EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: iPhone Film Fest Grand Prize Winner Craig Anthony Perkins

Interview by Robert Yehling, Editor
Legacy Series Magazine

What do you do when you ply your trade in music and film for 20+ years, then suddenly, you’re an “overnight” sensation? That’s what Craig Perkins, founder/director of the Genshi Media Group ponders daily. Within the space of four months, Craig became the talk of the digital filmmaking community – for his films shot entirely on the iPhone 4S.

In January, Craig was a featured presenter at the 2012 MacWorld/iWorld Convention for his short film, Isobel and the Witch Queen. In May, he won the iPhone Film Festival Grand Prize for The Haunting at Danford Cabin. Both films featured tight shooting, good direction, excellent scripting and acting, and the winning combination that directors from Samuel Goldwyn to George Lucas used to make themselves: stretching the most out of available new technology with very limited resources.

Legacy Series Magazine contacted Craig to discuss both the creative and technical aspects of his winning films, as well as other aspects of the craft. In an aspect of independent filmmaking as revolutionary as The Blair Witch Project in the late 1990s, one that is quickly gaining technical and financial footing, his candid responses offer compelling insight into the future.

We present a portion of our interview here. We will present the full interview In Legacy Series Magazine, which will be available on newsstands nationwide in November.

Legacy Series Magazine (LSM): First of all, Craig, congratulations on winning the iPhone Film Festival award. While certainly, you go into competitions hoping to win, what do you think it was about your work that appealed to the judges?


The Haunting at Danford Cabin from Craig Anthony Perkins on Vimeo.
Winner of Best Animation and Grand Prize Winner for Best Overall Film at the 2012 iPhone Film Festival.
© 2012 Genshi Media Group

Craig Perkins (CP): Thank you! Well, I think the judges may have recognized the work that went into this film; from the sets that we did, the puppet and costume creations, to the fact that this was all done in stop-motion (on the iPhone no less!) and the original score and sound design… it was truly an indie production!

LSM: You screened two different movies at the iPhone events in 2012 – one in January for the panel discussion at MacWorld/iWorld, and again for the final judging in May. In both cases, you scripted and presented a full movie, with good production and direction value, as well as good storylines. What differences do you find in writing and blocking shots in the iPhone format from ordinary filmmaking?

CP:  Well, I start off trying to think of it as a regular film, at least when it comes to the story, then the casting, costumes and location. But when it comes to lighting everything, then I have to say “Oh yeah, I’m shooting this on the iPhone” and then I have to re-structure how I’m going to shoot certain things (due to the iPhone not liking low light situations.) At the same time, it also inspires new ideas because I can get the iPhone into situations you normally can’t with a regular camera. This was especially true with “The Haunting” as the small size of the iPhone allowed me to get into the miniature cabin set, and down low at ground level in the exterior scenes, making the viewer feel like it was a real life- size setting.

LSM: What are some of the aspects of shooting and producing in the iPhone medium that intrigue you most as a filmmaker?

CP: The immediacy of the format. If I get an idea, I can [usually] shoot it right away without a crew. It’s just a great way to try out ideas. Also, you can dream up new shots, such as, “can I get a camera in-between the walls here?” Well you can with the iPhone! Also, the ability to upload and have people view what I’ve done instantly is a huge plus.

LSM: Without divulging specific trade secrets, could you list out the combination of hardware, software and iPhone-specific devices and attachments you used to build each movie?

CP: For Isobel and the Witch Queen, I got an iPhone 4S and I had won a Steadicam Smoothee from the iPhone Film Festival for my first film (Remembrance). Also, my partner and producer, Debora Jo Myers, and I built our own dolly tracks for use with the Pico Dolly. In both cases of these two films, I used the Filmic Pro app.

For The Haunting at Danford Cabin, it was mostly the olloclip wide- angel lens attachment for the iPhone 4S, with the iPhone mounted on the Slik tripod, with a couple of scenes using the Pico Dolly (but shooting one frame at a time.) The app we used for that movie was the iMotion HD app, occasionally triggered by the iPad 2 using the iMotion Remote app. We had to shoot 24 still shots for every one second of footage you see onscreen, so overall about 4,000 still shots were used for the movie.

LSM: Where are we at in terms of technology development for filmmakers who see a viable future with iPhone formats? How do you foresee this development progressing in the next two to three years?

CP: That’s a tough question. Many people, myself included initially, would have said that the iPhone can’t be used for serious filmmaking; it’s just for shooting family parties for YouTube, and yet, here I am with my third iPhone film screening at several film festivals (including traditional “film” festivals)! So it really does put filmmaking into the hands of anyone that wants to tell a story but can’t afford traditional movie cameras. Particularly the iPhone 4S with it’s ability to now shoot 1080p was a nice upgrade because you can really get a nice look from your footage with the right post processing. In the next two to three years, Apple will need to work on the camera chip to give us higher bit rates, smoother frame rates and hopefully the ability to shoot 60fps. Still, as much as the iPhone has allowed me to make these films with no budget, I still wish I can have professional removable lenses with rack focusing (though you can do this with the Owle Bubo and a 35mm attachment, the quality/results are not the same.)

LSM; How did you celebrate your iPhone Film Festival Grand Prize win?

CP: Unfortunately, I didn’t. I’ve been too busy working on the next three projects!

See Isobel & The Witch Queen:


Isobel & The Witch Queen from Craig Anthony Perkins on Vimeo.
World premiered exclusively at the event as part of the iPhone Film Festival discussion panel.
© 2012 Genshi Media Group