Filmmaking with iPhone and iPad

Open to students entering grades 9 through 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
III - August 10th – August 14th, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 2:10–4:00 p.m. Note: On Monday the morning class begins at 10:10, and on Friday the afternoon class runs until 5:00 p.m.
Johnson Cheng

No filmmaking experience is required, though students who do have experience or who have taken one of our three-week filmmaking courses will find that this course is a good way to further their training.

“I feel like I have gained confidence with my filmmaking techniques, and I also gained a strong group of dedicated friends.” – Simone W. | Severna Park, Maryland

Course Description

As smartphones and tablets continue to offer increasingly sophisticated capabilities, filmmakers have begun to turn to their mobile devices for both small and feature-scale projects. From Sean Baker’s Sundance feature film, Tangerine, to the Oscar-winning feature documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, mobile filmmaking has proven to be an exciting and innovative method of filmmaking.

Students in this intensive course use their iPhones or iPads to create strong, visually-driven short films with an emphasis on narrative storytelling. In the process, they learn a wide range of elementary film production techniques and build a technical and aesthetic foundation structured around film grammar, story development, script writing, sound, and editing.

In the first few days, participants learn the basic principles of mobile cinematography and gain hands-on experience as they progress from equipment assembly to on-set production protocol. They learn how to unlock the filmmaking potential of their mobile phones/tablets while taking on various key roles in the different projects - directing, cinematography, editing, sound – so that each student experiences different facets of film crewing.

In the second half of the class, students work together through the stages of production: initial concept, synopsis, treatment, script, storyboards, final shooting, and editing. The instructor provides guidance throughout the process, emphasizing the students’ responsibility for carrying the project from inception to completion. In addition to film production guidance, the instructor provides practical information regarding the film industry and film schools/career paths.

On the last day of the class, participants screen their completed films for review. These films can potentially be used for submission to short film festivals and as portfolio pieces for film or art school applications.

Students should arrive on the first day of class with short film ideas ready to pitch; the films are made collaboratively as group projects, so we will be able to use only some of the ideas.

Participants are expected to have either an iPhone or iPad (newer models are preferable, with the oldest possible iPhone model being the “6S”) and should be prepared to download the mobile video camera app FiLMiC Pro ($15) from the app store. Students should also purchase, ahead of time, an iPhone shotgun mic accessory. For those who wish to maximize their iPhone's filmmaking abilities, a Moondog iPhone lens, while not required, can be useful. Laptops are also highly recommended for editing of the films.


Johnson Cheng

Johnson Cheng is an award-winning Chinese-American writer/director based in New York City. After receiving his B.A. in international relations, he joined Columbia University's M.F.A. Film Directing/Screenwriting program. He is a recipient of the Armed with a Camera Fellowship and is an alumnus of the Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Telluride Student Symposium, and the Emerging Filmmakers Lab presented by the Smithsonian Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His most recent film, Iron Hands (铁手), had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, was selected for the Golden Egg competition at the Reykjavík International Film Festival, and won Best Student Live Action Short at the Palm Springs International ShortFest. Johnson began his career as an intern at PIXAR, and is credited on feature films such as Monsters University and Coco. He has worked as a story editor on The Book of Mojo, assistant editor on Reel FX's The Book of Life, and assistant editor on DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3, the first animated co-production between the U.S. and China. He is a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers Workshop and the Motion Picture Editors Guild.

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.