Cruising the Globe for the Smartphone Film Festivals

Posted on February 20, 2015


Mobile video is the market all news, media and entertainment companies are chasing, with its promise of quick video content and on-the-spot immediacy. Shooting on smartphones is a core activity for many video journalists, but the growing number of amateur and professional filmmakers using them has also led to an explosion in creative mobile film festivals.

Back in 2010 the first iPhone Film Festival was established in Los Angeles, home to Hollywood and the multi-billion movie industry. The IFF is now in its fifth year and receives thousands of entries from around the world. Submissions for this year’s event close on 1 March 2015, but despite the festival’s name it is not exclusive to iPhone and does include Android phones and even the GoPro.

Organisers impose one important restriction: films must not be submitted to any other festival without prior permission. Otherwise entrants can edit, colour grade and use as many accessories (sound equipment, lighting, lenses) to create the film as they wish. Categories for the IFF include: Animation & Stop Motion, Cinematography, Comedy, Documentary, Feature Film, Music Video and Short Film. So far, entrants from more than 50 countries have participated and the list of sponsors shows how well established mobile filmmaking has become.

Mobile Motion Film Festival, Zurich
Zurich’s first Mobile Motion Film Festival (Momo) is held on 31 May 2015. Momo closed its books to submissions at the end of January but join the mailing list to get regular updates and information about Momo 2015 and 2016. Organisers emphasise the democratic use of the smartphone as a filmmaking tool – widespread technology, fits in a pocket, emphasis on creativity and spontaneity. This year’s event will feature shooting masterclasses, screenings and awards for the best entries, as well as an aftershow party. Connect with Momo on @momofilmfest or at

Sundance on smartphone shooting
Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival held in January each year is king of the independent festivals. Sundance previously published its own assessment of smartphone shooting that includes a short history of mobile video features, including Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan? (a grainy documentary from a Dutch war veteran) and the incredible Olive, shot using a Nokia N8 and a 35mm lens adaptor. Also, look at The Verge’s review of one of the best films from this year’s festival – Tangerine – shot entirely on an iPhone 5S using Filmic Pro and a prototype set of lenses from Moondog Labs.

Toronto Smartphone Film Festival
Next up is Toronto and the Smartphone Film Festival. This is the fourth year for the Toronto event and the deadline for submissions for this year’s festival is 12 April 2015. SFF has an excellent Facebook profile and is active on Twitter @smartphoneff. Check out the video below featured on SFF’s facebook page. It features some excellent creative ways to make title sequences from director and photographer Ricky Fosheim.

Mobil Film Festival, San Diego
Another US festival is the Mobil Film Festival staged in San Diego on 25-26 April 2015. Mobil is open to filmmakers anywhere and is forming a global resource centre for mobile shooters on top of screening the films entered for the competition. Deadline for 2015 submissions has passed (19 January) but anyone looking to attend has plenty of time to buy a ticket.

Other Mobile Film Fests…
If it wasn’t already apparent, there is a lot going on in the smartphone film world and the Mobile Film Festival has a list of global collaborations with other festivals. In Europe there is the Cinephone festival in Barcelona, while Korea has at least two – SeSIFF and the Olleh Film Festival.

An excellent resource for smartphone filmmakers is the Smart Movie Making website – hints, tips, equipment reviews, apps, AR and much more – to keep you up to date with what is happening.