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The rise of the mobile phone camera is one of the 21st century’s most astounding tech success stories. The first camera phone was produced in 1997. By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras. Five years later, Nokia overtook Kodak to become the world’s biggest manufacturer of cameras. The result of this hasn’t just been an explosion in photography, but in videoing and filmmaking, too. One organization that’s made the most of the rise of mobile phone cinematography is the World Film Collective (WFC).

A filmmakers’ world

World Film Collective, brainchild of filmmaker Alice Bragg, has for the last five years taught young people, with limited access to employment, education or training, the craft of mobile phone movie making. To find out how to make a great mobile movie, we asked some of their filmmakers to share their top tips. Here’s what they had to say.

Manez Sobetwa


1. Take time to get to know your mobile device so you can take full advantage of its features and abilities to get the best shots. It’s a lot easier to find ways of improvising and overcoming its shortfalls.

2. The sunlight is your best friend. When shooting outside make sure you take full advantage of natural light. Keep the light behind your camera and on the subject’s face.

3. Focus on close ups. Learn about the 5-shot sequence, which is made up of mostly close up shots and clearly demonstrates action in your scenario.

Simi Kalimashe


4. Learn to improvise. For example, we sometimes make a tripod using prastick / Blue-tak. It gives you nice framing and a very solid steady shot.

5. If you want a ground view shot, take a sock and put sand or sea salt inside. Tie the sock and put it on the ground. Place your phone on top of the sock and you get a great shot of people walking.

6. For a steady close up, put the camera person inside a shopping trolley.

Layla Swart


7. Make sure that you structure film around the cellphone – often filmmakers wish to make cellphone films look as if they were shot on a normal camera – but rather than pretending, use the cellphone to its fullest. Cellphone being small and light, there are shots you could achieve with it that you couldn’t with a normal camera. Use this to your advantage!

8. Imagine the edit of the film in your head as you prepare your shots. Make a note of what shot leads into the next so that you can be sure it will cut together.

9. Avoid too many long travelling shots without sufficient space to cut if need be. For example if you are following a character, be sure to shoot other things alongside – such as a person walking by – or a sign on the wall. These breakaways give you an opportunity to cut, should you need to, and also make the observational quality of cellphone filmmaking even more intriguing to a viewer.

Ntombi Xaba


10. When shooting at night make sure you have sufficient light and sound so that the picture can be clear.

11. It’s difficult to hold a cellphone camera still, so you either need to have a very steady hand or use a tripod.

12. When shooting with cellphones that don’t have flash lighting look out for lights in your environment. House lights, for example, can give a very clear and crisp feel.

Some fantastic practical tips and tricks from people who learned to make films on mobile phones. If you want to put their words of wisdom into action, why not enter our Nokia Music Short Film Competition? Launched in association with Sundance London, the brief is simple: To showcase the amazing, the unusual and the unknown music happening underground around the world.

Let’s face the music and film


Filmmakers need to simply upload a short 15 to 60 secs video trailer by March 21st visualizing the underground music scene in their chosen city. Think of this trailer as an audition, which showcases your concept. If your idea is chosen, you’ll receive two Nokia Lumia 920s and a $5,000 budget to shoot your film. What’s more, both films are guaranteed a special screening at the Sundance London Film & Music Festival (2013) in April, and one lucky grand prizewinner will walk away with $5,000 and a Nokia Lumia 920.

Up for the mobile movie making challenge? Then why not get your camera rolling – there are cool things to be filmed out there, right now.