May 8, 2015

Watch the Red Band Trailer for 'Tangerine', the Sundance Hit Filmed on an iPhone 5s

[Warning: The following trailer is NSFW.]

Who can forget the incredible film that blew Sundance away this year? Tangerine, directed by Sean Baker, had everybody buzzing at the festival not only because of its original, raw story about two transgender women running around L.A. on Christmas Eve, but also because it was shot entirely on an iPhone 5s.

Back in January, the filmmakers hadn't released a trailer (or much more than a vague synopsis for that matter), but Magnolia uploaded the film's first red band trailer, which gives us a peek inside the world of Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), two transgender women who are on a mission to find where a cheating pimp is hiding in L.A.

The trailer reveals to us what the audiences at Sundance must've seen when they viewed it first-hand: an engrossingly funny and uniquely piercing narrative. But it also lets us see with out own eyes how DP Radium Cheung and Sean Baker managed to capture such incredible images using a smartphone, a 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter from Moondog Labs, and the FiLMiC Pro app. It puts to bed, once and for all, the assumption that feature films cannot be made with inexpensive, everyday cameras, like the ones you keep in your pocket, or the ones you bought at a flea market for $50. 

Tangerine has proven a lot by just existing, but the two most important things:

  1. A film about a marginalized and often ridiculed community can be successful.
  2. Filmmaking is indeed for everyone.

Tangerine is set for release on July 10.      

Your Comment

44 Comments

"It puts to bed, once and for all, the assumption that feature films cannot be made with inexpensive, everyday cameras"

Im sorry but the iphone is still nothing compared to proffesional cameras. Theres a reason people pay good money for cameras and lenses.

May 8, 2015 at 2:37PM, Edited May 8, 2:37PM

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COYCO
Director of Photography
229

I would rather watch a film with strong direction, good acting, and good script shot on a iPhone than a mediocre film shot in a professional camera. Films should be all about storytelling and not about gear.

May 8, 2015 at 6:04PM

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Detzey
157

I couldn't agree more.

May 8, 2015 at 11:23PM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
307

I think this highlights that having a good sound person and a great editor will definitely improve your product.

(As would best of any department).

May 9, 2015 at 6:20AM

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Emre Tufekci
Director
242

I would rather watch a film with strong direction, good acting, and good script shot on a professional camera than a film with strong direction, good acting, and a good script that looks like crap because it was shot on an iPhone. You can have the best writers, directors, and actors in the world, and it will all go to waste if the images don't look good.

Gear matters. Yes, writing matters. Yes, acting matters. Yes, directing matters. But at the end of the day, gear still matters.

May 9, 2015 at 11:05AM

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Judging from the trailer, at least, this does look good, though.

May 14, 2015 at 4:12PM

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Ryan Paige
Writer
225

interesting.

May 8, 2015 at 2:48PM

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Ok, to be honest. Just a pure honest saying: It looks like shit.
I expected it to look better.

May 8, 2015 at 11:22PM, Edited May 8, 11:23PM

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I certainly am not arguing the images looks "good," right away you can see the limits of color grading the 50mb/s codec, the whole film appears to be shot with a 20mm lens, and the staccato effect from the uncontrolled shutter gives away a cheap video source.

That said, this movie looks like fun. If the reviews (& trailer) are to be believed, the film is gonna be in-your-face, garish, and real. These particular images perfectly compliments that vibe.

May 9, 2015 at 4:10AM, Edited May 9, 4:24AM

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Really? It was shot on a phone. I don't think the filmmakers are claiming this movie looks great, but that it doesn't matter because it works. Resolution has nothing to do with storytelling -it's nice to be reminded of that once in a while.

May 9, 2015 at 2:07PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1205

I'm obviously losing my mind because I thought it looked better than shit, for sure.

May 14, 2015 at 4:12PM

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Ryan Paige
Writer
225

For all of you that post a negative comment about the film, please include how many of your films have won awards/recognition at Sundance (or other prestigious festivals) and/or have been distributed. Not how many commercials or features or shorts you've been associated with, but specifically how many of the films you've written, directed, or especially shot received such accolades.

This will give your comments credibility. Otherwise you have absolutely no ground to stand on.

May 8, 2015 at 11:59PM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
307

So only people who are in the industry or have more accolades can negatively critique the film- while probably every positive critique will be accepted with open arms? Bullshit. Get off your high-horse, snob.

May 9, 2015 at 1:53AM

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Vincent Gortho
none
763

Vincent, I think you missed the point of my post. It was aimed at people who completely write off a film like Tangerine - who consider it bad craft - strictly because it was filmed on an iPhone.

May 9, 2015 at 7:19AM, Edited May 9, 7:19AM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
307

I'm sorry Deeder, I'm pretty sure your argument is flawed.

Are you saying I can't judge a song on the radio unless I also have a song on the radio? Are you saying I can't judge my dinner unless I am a chef? Just because I don't work in a restaurant doesn't mean I can't decide if the meal looks appetizing and tastes good.

On the flip side, if Roger Deakins tells you this trailer looks like bad, does that mean you are obligated to agree with him? Because he is one of the best cinematographers working today, and his comments have "credibility" and he "absolutely has ground to stand on," do his feelings make your opinion wrong?

Regardless, I see why you might want that (flawed) opinion. It means the films that you've made can only be judged by filmmakers who have achieved the same level of notoriety as you. That's a nice worldview, that general audiences opinions don't matter. I wonder when people tell you they liked (or disliked) your movies, do you ask them if they have ever made a movie to decide if their opinion is of value?

May 9, 2015 at 3:45AM, Edited May 9, 3:50AM

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What Drew said...........

May 9, 2015 at 6:22AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
592

No - and several of your points are well made - especially the last one about people giving opinions on my work.

What frustrates me is the general attitude I've heard from some people that films made with phone cameras or DSLRs are, by their very nature, flawed and regardless of their success will always be lesser works.

May 9, 2015 at 7:40AM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
307

I'm with you on this one. 99% of people on here think they know everything about filmmaking and could do it better themselves, when in truth, very few can actually put out something professional. I thought the quality of the trailer was great, iPhone or no iPhone. I was actually very very impressed. I would have never guessed they filmed it with a phone, its incredible. Movie looks terrible but congrats to them for the success and for getting picked up by such a large distributor. Further proof that gear isn't #1, but it sure is fun ;)

May 9, 2015 at 2:06PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
710

Now THAT I'll agree with 1000% - fancy gear is totally fun!

May 9, 2015 at 6:34PM

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Deeder Murray-Holmes
Producer
307

Well check me up on IMDB though guy. Where are you? What have you done?

May 9, 2015 at 9:41AM

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Give us your real name and not one of a famous actor (ehhem Mike Vogel) and we'd be happy to look you up.

May 9, 2015 at 1:54PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
710

Is there another Mike Vogel or are you calming to be Barbie?

May 9, 2015 at 2:16PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1205

haha

May 11, 2015 at 8:47AM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1001

Who needs a Alexia or a Red. Who needs Zeiss or Cooke lenses when I can shoot a feature on an I -phone? YES........it's all about the story.......but..........seriously.....

May 9, 2015 at 6:20AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
592

And yet here you are on a forum talking about a movie you wouldn't have known about otherwise.

May 9, 2015 at 1:53PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1205

its funny how people always need to argue about the connection of good films and the necessary budget. obviously one does not need hollywood cash to create a remarkable film. we all know that.

however its pretty clear that the cinematography is definitely the weakest link in Tangerine. The acting looks great, the editor knew what he was doing, the sound seems to be good, the grading fits as well and even the cinematographer did the best he can. But the iPhone pulls this film back and throws it off balance. just like the most beautiful film can get degraded if the sound is awful.

And the one thing that drives me really mad about this, is the fact that they didn't use an iPhone for financial reasons. They used it simply as a marketing stunt to create "that film which was shot on an iPhone". They could have used a GH4 + a couple of lenses and would have gotten a MUCH better looking film for almost no additional money.

so thats definitely something that id like to criticise about Tangerine. Im not saying it wont be a good show. But its not as good as it could've been, simply because of a marketing stunt. And I don't like that.

May 9, 2015 at 7:11AM, Edited May 9, 7:13AM

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Paul-Louis Pietz Pröve
director / dop / editor
534

You're wrong. The style serves the story's gritty and in-your-face vibe, it actually works well. As for marketing you make it sound like a bad thing that the filmmakers were smart enough to consider marketing BEFORE making the film. That doesn't make you less of a filmmaker, it just makes you a smart one.

May 9, 2015 at 1:51PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1205

i'm with you on that one, it was extremely smart! we wouldn't be talking about the film if it wasn't shot on an iphone. but thats exactly my point: we wouldn't be talking about this film if it wasn't shot on an iphone!

now, we don't seem to agree on the look, so any further discussion is a little pointless regarding this topic. in my opinion there are other ways of getting this look, just like hundreds of other films did before. sure, one could argue that they wanted to try something new, but it just doesn't work for me. this look doesn't add anything gritty, but crappy. and thats not the good kind of crappy, but the crappy kind of crappy.

filmmakers combine the financial and the creative side of the film and both sides are just as important. but when watching a movie, i'm exclusively interested in the creative. and in my personal opinion the creative suffered from a marketing stunt in favor for the financial side.

May 10, 2015 at 10:25AM, Edited May 10, 10:25AM

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Paul-Louis Pietz Pröve
director / dop / editor
534

@Paul-Louis

Just one question. Have you seen the movie? Because if you haven't you have absolutely no grounds to say that "the creative suffered from a marketing stunt in favor for the financial side." based on a 2:20 minutes trailer!

May 11, 2015 at 5:57AM, Edited May 11, 5:58AM

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Detzey
157

i easily can.

i never judged this film as a whole. i didn't mention that its a XX/100 for me. lets not get absurd. there was no absolute judgement of the movie from my end. none. BUT i know that i would have liked it better if it was shot on a better camera. even if it had been a 5D, GH4 or A7s, which would have costed the same (it probably would have been cheaper, because of factors like timecode, sound recording and easier grading).

i just need to look at one frame of the diner scene to tell you that i hate the look of the iphone, in regards of using it as a professional film camera. and I'm thinking, I'm not the only one. so for me personally the creative suffered from a marketing stunt, as i would have liked it more if it wasn't shot on an iphone.

May 12, 2015 at 1:44PM

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Paul-Louis Pietz Pröve
director / dop / editor
534

Guys, the thing is I love the adapter, I love shooting with the iphone. This is cool. And I love hanging out here as a hobby away from my pro job.

May 9, 2015 at 5:53PM

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So now we know, an iPhone cannot replace a real camera (yet). On the other hand the style suits the story but I don't think it will win the cinematography award.

May 9, 2015 at 7:37PM

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AvdS
1092

I think you can get much better looking footage out of the iphone than what they did.. just my 2 pence in this world of snakes !!!

May 10, 2015 at 9:08AM

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What is interesting is that they had enough money to shoot on something better but didn't. Draw your own conclusions. Marketing? Creative choice?

May 9, 2015 at 8:18PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1436

I can't wait to see this in July and I think this (or using the IPhone camera to shoot films) gives an option to aspiring filmmakers who don't have access to the more expensive professional cameras to go out and shoot. OR, the iPhone is a jump off point to eventually feeling confident enough TO shoot on the more professional cameras used for shooting films, etc.

May 10, 2015 at 1:36AM

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Ryan Canty
Screenwriter
81

iPhone.. But why would you??? Honestly why limit yourself. Price is not a real reason to use an iPhone with so many excellent cameras costing less.

To me its a gimmick to use the fact that they used an iPhone to get attention.

The gear vs good story argument is just pretentious. If they can't be bothered shooting it on a half decent camera then they aren't going to be bothered developing a decent script. Its getting attention because it was an iPhone and thats all.

May 11, 2015 at 12:34AM

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You are talking as if the script and the gear choice were the same thing. Has it occurred to you that the script was written way before any talks about what gear they would use to shoot this film? So your argument that because it was shot on a iPhone the film is bad is completely flawed. Also film critics who usually don't give the slightest shit about the gear used to make the film are giving this film rave reviews.

May 11, 2015 at 5:44AM, Edited May 11, 5:52AM

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Detzey
157

You completely ignored or misunderstood my two points.

Do you honestly think if you spent long perfecting a script you would choose a phone???

I'm sure its a good story and film, but my comments were not about the story but why a phone when access to better cameras can be had for the same money. They could have picked up a used D7000 for a few hundred dollars.

Yes it might be a good story to watch. But the same story would have been better with a better camera, thats my point.

Viewers will notice. They may not understand why it doesn't look as good as it should but they aren't expected to. Its our job to provide the best technical side as well as the best creative side we can.

May 11, 2015 at 6:24AM, Edited May 11, 6:37AM

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If shooting on an iPhone outwayed the benefits of shooting on anything else then I guess they've succeeded. I'm not sure I would have made the same choice but if I had shot it on an Alexa would the film be as successful despite the good script? This is a "what if?" that can never really be answered. We are left with a film shot on an iPhone that is already a success story.

May 11, 2015 at 9:10PM

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Jonathon Sendall
Stories
1436

@Simon

"Do you honestly think if you spent long perfecting a script you would choose a phone???"

Dude, read the film reviews!!! You're totally speculating!

Maybe they decided to shoot it on a iPhone to use it as a marketing strategy, or maybe it was a creative choice. Who knows?! I'm sure the film makers are answering these questions at every Q&A session at film festivals they're attending.

The important thing to take out of all of this is that access to gear shouldn't be an obstacle for creativity, and once again I say that strong direction, good acting and a good script are way more important than the latest gizmo.

This is not the first feature film shot on a iPhone but it is the first critically acclaimed so this proves Tangerine's success it's due to its own merits.

Peace!

May 12, 2015 at 9:57AM, Edited May 12, 10:09AM

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Detzey
157

Because limitations can be avenues for creativity?

May 11, 2015 at 11:46PM

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Looks like a good movie.

May 11, 2015 at 12:44AM, Edited May 11, 12:44AM

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Jeff Macpherson
Writer / Director
171

This looks the nuts.

May 12, 2015 at 9:15AM

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Greg
Editor / Assistant Editor
155

Do you prefer Pavement to Steely Dan? The Ramones to Fleetwood Mac? Some people prefer LoFi and DIY as an aesthetic choice. Anthony Dod Mantle filmed 28 Days Later on standard def consumer video cams and the look totally suits the movie. Maybe a higher energy, punky filming style using a tiny sensor with a small dynamic range is totally appropriate. I'm certainly looking forward to finding out.

May 15, 2015 at 1:44AM

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