Behind The Scenes iPhone 5 News Smartmoviemakers, , , , , , , , — October 30, 2012 0:10 — 1 Comment

Diary of a shoot – how we made All Up To You! on an iPhone 5

Anna Elizabeth James and Michael Koerbel behind the iPhone 5 camera and on the set of All Up To You! Photo: Majek Pictures

Anna Elizabeth James and Michael Koerbel behind the iPhone 5 camera and on the set of All Up To You! Photo: Majek Pictures

Michael Koerbel and Anna Elizabeth James from Majek Pictures give us an exclusive behind the scenes look at how they made their short film All Up To You!, which was shot and edited on an iPhone 5

• They have written an interactive iBook on mobile filmmaking called The Studio In Your Pocket which will be available soon


Our latest film, All Up To You!, was shot and edited entirely on the iPhone 5, with a budget of $700 and a cast and production crew of 15 people.

Anna Elizabeth James: We shot in Palmdale, California, which is about an hour outside of LA. Michael and I found the location the day before shooting, less than 12 hours before shoot time, which was planned for Sunday 23 September.

Here’s the sequence of events:

(If you haven’t already, best watch All Up To You! first, to fully understand how it was made)

“ALL UP TO YOU!” – iPhone 5 Movie from Majek Pictures on Vimeo.

Wednesday 12 September: Apple unveils the iPhone 5 at a press conference in San Francisco.

Wednesday 19: Michael and Anna chat about whether or not they should make an iPhone 5 movie … they decide “If we can come up with a strong enough idea, we will.”

Thursday 20: Michael is in New York for a paid commercial gig … Anna calls Michael and says, “You know, I have that musical I made for that other project, I wonder if we could tweak that and make it work?” Hmmm. Both think on it. (The music was made for a spot three months ago that Anna pitched for, but did not get.)

The two think about it and reconvene on the phone later that day. Both are filled with energy and excitement (a good sign to move forward). Both had thought about the music and what kind of story they could tell then brainstormed together. Within 30 minutes the two filmmakers had landed on a full idea.

Anna hangs up and begins recruiting, while Michael flies back from New York Friday morning.

Operation iPhone 5 film is ON.

Friday 21: Michael immediately goes to a rental house to pick up equipment. Anna gets the ‘Siri’ license plate made. Both are on their phones recruiting.

The duo finally meets up around 5pm on Friday to open their new iPhones! Phew. Friday night they spend recruiting and prepping.

Saturday 22: Michael and Anna could not pull in a production designer in time so they go to Home Depot themselves, buy boxes and necessary supplies, print app logos and make boxes.

They drive out to Palmdale around 2pm and find a location before nightfall. They leave by 5pm in order to re-record the song with Veronica Powers (at her home) with the new lyrics by 6:30pm.

Meanwhile, Michael and Anna’s new iPhones are lighting up with actors and potential dancers needing more info. Luckily they find a choreographer. Phew!

By 10:30pm they’ve finally recruited dancers who will come out for FREE in the hot blazing sun to dance in a box.

Michael and Anna stay up late making the box outfits, creating their shotlist, going over all the details, etc. They both get one hour of sleep before getting up to drive to set. (Not recommended.)

all up to you, majek pictures, iphone 5 film, filmmaking michael koerbel

Anna and Michael made all the props themselves and assembled them on set

One thing to note about the box outfits – they had to assemble them on set, since they were so big and would not fit in their cars!

Sunday 23: Arrive at set at 8am in Palmdale. Make-up artist, choreographer, helpers, and talent arrive shortly thereafter. The amount of people on set did not exceed 15. Everyone chips in every moment of the day. It is a true team effort. Bottled water, sunscreen, and Subway sandwiches later – the team is happy despite the blazing heat.

Anna: There was a sense of magic on set, more so than other sets we’re usually on. Everyone wanted to be there and knew what it meant to be there – that they were creating something that could inspire millions. This sort of thinking and attitude is powerful. Everyone gave their all. Even in the hottest point of the day, around 3pm, no one complained or flattened out. The intensity and dedication remained consistent until we wrapped around 6:30pm.

Once we got home, we immediately began watching the footage. We noted every single moment we loved on index cards so we knew exactly where the best takes were and where to find them. Once you know where your gold is, it’s simple to put together. The key is watching every second of your footage closely, knowing your footage inside and out. Then it’s a matter of trying things.

Yes, it can be cumbersome to edit on the iPhone, but what I love about it is how the process takes it down to the rudimentary fundamentals. I truly feel like I have a better idea of what it would be like to cut actual film because bringing in a shot to just ‘try’ it out on the timeline isn’t as easy. So one must think through it very clearly. Sort of like a writer committing his/her thoughts to paper, the work happens in your mind first then exhibits itself on the screen.

Our cut was in a good place by Tuesday afternoon. We decided to walk away from the cut for a bit to gain a better perspective for when we came back to it. This is probably the worst moment for a filmmaker, to come back to your cut and see it’s not as great as you thought it was. We were like, “Oh my gosh. It needs so much more work.”

Michael and I have this philosophy called ‘good to great.’

Michael: For shooting All Up To You! we had to modify some of our existing iPhone 4 accessories to accommodate the new iPhone 5 body. This involved using some different types of clamps and cables to get the iPhone 5 mounted properly. A little bit of thinking and a trip or two to the hardware store, and we were good to go.

Anna: Yes, we could have released it Tuesday night (48 hours after the wrap) or Wednesday morning and it would have been “pretty good.” But we knew if we committed to spending two more days on it and REALLY exhausting every option and making those fine tweaks we could potentially get it to ‘great.’

And great is the only place to be.

More production notes:

• FiLMiC Pro 2 was used to record the video, iMovie (iOS) was used to edit and only 15 people were involved in the production

We shot for 10 hours in Palmdale, CA

The budget for the project was $700

We modified an iProLens kit to work with the iPhone 5 body

We wrote the script for actors David Landry, Jacquelyn Zook, Veronica Powers

The score was composed by Gareth Coker (who has worked with Anna Elizabeth James on four previous projects, and this is their fifth collaboration)

If you wish to find out more on how to film on a smartphone, Michael and Anna have written an interactive iBook, The Studio In Your Pocket‚ which will be available for pre-order and download soon through the iBookstore.

“It will provide in-depth tips and tricks on how exactly we make the shorts. What accessories we use, what apps we recommend, and most importantly, how to write and direct your own story,” says Michael.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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