COMA | A Short Film.

Making a movie on an iPhone. 


I made this short film with my iPhone.

For many reasons I made it on an iPhone, but mainly because I thought I should. At least once, try to.

Not too long ago the holy grail in independent filmmaking was 1080p HD at 24 frames per second and after a trip to New York and returning home a few grand lighter, I had built a camera kit that would attain just that. The beloved 1080p HD image. That kit has served me well and still does to this day but technology has had a renaissance in the six years I've owned this kit (which included a HD Camcorder with a Depth of Field adapter to allow me to attach 35mm Lenses to it) involving stills cameras evolving into video cameras and digital cinema exploding to 4K and beyond.

Yet every Tom, Dick & Harry is now walking around with a 1080p HD recording device in their arse pocket. The iPhone.


Setting up a shot for COMA


After I wrote COMA, it was shortlisted in a competition run by The London Screenwriters Festival in London. It ultimately didn't make the final, but I was very fond of the short script as it was based on a personal story.

I didn't want to see if left unmade and thought, if this is going to be made when I don't have any money to make it, I'm going to have to think of a way to do that. I didn’t have to look further than my arse pocket.

I downloaded an app called Filmic Pro and shot some test footage.

iPhone test footage

With an Olloclip attached I ventured out to my back garden, shot some footage and was pretty happy with the result. Not the average looking footage in the world, but good enough to make a short film with I thought.

Chris Aylmer and myself, behind the scenes making COMA

As for gear, I had plenty of bits in my arsenal, but nothing really specific for an iPhone. I purchased a Glif, well a fake one from ebay and conducted a couple of more experiments. Not great. Then I discovered the SmartPhocus case. I won't go into the story of how purchasing a $30 iPhone case from the states would end up with me being threatened with legal action, as its all sorted out now & water under the bridge. But I'm not in a hurry ordering boutique specialist gear from the US again.

Anyway, the main reason I purchased the SmartPhocus case was for its 37mm lens attachment thread. The same thread as my Letus 35 DOF adapter.

View through the iPhone with Letus 35 adapter

As you can see from the image the zoomable distance between the iPhone lens and the ground glass was pretty far. Not having an optical zoom on the iPhone the image degraded quite quickly as I aligned with the ground glass. I was not going to use 35mm glass with the iPhone as I had hoped to despite experimenting with macro attachments.

Back on ebay, I ordered a couple of cheap 37mm attachments from Hong Kong and let that be the end of it.

I knew I was going to be restricted shooting Coma as a result. I would not be able to pull focus or have any control of the aperture. I resigned to the fact that no matter how good Filmic Pro was, I would have to do a lot of post processing to achieve the look I was going for. Also, I was limited to what the iPhone 4s could achieve also.

All in all, I'm pretty proud of what I made. Chris Aylmer gave a great muted performance playing the father, Jonah Shinbach, who usually works in audio gave his debut on-screen performance as the boss and my son Ike played the boy.

Nils Frahm and his record company Erased Tapes were extremely helpful in licensing the music to me. I heard the piece soon after I had written the script and thought, thats the music for Coma and I can't imagine the film without it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, please let me know below.

Thanks — Ian

COMA online on Vimeo