Filmmaking with iPhone and iPad

III. August 8–12, 2022
Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 a.m.–11:00 p.m. and 1:10–4:00 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's films have screened at over a hundred international film festivals, including Tribeca, TIFF Kids, Palm Springs (Best Student Film Award), Reykjavík (Golden Egg Selection), Atlanta, Nashville, Uppsala, and Giffoni. His film, Iron Hands (铁手), had its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was featured on Vimeo Staff Picks, Directors Notes, Topic Studios, and Film Movement's Over the Limit DVD. Most recently, Johnson was a 2019 Film Independent Project Involve Writer/Director Fellow, where he wrote/directed Lonely Blue Night, starring Diana Lin, available on HBO in 2020. Johnson is a recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award (Cary Grant Film Award) and the AT&T InspirASIAN Student Film Award. He is an alumnus of the New York Film Festival Artist Academy, Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium, Reykjavík Transatlantic Talent Lab, Short to Feature Lab, and the Visual Communications’ Armed With a Camera Fellowship. He will graduate from Columbia University’s M.F.A. film directing/screenwriting program in May 2020. 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. Johnson is a member of 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.