Zhang Meng – Lunar New Year (iPhone Cinema).

Yet another excellent short film from Apple made to showcase the iPhone.

Show of hands, who knew that Apple had been commissioning films for Lunar New Year for the past five years? It wasn’t just me? Great. Moving on.

Last week I discovered a new film, shot on iPhones, made to celebrate the Lunar New Year. You may recall I gushed over Lulu Wang’s film, Nian, which was also made on iPhones to celebrate the Lunar New Year. This is neat.

I really enjoyed this film despite being a bit put off by the beginning. It is big and fancy and not what I was expecting. Turns out, that was the point. Stick with it.

I love this kind of film. It has a simple story told in a heartfelt manner. I’m sure this why I like the Nian so much, these are just my kind of movies.

I also love seeing the videos that show how these films were made. There is a lot of ingenuity and creativity in their filmmaking process. Simple solutions to get interesting shots. I am posting both videos below – enjoy!

YouTube and Me

A new plan for making short videos.

In an effort to be more productive and stop skulking around the house I’ve decided to start making short films and upload them on YouTube. As a result I will be posting here about that process and linking the videos. What. A. Treat.

This past week the company Moment uploaded a review of the new Sony A1 camera. The review was made by the filmmaker Joshua Martin . He’s made a number of videos for Moment this past year and I’ve enjoyed his laid-back style. He started this review with a cinematic short film to demonstrate what the A1 is capable of. I enjoyed that greatly as most reviews are just a person sitting and talking at the camera.

I enjoyed the short so much that I stopped the video when that ended and found myself thinking about how I would like to make a similar video and the proceeded to daydream about what I would do for quite some time. The following day I had time to myself so I went out and shot two hours worth of footage and make my own version.

Once I had everything ingested into my computer I went through the footage and saw all the mistakes I had made. I shot near noon, which is never a good idea, but it was a sunny day. For portions of the video I was shooting handheld and moving the camera in front of my face and body. Shadows of the camera and mic kept playing on my face and chest, ruining the shots. There were a number of other mistakes I had made, forgotten shots, things being out of focus and it became obvious that I would have to reshoot most of the footage.

I spent the night brooding on this and thinking of how to improve the story I was telling while also adding new elements and not making mistakes. A number of firsts came out of this process, like making a shot list and mounting my gimbal onto a tripod for shots in my car and I am pleased with the results.

Did I get it all right? Not even close. I still forgot shots, misunderstood the placement of my camera and shot at a terrible time of day in unflattering light. As tempted as I was to redo everything again I didn’t, I worked with the footage and came up with what I think is a decent video. It’s not perfect but it’s done.

So this is part of my new plan, I hope to write more here that isn’t just about cameras or plugging my videos – in addition to making videos on a regular basis for YouTube. There is more certainly a stigma attached to doing such things and interestingly I am finding freedom in this particular act of self-publishing. There is an audience, not cost to the creator and absolute unchecked creativity in what is possible. It’s kind of amazing.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Lulu Wang – The Nian (iPhone Cinema)

A quick post about Lulu Wang’s new film, Nian.

Yep, you heard right. Another iPhone post. It feels silly. I know other companies are making phones that do incredible things. I’ve never used them though and honestly in my circle of knowledge (aww, how cute) they never appear. If anyone wants to send some short films (or features) made with smartphones my way I’d be interested in seeing what people are doing.

I’m not a person who is devoted to any particular brand or product line, so repeatedly coming back to these devices feels strange to me. You can’t deny the quality of what people are doing with iPhones and the ingenuity they implement in their productions. So, what am I talking about?

I’m talking about the new short film, Nian, made by none other than Lulu Wang. It was released less than a day ago so the information I am able to find about the film and its production is scarce. What I do know – this is a great film. I’ve seen it twice already, first by myself and then I dragged my wife into the room to watch it with me. I plan on doing the same when my kids get home from school today.

Here it is –

So ignoring all technical aspects, I think this is a great film. The feeling to it, the way it is told, the overall message – I really like it. There was several moments when I was watching where I thought, “Oh that’s funny,” only to then have the moment or shot immerse me back into the story. It was an interesting push and pull that I do not typically experience watching a film.

Examples of this? The first was the dishwashing sequence. I’ve seen a few people do similar shots to this and I don’t mean to say it feels gimmicky (to immerse the camera in the sink) but it never felt necessary. A good example of a video with these kinds of shots would be this –

Obviously Josh Yeo used an Osmo Action but the idea is the same

Josh Yeo’s video was made to show the possibilities of what you can do with such a small camera and I think, despite possibly implying otherwise, it’s great. He does shot after shot demonstrating the possibilities which is the purpose of his video, whereas Nian is short narrative film that incorporates some innovated camera moves/placements to tell its story (both are good, just trying to be clear here).

The second example would be when Ah Ting and The Nian are rolling down the hill together. At first the rotating camera pulled me completely out of the story but then her face pulled me back in and I felt her joy as she tumbled with her friend. It’s a pretty special moment and seeing the behind the scenes video of how they achieved this shot is fantastic and helpful.

The other impressive (amazing?) aspect of this film would be the low light performance of the phone. As someone who has shot in all kinds of conditions, usually without lights, starting with an iPhone 5 I can attest to the limitations of smartphones when it comes to low light situations. Several moments in this film, whether in the home or the cave or the fireworks scene are impressive for how well the camera handles the lack of light. I’m actually waiting until the sun sets today to watch the film again in my living room as the daylight coming in maybe the viewing experience less than it should have been.

My only complaint about this behind the scenes video is that it is far too short. Give me more! Give me everything! I wish they had covered more about how the production was handled (Ms. Wang being in the U.S. while filming took place in China), more specifics on how they set up and used the camera and their post production workflow.

All in all this is yet another great example of how far the technology has progressed and what is possible with these tiny devices. It’s inspiring and I feel one of the filmmakers interviewed said it best when she said that the iPhone allows a person to do more by themselves. That is certainly a benefit in these times where in order to make something you need to keep the number of people involved to a minimum.

The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival 2016

A brief account of the 2016 MIddlebury New Filmmakers Festival I wrote for the Vermont Media Alliance.

This past August I was lucky enough to attend the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. I was only able to attend a handful of screenings yet the experience felt rich and full. Although I am from Vermont prior to this visit I had spent very little time in Middlebury. I was pleased to find that in addition to wonderful film screenings and events the town offers many other attractions for visitors.

I was there on Friday, August 26th and my first screening was at the Town Hall Theater. The 10:30 screening had two short films listed, Clean and Bloom of Youth as well as one feature length film, Girl Asleep. They had a last minute addition that did not make the program, a short documentary called Pickle.


The films were introduced by festival Artistic Director and Vermont filmmaker Jay Craven, who provided the audience with some insight as to why the films were chosen and being shown together.

The screening was quite full despite being early in the day and the audience was receptive to the films shown. Clean and Bloom of Youth are serious works of fiction and the reactions from my fellow audience members conveyed how immersive they are as films. Pickle was by far the crowd favorite, a film about a couple and the numerous atypical pets they have owned and loved over the years.

Although I was not able to stay for Girl Asleep I was able to sample one of the great offerings of the festival, the ease of connecting with other attendees. Looking for lunch at Otter Creek Bakery I encountered several other festival goers and was treated to an impromptu meet-and-greet with Vermont filmmakers and festival attendees.


After lunch we made our way to a 1:30 screening at Dana Auditorium. Two short films, Whisper and Black Canaries, were shown before the feature Krisha. Once again the films were introduced and the audience was provided with some interesting tidbits before the show began.

It was a hot day on the 26th and aside from finding respite in the cool and comfortable auditoriums for film screenings I found myself, like many festival attendees, flocking to the numerous shops in downtown Middlebury. There was an easy, relaxed feeling to the day despite a packed schedule of screenings and events which made for great conversation and wonderful viewings.


The quality of the films shown at MNFF, especially when you consider this was only their second year, was truly impressive. I regret that I was only able to attend for one day but the films I was able to see have stuck with me as did the overall experience.

Events like these are what make living in Vermont so special and rewarding. To be able to connect with people from all walks of life, to discuss film and art in beautiful and comfortable surroundings is what makes living and working here so unique. I look forward to next year’s festival and its many offerings.

Internet Discoveries – Matthew Frost

I went exploring today and found an interesting filmmaker.


Today in my Internet wanderings I became aware of Matthew Frost. His IMDB bio says, “Matthew Frost is a British American writer director who grew up in France.” I found his Vimeo page and watched a number of the short films he has posted there.

My favorite (so far) is with Jessica Chastain. I am posting it below.

From what I’ve seen most of these films are similar in that they are mocking or deconstructing the traditional advertisements or commercials they are portraying. It’s fun, they’re short, you should take a look.

For good measure I am posting the video with Kate Winslet. Why? Because it’s Kate Winslet and I adore her work (Triple 9 is going to get the See it Again treatment, mark my words!).

If you’d like to read something about Mr. Frost and his work this is an in-depth interview from 2015 – https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/matthew-frost-interview


The Lonely Lamp

We all need love. Maybe even the lamps.

It’s a bit of an inside joke but I made a short film about a lamp that is lonely. So often I find myself looking at inanimate objects and trying to think if I can tell a story with them.

This is undoubtedly because I am home with my kids and my mind wanders at times but still, sometimes it produces results I like.

That being said, I’d like to meet some film people and work with actors (the kind that are alive).

It’s short take a look if you will.

A Guide to Productive Adulthood

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 1.13.10 PM

Eleven years ago I bought a brand new camera for more money than I had and set out to make some movies. Inspired by companies like InDigEnt and films like Pieces of April and November I was certain I was on my way.

Sadly I was wrong. Poor me.

Anyway, after setting up a project and arriving at my parents house to make a movie with friends – I found myself with no friends and no movie to make. So I shuffled about the house for a few days with a bunch of camera equipment. I started filming things. Then myself. Then myself doing things.

I had quite a bit of fun and laughed (alone, which is either a healthy thing or unhealthy, I am not certain). Eight moves and a lot of boxes later I found myself going through the old DV tapes not long ago wondering what was on them. Lo and behold I found this footage (and quite a bit of other footage that I am sure will surface some day – why not share?).

Below is the fruit of my labors when I was licking my wounds and trying to figure out why I spent so much money on camera gear. If only that wasn’t a pattern!

I hope you enjoy it. The quality isn’t what I’d like because the camera is now outdated and I knew even less than I do now.