With the advancement of smartphone technology over the last decade, it comes as no surprise that smartphone cameras are now able to capture motion-picture worthy images. The recently released iPhone 7 for example allows users to film high resolution videos up to 4k and, with the addition of camera accessories, including lenses and mounts, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of filmmakers are finding ways to produce feature length films with their mobile devices.
In 2015, American director Sean S. Baker made headlines with the release of his comedy-drama Tangerine, a film that follows a transgender sex worker who, with the help of a friend, decides to get revenge on her cheating pimp-boyfriend. The film’s budget was a mere $100,000 and was nominated for various Independent Spirit Awards and snagged the Audience Award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. The film was shot entirely on the iPhone 5s, allowing the money saved on camera equipment to pay for locations and extras.
Japanese director Shogo Miyaki, who shot his 2016 film A.I. Love You on the iPhone 6s, said that one of the greatest benefits of shooting with smartphones is the mobility it allows. Miyagi went on to explain that the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of an iPhone production allowed him to shoot the film through trial and error since he didn’t have to worry about extenuating costs of production rentals. The use of smartphones in cinema allows for a fully immersive experience, allowing the audience to view the film as if they were filming it themselves.
Since the introduction of digital cameras into the filmmaking world at turn of the century, many filmmakers have opted to distance themselves from shooting on traditional film, with almost 90% of the top 100 US productions shooting digitally in 2015. The introduction of smartphones, some of the most advanced portable cameras, into the film industry therefore seems to be an organic evolution.
While many emerging and established filmmakers opt to use this newer technology, directors like Quentin Tarantino, who insists on shooting with 35mm, call the rise of digital cinematography ‘the death of cinema as [we] know it.’
However, smartphone cinematography is not exclusive to low budget films and has seen itself inch towards commercial cinema increasingly in recent years including 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which featured several iPhone shots despite its $15 million budget. The phenomenon of mobile device cinematography isn’t exclusive to the film industry either, with the Emmy and Golden Globe winning sit-com Modern Family releasing an entire episode shot on Apple products.
Whether you believe that the introduction of smartphones into the filmic sphere is the death of cinema or a much-needed evolution, it is impossible to deny the accessibility that these devices provide. The use of smartphones in film, a product 83% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 own, allows many amateur and aspiring filmmakers to explore and produce their own films in a polished and professional manner.
 Apple Inc., “iPhone 7”, Apple, 2016 <http://www.apple.com/iphone-7/>
 Follows, Stephen, “Film Vs Digital – What Is Hollywood Shooting On?”, Stephen Follows, 2015 <https://stephenfollows.com/film-vs-digital/>
 Matsumoto, Neil, “Down The Street – HD Video Pro”, HD Video Pro, 2015 <http://www.hdvideopro.com/film-and-tv/feature-films/down-the-street/>
 Sato, Misuzu, “Low-Budget Filmmakers Turn To Smartphones To Shoot Scenes：The Asahi Shimbun”, The Asahi Shimbun, 2017 <http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201701120004.html>
 Follows, Stephen, “Film Vs Digital – What Is Hollywood Shooting On?”, Stephen Follows, 2015 <https://stephenfollows.com/film-vs-digital/>
 Marine, Joe, “Quentin Tarantino Says Digital Projection Is The ‘Death Of Cinema As I Know It'”, No Film School, 2014 <http://nofilmschool.com/2014/05/quentin-tarantino-cannes-35mm-digital-projection-death-cinema>
 Chen, Bayun; Ryan Seilhamer; Luke Bennett and Sue Bauer, “Students’ Mobile Learning Practices in Higher Education: A Multi-Year Study”, Educause Review, 2015 < http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/students-mobile-learning-practices-in-higher-education-a-multiyear-study>
Who remembers the monkey who took a selfie of himself on a nature photographer’s camera in 2011? It was a story that surely popped up on your social media platform of choice at the time, then promptly disappeared into the depths of the internet with Grumpy Cat and Chocolate Rain and everything else that was huge until it wasn’t .
Despite it disappearing from public view, the picture went on to have a rather interesting post-fame story. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a lawsuit in the US to give Naruto, the monkey who took the picture, “[the] right to own and benefit from the copyright … in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author.”.
Essentially, they wanted Naruto here to be able to own copyright of the picture he took. To what benefit isn’t entirely clear (what’s a monkey going to do with royalty money?), but it did raise an interesting question. Where do we draw the line with copyright? Do animals have the right to own things they technically make themselves?
In answer to the latter question, as reported in the Guardian and later in the Independant, US District Judge William Orrick ruled that Naruto can’t own the copywrite to the picture. Not exactly a Disney ending, but we’re pretty sure Naruto would have been just as happy with an extra-juicy mango!
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding smartphones and their batteries. No one really knows how long to charge phones for – or whether it’s bad to leave it going overnight. However, someone has managed to do the maths on how much of your energy bill will be spent on charging for the average iPhone user. Digital Spy reports:
“There’s no fear of adding a significant chunk to the iPhone’s already lofty asking price just to keep it running. You can actually keep your iPhone charged for a year for less than £1. A lot less. We sh*t you not.”
Less than £1! Advanced lithium battery technology is to thank here. Don’t take our word for it, check out the maths in Digital Spy’s article. It’s easy to forget just how far efficient energy storage can take us.
2016 saw the UK’s first Tesla powerwall installed. This chunky battery aims to “revolutionise UK energy market by enabling people to store excess energy generated from rooftop solar panels.” As we move forwards into the new year – with our cheaply charging phones – expect energy storage to be at the forefront of futurology reportage.
It’s well known that jobs in any niche industry are hard to come by and the film industry is no different. This article will cover some of the more conventional ways into the film business and then some unconventional ways that have popped up over the past few years.
Apprenticeships are great way to learn whilst also earning money. This involves working onsite and being trained while you work. In an industry that runs on who you know, this can be a great way to show what you’re worth and begin networking. There are laws that protect you being overworked and underpaid. Employers are looking to see if you’re enthusiastic about the industry and what your skills are. What they’re after is passion and whether you can communicate effectively.
A degree is an additional route but has less chance of success. It’s not as focused on practical work in the film industry as an apprenticeship would be but you learn a whole wealth of knowledge that prepares you for many jobs instead of narrowing down in a sector. You’ll want to research what universities have good links to the industry. As we’ve mentioned, finding a job means knowing the right connections. Many universities offer the chance for their students to go and work on projects with real producers and directors. More importantly, towards the end of your degree, many institutions set up days where you can show off what you’ve created to industry insiders.
The type of degree you choose should depend on what aspect of the film industry you’re trying to gain entry to. If it’s writing, then a Creative Writing degree might be appropriate. If you’re looking for something more general, then a bachelors in Film and Television might suit you better. Earning a degree also offers you the chance to enter other areas of work outside of film. The long term nature of a degree means you will have the chance to do creative work and gain a good idea of whether it’s something you want to do as work.
As the film and media sphere gets turned on its head by the revolutionary ways to share and monetise video content, there are new avenues that one can take to get your foot in the door. These are risky and unorthodox but might tempt the most passionate to give them a try. Being an online content creator is a 21st century job and the type of content you create is pretty much up to you. There are trends you can ride but it’s best to do your own thing. There are different platforms such as Youtube, Twitter, Vimeo, and Twitch. Thousands of people are trying to strike their claim in these markets and it’s fiercely competitive but the rewards can be great.
Gaining a viewership online opens up the chance for sponsorship. Companies will literally come to you to advertise their products. Once you’ve shown the world what you can do it also proves to industry insiders that you might do well with a more traditional means of production, i.e., it becomes vastly easier to get your projects greenlit. Becoming famous online is near impossible to plan and no one would recommend it as a career path but if you’re able to put out content while working a daily job or studying in school it might just be worth a go. The worst case is you gaining a bunch of experience and a portfolio.
Alongside rumours of a white Christmas, there isn’t a better event than the John Lewis Christmas advert to signal that the festive season is among us. The retail giant has cast a black family for the first time, who star in an imagined Christmas morning where Buster the dog beats a young girl to her Christmas present: a great big trampoline.
The £1m advert, featuring a cast of CGI animals, and a very white Christmas, has been tackled by the the satirists over at The Poke. They responded by editing the advert to have a different and realistically grim ending. John Lewis have said that, following last year’s Man on the Moon advert, they were shifting away from “sadvertising.” Perhaps this parody is a karmic response.
This year’s Research in Film Awards, organised by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, raises the question: is film a good medium to showcase research? The award’s mission statement is to “showcase, reward and recognise the best of the large and increasing number of high-quality short films … produced as outputs or by-products of arts and humanities research.”
In 2005, there were just 20 researchers who listed film or animation as a creative or artistic output of their AHRC-funded research. In 2013, that figure had grown to 149. Alongside this data, it’s also easy to point to recent groundbreaking documentaries and the renewed respect they have begun to acquire. Before the Flood (2016), a documentary film about climate change, gained considerable press due to the growing undeniability of research, and the starpower of collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio.
AHRC’s multimedia editor, Emi Spinner said: “Just making a film provides a reason for people to get in touch and share ideas and expertise, which can be very productive in itself.” She added, “I really do believe that a well-made film can shift the debate just by reaching the right specialist networks, as well as a general audience.”
Certainly we can look at Chasing Ice (2012), a tour de force in the glacial effects of climate change, and admit that film has a deserved place in sharing research. Environmental photographer James Balog’s journeys into Greenland, Iceland and Alaska, and his goal to capture images that would help to convey the extreme effects of global warming have garnered a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.
However, this view isn’t shared by everyone. Writing for the Times Higher Education, Matthew Reisz found that “in the US, Howard Hughes Medical Institute does not support public engagement through film at all.” Reisz also found that “requests for funding to make [research films] ‘would occur in a very small percentage of awards’ and would not constitute a ‘significant element of funding requested’, according to Valentine Kass, programme director for advancing informal STEM learning at the NSF.” In his investigative article, Reisz went on to outline similar viewpoints at other American research groups.
In Britain, attitudes towards research funding for films is different. The Wellcome Trust, among other research councils, regularly provide funding to researchers for public engagement, of which films are counted. The changing mood towards film as a medium for research can be tracked alongside the social media trend of the early 21st Century. At a time when science needs to be viral for people to care about it, pop-science curators such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have guided public discourse on issues such as the fate of our planet and journeys to Mars, in TV series and short films. In summary, the beautiful medium of cinema deserves the noble goal of the dissemination of science-based research.
Research by the British Film Industry looked at over 1,000 UK films in the past decade to research the representation of black actors. They found that the amount of films with black actors had (unfortunately) stayed relatively the same. Discrimination at the top of the industry is an open secret – from the same study, 59% of UK films produced in the last 10 years contained zero black actors in lead or named roles. David Oyelowo, star of Selma (2014), recently said that he had moved to L.A. due to the lack of opportunity in the UK.
Many believe that discrimination should be tackled in the classroom and that education is the route towards inclusivity. This way, the decision makers of tomorrow are aware of the issue and are in a position to change it. When the problem is this clear (BFI also found that only four black actors are listed in the UK’s 100 most prolific actors) the industry needs people working at every level to battle against it.
BFI creative director Heather Stewart said: “The number of lead roles for black actors has not really changed over 10 years and the types of films in which they have had leading roles suggests stereotyping.” She added that “Diversity is one of the biggest issues facing film – audiences want to see the world in which we live reflected back at them.”
Luckily for us we still have the indie film scene, which began tackling all forms of discrimination decades ago. Campbell X, a powerhouse of British queer cinema, said: “Films that show black people as complex, layered and authentic are being made right now by indie filmmakers who are black. Just because they are not on mainstream TV or cinemas doesn’t mean they do not exist!”
When media events like the “whitewashed” Oscars are on the news, this can be a great time to bring up the topic of discrimination in British classrooms. Younger generations have always been more progressive, and the opportunity to explore this sensitive subject in a safe environment can guide young minds towards thinking that discrimination is a real issue – one that has often had to be battled by creativity alone.
Pointing to the watershed moments in film history can be a way to avoid the doom and gloom of current-day politics. There is a lot to be learnt from milestones such as the first interracial kiss on television (Star Trek: The Original Series – Plato’s Stepchildren. 1968) all the way up to Laverne Cox’s breakout success as a transwoman of colour in Orange Is the New Black (2013).
However you choose to interpret the misgivings about the British film industry and its treatment of people of colour, know that the future is bright. Never before has there been such awareness of social issues or high levels of investment into discrimination-aware cinema. If you have any doubts about our collective future see: The Butler (2013) and the who’s who of black entrepreneurs who rallied behind it, or the revolutionary movement of Black Lives Matter.
Instead of marking, the protagonist in this short but painfully honest satire from one of the cards at the Daily Mash says it all. Rather than spend the week marking and catching up on sleep, he (because it’s bound to be a he, right?) instead takes every opportunity night after night to hit the town with mates… because without school in the morning he can.
Enjoy for light relief, NOT inspiration!
Inevitably, this year has seen the release of some increasingly refined and powerful technology for our hands and pockets. The main players in the smartphone market: Samsung, LG and Apple, along with HTC and a reinvigorated Google have all again had to raise their games with the latest round of released flagship 2016 models. However, rather than dwell too much on Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Apple’s iPhone 7 or LG’s innovative G5 modular models – all of them amazing examples of cutting edge devices overflowing with features technical wizardry, there are 2 interesting trends that are potentially far more interesting from your average student’s perspective.
What is perhaps most striking is how the market is truly maturing with fewer ‘breakthrough’ features than in previous years. Retina displays, fingerprint reading, GPS… these features were all major breakthroughs in their time over the last decade, but we haven’t seen anything to the same leap-forward novelty for a couple of years now. On the cutting-edge technical front, progress seems to be far more iterative than major leap any more.
Instead, what is really remarkable in 2016 is how what was considered absolute cutting edge only couple of years ago is now available on some extremely affordable devices, putting super high-spec devices within reach of huge swathes of the population, including most of your students.. The implications for your students soon having sub-£100 high-spec’d supercomputers in their pockets are far-reaching and exciting. Samsung’s Galaxy J5 is a great example of this leap in accessibility. With 1.5GB of RAM, a 1280×720 screen, 13 Megapixel camera and huge battery life (beating the Galaxy S7 in fact), the fact that this highly capable phone is available SIM-free for £140 is astounding.
What high-spec smartphones affordable to everyone means there will soon be no students without access to their own personal super-computer and the implications of what this has the potential to do for education is enormous and arriving now.
The way your classroom has been gently invaded in the last 5 years by iPads, whiteboard screens and digital cameras is evidence that a revolution is in the making…
Many of the technologies are falling into place, but revolutions are never gentle, nor are they single-geared. The trick now for ALL teachers, especially those who already feel they’re behind in the digital stampede, to look at this objectively, rather than with fright, and make a plan.
The first rule of action should be not to fight the tide, and question those moves in your school to limit or block the use of technology en masse. It’s here already, and with smartphones, its formed the behaviour and world views of the digital natives we’re teaching and may be ourselves. For many education professionals though, the digital world is baffling and foreign. Even for the least technically enthusiastic, the good news is: there is less to have to learn to start than ever, the one-machine-per-student scenario has arrived, and you are about to discover a knowledge-rich, secure and private, easy-to-use set of tools to supplement the way you already work and make it a lot easier. Embracing the change has limitless benefits to how thoroughly you can help you students now learn.
The next step in recognising how digital advances are going to help your teaching and students is to take a look at your own school’s situation. Some pointers to objectively investigate your preparedness and digital adaptability are as follows:
- What support is available to teachers for new tech? This can include websites, search and product support – once you know help is just a touch away, you won’t get stuck.
- How well are teachers being trained to use new technology? What are the best ways to learn to use new platforms or packages – online tutorials and learning with your students is the most successful mix
- How student-centred is our approach? As students will quite probably be more comfortable with the technology than a school’s faculty, the best approach is to introduce new tools which everyone, especially students, has access to.
What the technology revolution is ultimately offering are new opportunities for invention — doing new things in new ways. Change is the order of the day in our students’ 21st-century lives. It ought to be the order of the day in their schools as well, and the freedom to experiment with new tools and platforms locally and to report back on what’s working will be essential to our schools making the most of what’s in store for them and their students.
Some doubters will worry that, with all this experimentation, our children’s education will be hurt. “When will we have time for the curriculum” they might ask, “and for all the standardized testing being mandated?” If we can offer our students the tools which allow them each to explore learning materials at their own pace, and encourage them through flipped classroom self-directed learning approaches to take curriculums into their own hands (and pockets), the benefits will be huge. Students will be empowered to rip through standard curriculums in half the time it now takes and with higher test scores for all. Its time to embrace the digital change that has the potential to help your students endlessly.