What are the pros and cons of using a smart phone as a camera for filmmaking? Is it low budget gold or a lazy (wo)man’s choice? Does it cheapen the medium and blur the very definitions of what constitutes as a film or widen accessibility and therefore diversity? Phone camera films certainly seem to be having their moment, so we asked Rowan Ings, recent winner of Glasgow-based SciShorts (one minute mobile film challenge with the theme of science) about her experience of making a film with her phone, as well as being a young filmmaking starting out in a business where it seems the rules are being rewritten.
How did you hear about SciShorts and what drew you to it?
I heard about the SciShorts project by chance, through GMAC’s website. Having recently finished my first film project, HOW PAISLEY ROAD WEST WAS WON, I was looking to start the next project. I was aware that equipment and camera skills were two of the key issues facing my development as a filmmaker, and as a (non film) student, I had limited access to resources. When I learnt about the smartphone filming challenge, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take part in a competition, in which technology and equipment wouldn’t be a concern.
Did you like using your phone as a camera and would you use it again?
I really enjoyed using my phone as a camera; it’s obviously very adaptable and easy to use. The best thing about it is that makes the whole filming process less awkward, as people are so used to being around phones and in front of phone cameras. I’ve been using my phone to film things ever since the challenge and it’s exciting to get such natural footage. The quality is pretty good, as ‘Eclipse’ was shown in the IMAX cinema, which worked well.
How do you feel starting out as a young filmmaker – is it a scary climate to be in?
It is daunting to be starting out just now. Lots of people who make films start out from a really early age, and I’m just coming to it now. But I’m excited about it too, I’ve got a few projects to be working on, and I’m meeting good people during the process.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a short film, which I’m going to film in March next year. It’s called ‘Seagull’, and I’m going to film it on the West Coast of Scotland. I’m looking forward to working with actors and focusing more on cinematography. I’m also collaborating on a short history documentary, based on a little known Glaswegian history from the Second World War.
What are you goals, if any, as a filmmaker?
I’m interested in everyday encounters and events, and using them to explore bigger narratives. I want to make historical documentaries, because I think there’s a lot of work to be done there, to make them engaging and relevant. I’m trying to learn as much as possible through short films, before I make a feature length film. I like the idea in Russian literature that you have to write good short stories before you can start a full-length novel.
You can watch ECLIPSE, Rowan’s winning film, here.