The rise of the Iphone Blockbuster


Written by Don't Panic
31 Wednesday 31st January 2018

Apple’s apparent hostile takeover of the entire world has broken new borders of recent times, beyond the city limits of tech. The use of Iphones by feature filmmakers has quickly gone from gimmick to fully fledged technique within a couple of years. From critically acclaimed dramas to high budget thrillers here are some of the films that are bringing new meaning to the term I-Movie.

Steven Soderbergh’s released the trailer for his latest film UNSANE yesterday. The unsettling horror follows Claire Foy (The Crown), who leaves town to escape a stalker. Somehow she’s then involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she has to uncover whether it’s all real or a serious delusion.

UNSANE’s lo-fi aesthetic and tight shots add to the growing claustrophobia and feeling of general what-the-fuck-is-going-on-ery. Whether it’s a case of intense cyber-stalking or a total breakdown, it looks like a pretty terrifying offering from the Logan Lucky and Contagion director.

The film was entirely shot on iPhones. Speaking to Indiewire about this means, Soderbergh said: “There’s a philosophical obstacle a lot of people have about the size of the capture device. I don’t have that problem. I look at this as potentially one of the most liberating experiences that I’ve ever had as a filmmaker, and that I continue having. The gets that I felt moment to moment were so significant that this is, to me, a new chapter.”


Unsane wouldn’t be the first feature film shot on iPhone. Sean Baker won critical acclaim for his film Tangerine, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. Baker produced the entire feature film, using the iPhone 5s. He opted for an anamorphic lens adapter made by Moondog Labs. “You aren't going to get the shallow depth of field usually associated with a cinematic film,” Baker says, “but once you accept that your entire scene will be in focus, it becomes a big part of the film. I wanted people to see parts of LA that they don't usually see.”


Before being used as the sole camera of a film, director had begun using phones for reshoots or difficult scenes since the early 2010's. As money became tight during the filming of 2012's buzz documentary Searching for Sugar Man, the filmmakers—who had been shooting their film in Super 8—bought a $1 Super 8 iPhone app and shot scenes with that instead. The film went on to win an Oscar.

Director Park Chan-wook, who directed 2003's Oldboy, made a 30-minute short called Night Fishing(below) in 2011 for $133,000 on an iPhone 4, and even then commented to the Associated Press that the device worked "because it is light and small and because anyone can use it." As Chase Jarvis famously said "the best camera is the one that's with you".


But what does this mean for the film industry when making a film becomes super accessible to the everyman? The Iphone already made nearly everyone on the planet a photographer will it also turn everyone into a feature film director?

Well maybe not for a while. All the films above had a healthy budget to play and a lot of great people behind them. Although some may fear developments in phone cameras may prove to be the death of the film industry, one can hope that phone movies will instead open up the industry, to new people, new stories and new techniques. Considering some of the shit that the biggest studios are churning out nowadays, some more competition will light a fire under their asses.   


Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.