According to Variety, Magnolia Pictures have acquired the international distribution rights to ‘Tangerine’, a gem of a film which made quite the stir when it made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. However, what’s got people talking isn’t the film’s controversial subject matter (it tells the story of two transgender prostitutes on an ultraviolent, ‘Thelma & Louise’ style mission of revenge), or even the fact that its two lead actresses, Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, are transgender. No, what sets ‘Tangerine’ apart from the other films at Sundance is the fact that it was filmed entirely on the iPhone 5S.
Three phones in total were used to capture all of the necessary footage, combined with a Steadicam and an app called Filmic Pro. While making “an iPhone movie” might seem like little more than a gimmick, director Sean Baker maintains that it was entirely out of necessity; the film had a shoestring budget.
While that might raise concerns over quality, the post-production process was as painstaking as it would be on any other project; Baker and his team amped up the saturation to bring its Los Angeles setting to life, rather than sapping colour as is the fashion in other, similarly gritty crime stories. A review in The Guardian goes so far as to dismiss the iPhone as “inconsequential to the bigger picture”, proving that a multi-million dollar budget and an A-list cast aren’t needed to make a decent movie.
In an industry where transgender performers and stories still struggle to find backing, this low-cost, DIY approach meant that Baker’s film actually got made, instead of languishing on the desk of a producer for years. And while the iPhone novelty angle won’t guarantee the same kind of distribution deal for other filmmakers, it is still a model worth considering – especially for actors and directors looking for that first break.