The 6th annual Toronto Smartphone Film Festival concluded last week. The festival included screenings of 25 films with a special presentation consuming the entire 3rd and final day. This year’s films were received from filmmakers residing in 14 different countries.
The TSFF started in 2012 as the Arirang Korea Smartphone Film Festival and renamed to the Toronto Smartphone Film Festival in 2014 to increase global interest. The festival hands out a number of awards chosen by industry leaders. The jurors included Kate Vollum,, Ron Leach, Susan Baker and members from Raindance Canada and She Has a Voice Inc. The 2017 award winners are:
Best Canadian Film – Unseen Memories | Manpreet Singh
Best International Film – You’re a Guy! | Sylvain Certain
Best Emerging Filmmaker – Haris | Amreen Ghouse
Best Women in Film – Ocean | Lia Tarachansky
Audience Choice Award – TBD
The special presentation 9 Rides by Matthew A. Cherry was the first presentation of its kind in the festival’s history. Shot over the course of two days, the 86 minute feature follows the story of an Uber driver on New Year’s eve. With 9 different groups of passengers, the film is able to cover a wide range of scenarios.
The TSFF connected via a live stream to Matthew A. Cherry to give audience members a chance to delve deeper during a Q & A session. Into how scripted the scenes were, Matthew revealed he had an idea and some main points into every ride that he wanted to cover, but allowed the actors a bit of free reign into how they were to get there on screen. In his words, it was actually improvised though he did have a scriptment with editing giving him the final direction on where conversations would end. Currently living in LA and a user of these services, Matthew was able to inject from his own experience of sharing an Uber with drunk college kids and even intervening when a couple on the street were engaged in a heated argument.
The production included the use of an iPhone 6s at 4k resolution, each with 128 Gbs of memory. More phones were used to capture sound through an app. As seen in the movie a Cadillac Escalade was used to drive around spots in LA. Lighting was carefully thought of in the shots, from attaching LED light panels to the roof of the car to planning the route to ensure hotel lights(The W Hotel) hit the car at the right time.
A challenge to the filming of 9 Rides is with the smartphone itself. Directors do not have a monitor and video rendering is completed at a very slow rate. The possibility of the loss of data is also very high. These challenges can be extended to the other films received in the festival, which forces directors to be even more creative during the film making process.The TSFF provides creators with a different platform, and challenges the film makers in unconventional ways to produce and push the industry.