Mobile Filmmaking Goes Geographic!

Jeremy Nolen is traveling throughout Central and South America making films using his iPhone and shooting in 4k. His videos are eye-catching montages of his adventures. Some of them however, they are more of a narrative style.

As he found our film festival online, we realized he was from San Diego. I got to speak with Jeremy over the Facebook phone feature which was about as decent as any other phone call with a mobile phone or Skype, and found him pretty intriguing with regards to how he makes his films.

He is currently in post production of an apocalyptic horror suspense film which he is using his iPhone to shoot. His crew is himself and his wife. MFF2016 in San Diego will screen his film during our festival in a special presentation which includes collaborators and filmmakers who are not a part of the competition to inspire more people in and outside of the film industry to make films and videos using their mobile phones.

His videos look like the films you find from geographic television shows so I was pretty impressed at how he shoots himself too. In the regions he travels to there are not many options to find an Apple store or any other store where he can find gear and accessories for making films with his phone. So what do most filmmakers do when the budget is tight or when the gear is not accessible? They improvise. Filmmakers are pretty adapt at rigging their own gear and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

In order to best share his story with you, we interviewed him so he can tell you in his own words how he does it.

SBP: Before we begin, what phone do you have and use?

Jeremy: I have both the iPhone 4s and the iPhone 6s Plus. I use the iPhone 6 because of its 4K video quality.

SBP: Please share how you came about the decision to use your phone to make films and videos and your experience with your first project.

Jeremy: Well, traveling all over the place I would have to sacrifice clothes and other pieces of luggage to make room for heavy camera equipment. In Costa Rica I remember lugging my huge camera, massive tripod, a back-pack full of water, and umbrella around on a 15 mile hike. When I got back to my hotel I saw a guy taking film with his phone. That’s when I thought of how easy it would be to just use my phone. It didn’t take long before I sold all of my heavy camera equipment and started traveling with just my phone.

SBP: How has your approach changed from that first project and was it due to much practice and testing?

Jeremy: My shooting approach has morphed from my early days making nature and travel videos to today taking a more short film approach. I wanted to really test myself and see how entertaining I could make it.

SBP: When it comes to mobile filmmaking gear, what do you have and what have you done to bypass the necessity for gear you don’t have at hand or available to you?

Jeremy: I only have 550 Parachord, and an iPhone. I am constantly rigging my phone to rocks, bottles, vases, anything heavy to reduce camera shake. I rig the iPhone everywhere just using the 550 Parachord. I even took a dinner plate once and tied the iPhone to the plate, and then rigged it in a tree branch to get the perfect shot. I left the house that day with the iPhone, parachord, and a dinner plate.

SBP: Do you use any apps to record your video? If so, can you share them with our readers?

Jeremy: I use the ProCam 3 app to record video. It gives you a ton of full manual controls. I can manipulate and lock in the focus, exposure, white balance, and stabilization mode.

SBP: At the end of the day, what do you use to edit your footage? Do you need to do any retouching or use anything to correct color or add special effects?

Jeremy: I use the latest version of Final Cut Pro X, and Photoshop. I am constantly color-correcting, adding effects, and altering the audio.

SBP: The other half of the “picture” in film is sound. How do you normally capture sound for your videos? Explain how you capture sound and how you output sound into your videos, please?

Jeremy: I capture all the sound with the iPhones’s built in microphone. I do not have an external mic. I am always looking for the room-tone of my environment first. Then, I start filming. I’ll sit at the beach away from people recording just the waves. Then I’ll start shooting all of my beach shots. In the end, I change and/or match up all the audio in Final Cut.


SBP: One film which you made was actually a commercial made as a short film. Can you explain how you came about your concept for a narrative short film commercial?

Jeremy: I wanted to shoot something at one small beach town I was at, but I didn’t have any actors, no money to hire actors, so I decided that I would be the actor. The strongest idea that came to my head was to make a film about a guy who had too many beers and wakes up on some beach the next day. I wanted to initially have the film start off with a plane crash, and I wash up ashore. I don’t have a plane so I had to just buy the beer instead.

SBP: When you are the protagonist in your films and videos, how do you pull that off? Is it always shot by someone else or are you essentially shooting a selfie without holding your phone?

Jeremy: Half the time I rig the iPhone to something, or set it on a towel. I love the solid tripod style shots. But when I need anything else, my wife holds the phone and shoots for me. She enjoys it. She used to work at a television studio, so she’s a little familiar with video.

SBP: Can you share some of the downsides to using a phone which you hope manufacturers of smartphones can implement in their next smartphone updates?

Jeremy: My biggest issue is that you cannot zoom… ever. If you zoom, your video quality goes down really fast and really bad. You can start in a 2160p no-zoom shot, then start zooming in, before you know it your shot is all zoomed in, and it’s in a 240p quality. So, I wish I could zoom and not lose video quality.


SBP: We know you plan to attend MFF2016 and share your latest film with attendees. Please share a little about this film and some of the unique elements that went into making your film using a mobile phone as a camera, location challenges and anything else you’d like to share.

Jeremy: My latest film is a suspenseful apocalyptic horror film. It takes place in Ecuador. The object in the film that causes all of the terror is a replica of an Inca treasure, so I knew I had to film in an exotic location to keep the feel. The biggest challenge filming in Ecuador is the city is very loud at all hours of the day and night. My room-tone was full of traffic, dogs barking, etc. etc. Another challenge to filming in Ecuador is walking away from your iPhone while it’s recording. Anybody could run up and steal it. So, I had to keep an eye out all the time. For the most part it’s safe.


We look forward to meeting Jeremy in person during MFF2016 in San Diego. Below is a trailer of his film, “Unearthed.” Follow Jeremy in his adventures by subscribing to his YouTube Channel.

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