How To Make A Great Short Film On Your Smartphone


These days anyone can be a filmmaker — we have all the equipment in our pockets. This Thursday 7 July at the Sydney Apple Store, acclaimed director and pocket filmmaker Jason van Genderen will show how to find inspiration in the world around you, and — using the bare minimum of tools — create a film that’s truly your own.

If you can’t make it along to the event itself, here’s some tips to get started on your own.

Image: Supplied

The “Adventures In Pocket Filmmaking” masterclass is supported by SmartFone Flick Fest (SF3), Australia’s only international smartphone film festival for filmmakers of all ages. It provides a platform for budding filmmakers to bring their ideas to life and have their films seen by a global audience, without the need for lots of fancy equipment or a big budget.

SF3 was founded in 2015 by two Sydney based actors Angela Blake and Alison Crew, who wanted to create more opportunities for artists, filmmakers, screen writers. The first year had hundreds of entries from more than 40 countries.

Smartphone filmaking tips

Make the first 30 seconds zing

Think of the begin of your film like a headline or trailer for your idea. If you can capture the audience’s attention in those all-important first 30 seconds, you’ll probably keep them intrigued for the remainder too.

Use AE/AF lock on your iPhone

Your iPhone is a powerful camera and edit tool all-in-one, but to gain a consistently exposed image make sure you use your iPhone’s exposure/focus lock ability by tapping on the part of your picture you want to focus/expose for, then holding until the lock message appears in yellow. The tiny sun on the right gives you ability to then manually over or under-expose the image too, for further fine-tuning.

Angle of view

Your short film should show your story with new eyes… which means position the camera in unusual elevations or locations to surprise your audience. Your iPhone is a small, easy to position tool which can fit in places other larger cameras can’t even come close. When you first envisage the scene, try another three completely differing angles of the same scene before you settle on what you’ll record.

Slow it down

Your iPhone has an amazingly powerful slo-mo video record function, capable of recording in both 120 and 240 frames-per second, that slows your vision down by either 400 per cent or 800 per cent! Using slo-mo can really help embellish emotive scenes or drama, it’s a great tool to stretch time and make a scene look surreal.

If you’re filming something without audio narrative, try filming at normal speed and then slo-mo, and see which impresses you most.

Shot orientation

Make sure that you are shooting in the correct orientation. A lot of people will shoot automatically in portrait mode but remember that because we usually watch films in widescreen or horizontal format on TVs, computers, tablets and phones we want to shoot in landscape mode. So hold your device on its side.


Good sound is absolutely key to creating a professional film. There is a wide array of external microphones available for smartphones and tablets

Hold your camera steady

Nothing will ruin the look of your film more than un-intentioned camera shake. Handheld shooting is cheap and easy, so if you are shooting in this way remember to bend your elbows in to your body and hold the device with both hands. This steadies the camera and will eliminate the camera shake that often happens when the device is held out in front with straight arms.

The other option is to look into a tripod, or get creative and build your own. You can also have fun with using something like skateboard for a pan shot.

Framing and composition

Where do you want the audience’s focus? Use interesting ways to frame each shot, guiding the audience’s attention to where you want it to be. You can do this with camera focus, the use of scenery and shapes, props and lighting effects.

The big rule here is; don’t always go for the obvious shot. Play around with the composition and don’t always place your subject in the middle of the shot. We recommend StoryBoard Quick app, it is the best way to organise and plan your shots and shoot the best quality film you can.

Editing apps

These days an expensive editing suite is totally unnecessary for cutting together professional films. There are literally hundreds of apps for phones and tablets that will help you to edit your creations on the go.

Splice, Free

This app allows you to create videos and slideshows with no length limits including free filters, songs, sound effects, text overlays, transitions and precise editing tools.

8mm Vintage Camera, Free

Used by director Malik Bendjelloul in his Oscar-winning film Searching for Sugar Man, allowing to capture beauty and magic of old-school vintage movies with dust and scratch effects, retro colors, flickering, light leaks and even frame shakes.

Cinamatic, $4.99

Record multiple clips, add a soundtrack, merge clips, rearrange segments and choose from a stack of cool filters to make your mini movie.

Nutshell Camera, Free

Want to make it short and sweet? Just snap photos, add some fun cartoons and captions, and then turn it all into a shareable mini-movie.


iMovie lets you shoot video, add music and text as well as a bunch of effects. You can even add pre-filmed videos from your photo library.

From all the eligible entries, ten films will be selected to screen in the SF3 Top Ten Finals Awards Night, held at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington, Sydney on Friday August 26, 2016. You can find out more info about the festival here, and register for the “Adventures In Pocket Filmmaking” masterclass here.