakings most prominent spokesperson is currently noted director Steven Soderbergh. He has directed films such as “Oceans 11”, “Erin Brockovich” and “Magic Mike”. In 2018 he directed the feature length film “Unsane” starring Claire Foy, using just an Iphone 7 Plus. Steven Soderbergh enjoyed the experience so much that he stated from here on out he would direct with an Iphone any chance he could. He followed up this movie with the 2019 sports movie “High Flying Bird” starring Andre Holland, shot on an Iphone 8. Both these films were critically acclaimed and starred high profile actors further pushing Iphone filmmaking into the mainstream.

Of course there are some that have criticized the use of Iphones for filmmaking. Director Christopher Nolan once challenged Steven Soderbergh to go back to shooting on film. He responded that, that would be like going back to “writing scripts in pencil.” The main drawback in shooting on an Iphone is the inability to control depth of field. This has been said to create an almost “artificial” looking image. There has also been criticisms of overheating when in constant use and fast battery drain when shooting outdoors.

Time will tell if this emerging trend will stand the test of time and enter the mainstream. Though it is doubtless that if the popularity of Iphones among young people continues and if apple continues to improve their video and photo technology there will much more of these types of projects in the future.

The new Iphone 12s camera
Obtained from


Matsumoto, Neil (2016). “Down The Street”, HD Video Pro, Retrieved from

Trenholm, Richard (2019). “iPhone fan Steven Soderbergh: Shooting on film is like ‘writing in pencil”, Cnet, Retrieved from

O’falt, Chris (2019). ‘High Flying Bird’: What Soderbergh Begged Apple to Change About the iPhone, Indiewire, Retrieved from