How An Actor Became An Award-Winning Filmmaker

Susan Botello
Jun 15, 2017 · 7 min read

Tech Savvy is not how the winner of our film festival this year refers to himself. It has been a number of years since mobile filmmaking star filmmakers have come to shine their light upon the film industry with their stories told through filmmaking using smartphone mobile cameras. San Diego’s International Mobile Film Festival took place April 28–30, 2017 and brought several filmmakers from countries as far away as Australia to the red carpet event.

One of the attending filmmakers was Aris Tyros from Toronto, Canada. Aris has garnered some fame with his film, How I Became A Movie Theatre Murderer, shot entirely with his iPhone. He took home a trophy with his name engraved as Second Place winner in the sixth annual film festival.

We took a moment to ask Aris some questions soon after the Awards Ceremony and shot his interview with our own iPhone, which is included below. But we then reflected a bit more and decided to interview him in writing to get more in-depth coverage on this successful mobile filmmaker. Aris has also received a nomination for the Global Mobile Film Awards™ taking place online later this year and has been referred to as the “Oscars” of mobile film.

You’ll want to read the entire interview because you may be inspired to shoot a film with your smartphone and join us in San Diego for #MFF2018SanDiego next April.

When asked about the technology on his iPhone to make his film, Aris is fairly upfront about his knowledge and his experience making his movie, “I don’t consider myself extremely tech savvy. When deciding to use the iPhone, part of what was so attractive was how user friendly it was. I didn’t have a lot of experience with DSLRs or higher grade cameras and so having pretty limited setting in terms of ISO and frame rate actually made it a lot less intimidating. Whenever I had to figure something out I’d Google it and there’d be an abundance of answers.” he shared.

One of the things that I have experienced as a mobile film festival founder has been the number of people who realize they have a phone and can make movies with it so they build their stories around using the phone as a camera. During the Q&A Panel during the festival I shared how I believe everyone has stories and ideas for stories are all around us and I would like to push that concept as the priority to making films and then using the smartphone as the camera to bring the story to life as a film. When I asked Aris how the idea for his film came to be, he emphasized that point. It’s inspiring to know that something that happens to us sometimes, which can be overlooked, can turn into an award-winning movie. His idea for a film was unique and genuine, and very entertaining!

“Since the shooting at the Colorado screening of The Dark Knight I would feel uneasy any time I went to watch a movie, always worried something bad was going to happen. Then one time at a cinema with my mom and sister, there was a group of people who kept getting up and leaving and coming back and throwing things across the theatre while the movie was playing. I felt so uncomfortable that I started thinking if this turned into an attack what would I do to save myself and my family. And that’s where the entire premise for the movie came from.”

“I can’t remember who said it but there’s a quote about creating that goes something along the lines of ‘If it doesn’t exist and you believe it should, you have to make it.’ And that’s how I felt about this story. I’d never heard of anything like it. I was also really interested in how fear can drive us to become the thing we are afraid of. I hope it will inspire the audience to ask themselves what they would do if one of these situations arose.”

Aris shared that he was “really excited to make it on a smartphone because that felt a lot more accessible” and he was “able to join a niche community of filmmaking.”

“I used an iPhone 6s. It has a terrific camera, but I do think that I got swept up in the consumerism of having to have the ‘newest’ one. Because the 5s and the 6 are also very good, not to mention the plethora of Android options as well.” And when asked about editing his film, he said, “I used iMovie on a Mac to edit the film, probably clocking in about 20 hours to get a final cut, maybe more. There was only one sequence that I used a filter. It was to bump up the contrast of the footage, during the dream sequence when he’s in the theatre. And that wasn’t because the footage didn’t look good, I just wanted the colouring to look more enhanced as the scene itself was a step above reality.”

Luckily for Aris, one of the prizes was the color grading FilmConvert software, which he can use for his next film.

When it came to lighting Aris said, “We used mostly natural lighting, there was one scene in the theatre that was too dark and so the DOP set up a light just to brighten our faces staring at the screen.”

Lighting the set.

He and his DOP (Director of Photography) had already planned out the lighting a bit, “Giulio and I met up and discussed the best ways to use light in the theatre, but for the most part I didn’t seek a lot of advice. I pretty much just went for what I would want to see on screen. Which in some respects is a reckless shooting style but I also believe that my time spent as an actor on set has ingrained certain techniques and preferences that I don’t even realize I’ve learned.”

We didn’t forget to ask about the other half of the movie, Audio: “We recorded ambient sound the entire time we shot on a Rode NTG-2 shotgun mic attached to another iPhone. But because the majority of the film was voice over I was able to record all my lines in a studio at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (where I was a volunteer audio book narrator).”

Left to right: Giulio Calisse, Aris Tyros, James Soares.

But one thing that is really important, especially when you bring your film to the big screen, is the quality of your footage. And shaky video can deteriorate great shots. Mobile filmmakers get creative and sometimes a shaky shot can fit their story, but if it doesn’t Aris and his friends know how to work around that. “Giulio, our DOP shot most of the handheld gimbal footage. Adam, who drops popcorn at the beginning, I remember shot a scene too. Most of the other scenes, where the camera is not moving, it was just on a tripod. I’d press record and run around to the other side to act.”

On set, Giulio Calisse uses a gimbal that helps stabilize the camera, with Aris Tyros and Ian Geldart.

You may be wondering how long it took to write his story into a movie. You do realize it takes planning to shoot a film and you begin with a screenplay, right? It took Aris about two weeks, he said. But it took about a month after that to turn his screenplay into something he could produce a movie from and, “Yes we needed a shot list. Because we could only afford to rent the theatre for 4 hours and had a lot of scenes to shoot there, so it was imperative that we stuck to our timeline.”

Aris may say he is not tech savvy. However, he is a bit of an adventurer and explorer, and obviously likes to challenge himself. He is working on another project which sounds very interesting. “My collaborators and I are currently in post-production on a Virtual Reality series called Little Death. It was filmed on a GoPro Omni so its even more tech heavy than anything I’ve ever used before. That project sort of materialized out of nowhere but I can see returning to make something using my phone again. I have a couple friends who are interested in doing the same, after seeing the reception How I Became A Movie Theatre Murderer has received.”

IMFF founder Susy Botello, interviewing Aris Tyros with an iPhone following Awards Ceremony #MFF2017SanDiego.

Making an investment in yourself and your career is a form of investment in your brand. Aris shares his motivation.

“I’m an actor and as actors we’re always told by our industry how important it is to create our own work. Not only to get your creative juices flowing but to make connections and to learn the value of becoming accountable for your own art. With the money I made from a Subway® commercial, I decided to finance this project, and I can honestly say it is one of the most worthwhile decisions of my career.”

Below is the video interview we shot with Aris, from #MFF2017SanDiego. Are you inspired to be the next mobile filmmaker to join us in San Diego in 2018?

Movie Trailer: How I Became A Movie Theatre Murderer

Facebook Movie Page

© 2017 S. Botello Productions™. All rights reserved.

Originally published at on June 15, 2017.


Storytelling through film and video with your smartphone.