SF3 Festival: Smartphones creating the future cinema classics

“There are feature films being made on smartphones now, so for all the finalists, your dreams can be bigger.”

A presenter accurately pitched the inaugural festival to a theatre full of finalists, families and keen movie buffs, handing out one of many awards at Australia’s only dedicated smartphone film festival.

Screening the top ten selections from hundreds of entries filmed in Australia and overseas, the only criteria were that the shorts had to be shot entirely on a smartphone or tablet. Open to both professionals and new filmmakers, the festival itself is a product of an emerging field and style of filmmaking.

Not always having access to the high-end equipment, or otherwise dependent on being a little more mobile, emerging creatives have taken to smartphones to make new media and attempt to break into the industry. With reports of scenes from The Avengers being shot on an iPhone, professional filmmakers are similarly looking to the new technology, including Sean Baker, director of Sundance hit Tangerine (which screened in Australia during the recent Sydney Film Festival), revealing that he shot the entire film on an iPhone, afterwards hinting that he would be keen to do it again.

The style is affordable, accessible and becoming more mainstream, with hits like Chronicle revelling in the shaky hand-held camera technique sparingly used in most features. This particular brand of film-making is on the rise, and this week resulted in a number of highly enjoyable shorts at the inaugural festival in Sydney.

Taking out the top prize as well as best actor was LSD Man, shot by Sydney local Steve McGrath entirely on a Samsung Galaxy S4. A hark back to the old school song and dance numbers glorified in countless MGM musicals, LSD Man was one of the funnier, light-hearted entries, benefiting, along with audience choice winner Cystic Fibrosis (shot by 17 year old Tayla Dawson) from fast and skillful editing.

Hit by Jim Minns deservedly took out best screenplay; a one shot, hilariously macabre depiction of an amateur hit-man anxiously awaiting his first victim. Taking both best director and cinematography and a worthy contender for best film, my pick of the night was Indian entry Dog Tail; a short about a stolen bicycle complete with a compelling chase through the city and a surprise conclusion. Immediately reminiscent of Vittoria De Sica’s classic Bicycle Thieves, Dog Tail’s dash through India’s streets was tense and exceptionally well-shot. Making best use of the available technology’s versatility, even the short’s more subdued final moments proved just as riveting as its chase sequence.

A great opportunity for emerging filmmakers to get their name out there and certainly something that can and should be pitched at amateur and beginner creatives, SF3 is an ideal gateway for burgeoning minds in a now ever-expanding industry.

On The Big Smoke