One of the big surprises of day two at the Sundance Film Festival was Sean Baker’s “Tangerine.” The “Starlet” director stunned a packed crowd at the premiere on Friday night when he revealed that he shot his low-budget movie entirely on the iPhone 5s.
Baker held up one of the phones, which he joked he’d stolen from the production. He said he used three iPhones to complete the dramatic comedy, about two transgendered hookers (Kiki Kitana Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) who roam through the streets of Los Angeles. The film was shot in about a month.
“We came across two things that elevated the look,” Baker said. He used a Moondog Labs anamorphic lens and an app called Filmic Pro to get the film’s grainy and sophisticated look.
Baker found his leads, who had no previous acting experience, at the LGBTQ center near where he lives in Los Angeles.
Taylor said she helped brainstorm ideas for the arc of her character. “I met Sean very early on into my transition,” Taylor said. “Looking at the film, it’s very special to me. That’s what I looked like then and how I look like now. Actually it exceeded expectations.”
The film was produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, who are the MVPs of Sundance this year (they also worked on “The Bronze,” “The Overnight,” the TV series “Animals” and Friday announced a four-picture deal with Netflix).
“When Sean came to me with this movie, I was so excited, I said I’m going to pay for this whole thing,” Mark Duplass recalled. “What he didn’t know is, I didn’t have money to pay for it.” The film was financed by Through Films, owned by Marcus and Karrie Cox.
“These movies do not get made in the studio system,” Duplass said. “Thank you guys.”