Mobile phone productions generally fall into two main genres. The uber generation snap chating their instagram likes, zinging out emojis and hearts. The phone is their sentient self; they know nothing else like it. Then there’s a generation of media workers who use mobiles as a substitute camera to shoot film, edit and if it’s time sensitive post to social media news outlets.
In this video below from 1997, I recorded Reuter’s first foray into mobile phone production. It wasn’t a replacement to the status quo, but an addition.
The mobile phone has changed productions, by dint of being on your person, whipped out at a moment’s notice to capture life’s news. And the apps command an education to knit an aesthetic workflow together.
But in truth, the mobile is just another camera. The training you’re likely to receive on it, will have emerged from film camera language. The skillset barrier is incredibly low, learning how to physically edit, or shoot film, whether that’s portrait or landscape. The heavy lifting is in the psychology of film language — a Deleuzian, Haneke, cinema construct which infiltrates your thoughts without you knowing.
When Soderbergh uses the mobile phone for Unsane, don’t misunderstand the knowledge inside him from a life of film. The mobile is performing additional functions e.g. cost savings, turn around.
Nobody likes a naysayer and ‘know-it-all’, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. But in understanding the matrix of mobile phone productions, perhaps we can look to innovations that may constitute newer filmmaking styles.
There is innovation in all forms. Charting the history of cameras, each new form led to style elements that wowed audiences. The mobile’s face-flooding selfie may just about qualify. Mobile intimacy too however emerged years ago. As a cinema journalist — a sibling of videojournalism — I’ve argued how the cinema (video journalist) uses whatever tool she wants to achieve her aims.
Limiting herself to any one form is so flawed — a legacy of the analogue age, as I spoke about on this podcast It’s all in Journalism: Cinematic video journalism shakes up old model of visual storytelling with Michael O’Connell.
Mobile’s ubiquity, certainly amongst businesses was its selling point. As Carolyn Marvin’s book expresses in When Old Technologies were New, at the time the few gather around a tech they frame its use, cottage industries sprout behind it and a new business is formed. Mobile certainly is here to stay, but its naturalness now, amongst a sortie of other gear, renders it as an addition to the genealogy of film making, not an exception per se.
A.I and the next iteration of the web will render obsolescence what we know now and that’s with us now. New businesses are gearing up for the next commercial onslaught.
In Prometheus: Future of Story, taking place at disLAB the University of Westminster we’ll be deconstructing and constructing with the help of award winning pros fresh ways of production.