The world’s first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was first shown more than a hundred years ago in 1906. Movies have come a long way since the Australian flick wowed audiences in Melbourne. But that doesn’t mean we’re not still being blown away by world firsts
One that’s got a ton of critical acclaim in the last few months is the world’s first smartphone feature film, Olive. To find out more about this beautiful story, we hooked up with its co-directors, Hooman Khalili and Pat Gilles. Here’s what they had to say.
Your background is in morning radio. What made you want to direct a feature film and how hard was the transition?
I’ve been part of the Sarah and Vinnie show on Alice Radio – the #1 morning show in the San Francisco Bay Area for 13 years. During that time I’ve been a phone screener and a celebrity interviewer, but I started off as the movie critic. On average I see between 100-200 films a year. I’ve learned a lot and it has always been my dream to make a film.
Yes, the transition is incredibly difficult. Not only did my co-director Pat Gilles have to figure out how the Nokia N8 works, but we had to modify the cell phone, raise all the money from independent financiers and shoot an entire film by ourselves. We both also had day jobs. We are now responsible for raising awareness for the film, which is a daunting task to say the least. But stay tuned… we are about to announce something huge!
Making is a movie is tough enough anyway, so what made you decide to do one with a smartphone, and why the Nokia N8? What were the biggest benefits and the biggest challenges?
We chose the Nokia N8 because it was the only HD phone available at the time. Biggest benefit was the 12 megapixel sensor. The greatest challenge was the lack of optical control. Auto white balance, iris and focus were a big problem. We opted to shoot on a phone, because the technology was there, but no one had done it yet.
How did the people you approached to work with you on the movie react when you told them you wanted to make it with a phone?
The investors loved the idea. Chris Kelly (of Facebook fame) and Bill O’Keeffe understood what a game changer this film could be. They understood that if we were able to pull it off (which we were) we would get a tremendous amount of press and eyeballs. The actors – Gena Rowlands, John Scurti and Christopher Maher –only really cared about the script. The crew, including the casting director Robin Lippin, loved the idea and were excited to be a part of film history.
What drew you to this particular script and how do you think the story of Olive benefited from being filmed this way?
We wrote the original screenplay to suit the production. Three separate stories would have given more options for editing had the camera not performed as well as we hoped. As it turned out, the camera held up nicely.
Olive launched in December. How’s the response been from audiences and critics? Do you think they expect more or less because of the way it’s been filmed?
The former Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, loved Olive and wrote about it in the San Francisco Chronicle. In fact, everyone who has seen the film has been totally blown away by how beautiful the movie looks. In my opinion it seemed as if most people were expecting less because we shot it on a cell phone, but the optics of the N8 are second to none. It was that and my co-director Pat’s ingenuity that produced such a mesmerizing film.
What are your future film making plans? And how do you see the future of mobile phone films in general?
I am working on a new script and looking for someone to help me co-write it. Once it’s written I can shoot the film in 20 days. As for the future of mobile phone films, it’s guaranteed. If a cell phone manufacturer will nurture this medium, then things will happen relatively quickly – if not, it may take 4 to 5 years to catch on. Cell phone manufacturers need to look at this as a brilliant marketing tool for their phones.
Olive’s a great film, but are you as optimistic as Hooman and Pat about the future of mobile phone films? As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this new genre either here or @Nokia_Connects.