Hollywood has its fair share of cutting-edge directors but none have ever attempted to shoot a feature length film on a smartphone, until now.
Olive, a film about a “little girl who transforms the lives of three people without speaking one word,” was made entirely on the director’s Nokia N8. Behind the scenes footage on the film’s website shows it was made by a cell phone taped to a set of 35mm film lenses.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Khalili described having to turn off the auto-zoom and auto-focus features to achieve his aesthetic vision for the film. “The camera thinks it knows what you want to focus on,” he said. “But it doesn’t know.”
David Shaw, vice president of software development for Proximus Mobility, said the Nokia N8 is the ideal device for movie making: “It has arguably the best camera…[and] both the smallest and largest stop motion videos ever created.” According to interactive design specialist, Brett Circe, the phone's lightweight frame enabled the director to achieve new perspectives and angles that are never-before-seen by audiences.
And the indie movie cost less than $500,000 to make, a paltry sum by Hollywood standards. Backing was received from Silicon Valley tech tycoons; Chris Kelly, former chief privacy officer at Facebook is an executive producer, and in a surprising turn, another Facebooker, Randi Zuckerberg plays a bit part.
The star-studded cast (including two-time Academy Award nominee Gena Rowland) has generated buzz around the Dec. 16 debut in Los Angeles.
Olive may be a trailblazer in more ways than one. Director Hoomnan Khalili hopes it will be the first film made on a smartphone and the first independently financed feature to be shown at over two thousand theaters in the United States. Khalili announced plans to submit Olive for Oscar consideration.
But experts say the novelty factor is not enough and studios will need to assess whether the film is good enough to fill seats. Jerome Courshon, author of the Secrets to Distribution said no one can put this movie in theaters on a shoestring budget. Advertising and promotion alone would be a multimillion dollar investment for the leading studios.
Philip Garrett, lecturer at the Ohio State University Department of Theater, said that at the very least, the film's release will ensure that the smartphone is recognized in “the list of filmmaking tools and technologies.” In an age where anyone can make a video on their mobile phone, Olive may inspire new developments in citizen filmmaking.
“The idea of a mobile phone becoming a way for younger generations to express their creativity...is encouraging. I hope to see more of it,” said Tara Zanecki, LA-based mobile video marketing executive at Mogreet.
“I think it was only a matter of time before someone did this. The barriers to becoming a filmmaker fell away with the digital revolution,” Courshon added. This kind of filmmaking "is here, and here to stay.”