Body & Soul – A Drama-Thriller Shot Entirely on Smartphones

November 10th, 2017
Body & Soul - A Drama-Thriller Shot Entirely on Smartphones

UK based filmmaker Simon Horrocks is embarking on his second feature, “Body & Soul” to be shot on smartphones next year. We find out why.

The interest in smartphone filmmaking, even among professionals has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. During this time our phone cameras have become far more capable, and a few prominent filmmakers have come into the spotlight pushing the limits of what’s possible. The first example that comes to mind of course is Sean Baker’s “Tangerine”, shot on iPhone in 2015 which made a major splash at Sundance Film Festival.

More recently Steven Soderburgh has shot his upcoming film “Unsane” on iPhone and had this to say from a recent interview for Wired.

It was so liberating. I’m going to do it again. … The ability to put the lens anywhere I wanted in a matter of seconds, if not minutes, was incredibly freeing. You want to put a camera above somebody’s head, you’ve got to lash a rope to it and tie it to something so it doesn’t kill them. This, you just stick it on a piece of velcro and shoot. If I literally want to lay it on the floor, I can. It’s a 4K capture. I’ve seen it on a giant screen; nobody, if they didn’t already know, would ever suspect. It looks like a normal movie.”We all know that good storytelling is at the core of the success of any project, and in this sense the camera really doesn’t matter, but sometimes, very occasionally it does.

The right tool for the job

The best reason to choose any shooting method, technique, format, or specific camera is because it is the best way to achieve the intended results. Sometimes the choices are limited to begin with by budget, availability and access, or simply by what you happen to own. For Simon Horrocks, the reason for his choice is driven by his vision for the story.

We’ll be shooting with smartphones, but not as an excuse for a tiny budget film desperate to punch above its weight. We’ll be shooting with smartphones because there’s simply no other method to shoot a film which allows the same level of intimacy and spontaneity.

People say, ‘just shoot on a DSLR if you want to make a cheap movie’. But even a DSLR doesn’t allow you anything close to the flexibility of a smartphone camera. This thing fits in your pocket. You know, something smaller than a paperback, which can shoot 4K.

So, I’m not approaching this as a poor filmmaker doing the best with limited resources. This is not a compromise, this is a liberation. We’re freeing ourselves; not just from an industry afraid to take risks, but also from a way of making films which has barely changed in the last 50 years.

The most exciting thing about Simon’s choice is he’s not trying to use a smartphone like it was an Alexa, and although it’s possible to shoot great “traditional” cinematography with a smartphone too, this is about capturing moments that would be missed messing around with a larger camera.

Doing something new

Our industry is a two faced beast with multiple personality disorder, at constant battle with itself. It is a slow moving, self protective bastion of tradition but at the same time a playground of experimental creativity where amazing new things can happen.

Using smartphones to film this, we’ll be improvising with the actors and the cinematography. In many respects, this is an experimental work, because I actually don’t know 100% what will happen. But that’s the beauty of this way of making films. Really, smartphone filmmakers are still pioneers. And we’ll be trying new things and hoping show the world what can be done.

The best way to smash through the barrier of mediocrity is to do new things, and to do them really well.

Because you can

Simon is doing what all filmmakers should be doing… he’s doing his own thing, rather than imitate everyone else. There’s something to be said for resisting the creative conditioning and programming that defines most of our goals and ambitions as filmmakers.

Simon’s previous films Third Contact and Kosmos were micro budgets projects, that together have been viewed over 1 million times on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaKy4ugvk-g

Body & Soul is currently on Kickstarter with a goal of raising £30,000 by Friday December 1st. If you’d like to back it, check out Simon’s campaign for Body & Soul and see how you can get involved.

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Matthew Hartman
Matthew Hartman
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November 11th, 2017

Great!

How many of us have had this thought, “I could shoot/pair some of my footage with my 4k smartphone”, but then backed out worried about what our industry peers would think about our professionalism? “You used a smartphone, really?”

This industry is steep in tradition. And that tradition dictates you have to invest a lot of money on the best gear out there to be taken as creditable. I’m guilty of buying into this narrative myself. I’ve spent thousands.

I think this tradition is a misguided falsehood in an industry that’s supposed to advocate creativity. It may advocate it, but does it really and actually embrace it with a barrier of entry that’s next to impossible to acquire? Really, I think the main thing we are actually embracing is more consumerism. This is good for business, but is it good for the creator’s soul?

All power to this film. This is going to inspire a lot of people who don’t have 50k for an Alexa or RED rig, or even $3,000 to kit a DSLR/DSLRM, to get out there and just create, and not be inhibited by that “IQ Wall”.

I’m not saying that a smartphone can compete in DR with an Arri or RED. I like smooth falloffs and anti-banded gradients too. And no doubt smartphones are currently and generally horrible with low light, even at lower ISO. Their fixed apeture and small sensor isn’t the best as far as offering a wide visual canvas from which to work.

However, we’ve all heard it before, it is the story that is king. Plenty of content, old and new (some of it barely watchable) is not cinematic, and yet audiences still get invested. It speaks to our insationable curiosity and unconditional urge to connect. We want to see ourselves in the characters, their plight is our very own. What does that have to do with 8k sensors and 500 stops of dynamic range? Nothing, it’s a lame excuse that keeps some industry professionals relative beyond the limits of their talent. It becomes a badge of honor, on a shirt that gets smelly at the end of the day like everyone else’s.

Let’s blow this thing wide open.

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