The barriers to being a great filmmaker are twofold: You need talent, and you need gear. Except now that smartphones are so powerful—in particular, the very souped-up Apple iPhone 12 Pro with Dolby Vision—maybe you just need talent.
Apple's new minute-long spot is a nice little meta ode to improvisational—yet cinematic!—filmmaking. Kim Gehrig directs a bunch of footage of a bunch of directors directing their own bunch of footage, using iPhone 12s tricked out in all kinds of funky rigs, pursuing shots worthy of the silver screen.
Covid isn't a theme here, unlike several recent Apple spots, but it's lurking in the background all the same. (With so many productions still shuttered, we are, after all, shooting most of our stuff on iPhones these days.) It's also not a Halloween spot, though there are a few spooky scenes, including a Shining reference, toward the end.
What it is, is just pure Apple—a frenetic, joyous, aspirational celebration of technology enhancing creativity.
Gehrig's reel has been shockingly good over the past few years. She shot "Viva La Vulva" for Libresse, "Dream Crazier" for Nike, "This Girl Can" for Sport England, "Softest" for Lurpak, "Life Needs Truth" for The New York Times, and "Snap" for Apple's AirPods Pro, among other spots.
Here, she gets to indulge in Hollywood tropes that swing wildly from awe-inspiring to comedic (the team leaf-blowing the tumbleweed, while the camera operator inexplicably achieves a close-up, is a great moment). And while you surely won't capture anything like the shots so elaborately constructed here—Gehrig's or the ones she depicts—well, it's fun to imagine you could (sorry, back to the talent thing again).
Kim did have high-caliber help. Her cinematographer was Linus Sandgren, an Oscar winner for La La Land. Adding further cinematic sheen to the production is Danny Elfman, who wrote the original score and recorded it with a live, socially distanced orchestra at Abbey Road Studios London. So yeah, you probably need more than the iPhone to follow the spot's advice and "Make movies like the movies."
One final note: Almost everyone in the spot is wearing masks. We actually didn't even notice this on first watch. That might say something about where we are with Covid—that it's weirder to see people without masks—but it's probably proof of Gehrig's deft focus on the product throughout.
So, I guess go ahead and buy the iPhone 12 Pro (all the models actually have Dolby Vision, though only the Pro and Pro Max shoot in 60 fps). But then, be sure to sign up for that virtual filmmaking course you've been thinking about since March.
Director: Kim Gehrig, Somesuch Films
Director of Photography: Linus Sandgren
Original Score: Danny Elfman