Tease Your Nephews with a Disneyland Movie Trailer

This is the story about professional filmmakers using simple consumer toys and tools to make a short subject film (and how much fun we had doing it).

We hosted my nephews and my mother for Thanksgiving. Well, more than Thanksgiving, since my mother flew in from Rhode Island and my nephews from Kansas City. So everyone was around for a few days before the feast and several days after that. When you are the aunt of boys who are 16, 14, and 12 and you live in Southern California, visits from said boys always involve a trip to Disneyland. It’s required. In fact, I believe it is a state law.

The part about the filmmaking is coming. Really.

The nephews were all fired up about the promised Disneyland trip but we wanted to stoke that fire a little more, so we went there ourselves, on Halloween, to take some pictures we could use to tease them on Facebook (my nephews don’t really use email any more, just Facebook and that’s the subject of a future post). We hadn’t been there more than a minute or two, literally, we had just stepped into the park, were standing on Main Street, looking toward Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, when I saw the lightbulb go on over David’s head.

He’d recently upgraded to iLife 11, and had glanced through the new iMovie enough to find the “Movie Trailers” function. This had intrigued him. He had his iPhone 4 with him. It all clicked into place. We don’t need no stinking pictures! We need a movie! And so began the principle photography on “Tease Your Nephews with a Disneyland Movie Trailer.”

Filmmaker David Barrett
Filmmaker David Barrett mugs for the camera, um, I mean iPhone

Cameron: What was it like to shoot video with an iPhone 4?

David: The idea of using your phone as a video camera for any shot longer than 30 seconds was something I’m not really used to. But the beauty of the iPhone is that you can shoot in HD or SD with the tap of a finger, and the entire face of the phone becomes your viewfinder. It’s nearly the same size as viewfinders on traditional HD camcorders from major manufacturers.

Cameron: How much video did you shoot?

David: Because it’s a phone, you really think about short clips and you don’t just burn memory the way you do with a camcorder. In addition, once I shot each clip, I immediately reviewed it. If it wasn’t what I wanted, I’d throw it away and shoot another take.”

Cameron: How long were your typical shots?

David: 20 seconds on average. Some were a minute, but none longer. And even being careful with shot length I still ended up with something close to a gig worth of video on my phone.

Jack and Sally
Jack Skellington and Sally take a stroll through Disneyland

Cameron: Did you notice any lessening in functionality of your phone with a gig of video on it?

David: Nope.

Cameron: Tell me about your storytelling process as you shot?

David: I was at Disneyland to have fun, not to specifically make a movie, and I found I could do both at the same time. When I saw something that looked like it would be fun to capture on video, I captured it. I didn’t have a story in mind at all when I was shooting at the park. That came later. However, I make films, so I did know the elements I needed to get – I needed me, I needed you, I needed iconic shots of the park, and so on. Also, I didn’t want to look like I was making a movie. Disneyland is extremely sensitive to anyone professionally shooting in their park. I just wanted to look like a tourist with an iPhone.

Things can get a little goofy when you're using an iPhone to make a movie

Cameron: Were there any shooting challenges?

David: It’s hard to hold a little phone steady but I use so many different kinds of cameras that I’m kind of used to that. I paid no attention to audio. I always made sure to have as much natural lighting on my subjects as possible. It was pretty straight forward.

Cameron: Post production, walk us through it.

David: There is no post production when you’re using the Movie Trailers function. It’s all storyboarded out. You just drag and drop the clips you want and type in the titles you want, and it’s finished. It chooses the music, and cuts, the transitions, everything.

Cameron: But you chose the clips. How did you do that?

David: I actually picked the clips that matched the storyboard suggestions. If iMovie wanted a two shot, I found one, if it called for an action shot, I picked one. That’s it. There’s nothing to it.

Cameron: And exporting from iMovie?

David: I chose Share for Web.

Check out this freaking masterpiece!

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