Filmmakers have long explored the dramatic possibilities of “confined” dramas, stories that unfold in one or just a few locations. Memorable examples include “Rear Window” (1954), “The Phone Booth” (2002), and “Paranormal Activity” (2009). Joining that illustrious group is “The Cloud,” a smartphone-shot sci-fi thriller set entirely in an elevator.
At the 2016 year’s MoMo Film Festival in Zurich, this intense 6-minute short won the Jury Award for best fiction film and the Audience Award for best film in any category.
The film, produced by GeoFilms Entertainment (Madrid and Barcelona), was directed by Alfonso Garcia and written by Vincent Blonde. In the following interview, the pair share their passion for using new film technologies to create cutting-edge movies meant for mobile consumption.
MMM: Would you begin by telling us something about GeoFilms?
Alfonso: We shoot horror and science fiction short films for the smartphone market. Our audience consumes movies from the Internet and from their mobiles. Our whole approach—from idea to storytelling to run time—is designed for this kind of user.
Vincent: The film market is changing. We adapt stories for new types of market like Subscriber Video Online (SVO).
MMM: Why did you choose to shoot with a mobile device?
Alfonso: We use a smartphone because our stories happen through a mobile phone, either a video call, a wizard like Siri, a recording, or found footage. The mobile device is the main part of our narrative .
Vincent: We have other short films where you can find conventional stories, for example, “Alien Inside” or “Geofreedom” but when we use smartphones to shoot it’s because the characters are using a cell phone to communicate.
MMM: Could you give us specifics about the gear?
Alfonso: We shot “The Cloud” using both an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 6. Earlier projects such as “The Lion mouth” or “Sector Zero 4” were shot with an iPhone 4s. With “Sector Zero 4” we added an Optima olliclip lens. We recorded on external microphone equipment and edited in Final Cut 7.
Vincent: We try to utilize technology of the moment to tell our stories We are now investigating transmedia and 360 recordings. We are interested in the technology and its historical context.
MMM: While the technical aspects of “The Cloud” is impressive, so is the acting.
Alfonso: Martijn Kuiper, who plays the protagonist, is an actor we knew who worked with a friend in a webseries. He is very versatile, speaks four languages and is a very good actor.
Vincent: “The Cloud” is a universal story, so we found him to be a good choice. It was a story that could happen anywhere in the world.
MMM: So did you film in both English and Spanish?
Alfonso: Yes, we do not close the door to any market. The stories are understood and some work better in English and others by the type of plot are better in Spanish. We continue to use two languages.
MMM: Talk about your screenwriting process. For example, where do you get your ideas?
Vincent: The press and the news is often our source of inspiration.
MMM: And then?
Vincent: Sometimes Alfonso proposes a location, sometimes an idea, and from there we start working together. I write dialogue and prepare the narrative structure for the characters. But it’s a team effort.
MMM: What draws you to science fiction?
Alfonso: Science fiction is a genre where the only limit is your imagination. Anything can happen. That is much more fun than adhering to the rules of reality.
Vincent: We find a type of story where we can imagine and try more things mobile. Alfonso was the one who invited me to write these stories. But we are talking about the future of our relationship with mobile technology. “The medium is the message,” McLuhan said. Our medium is the smartphone camera.
MMM: Were you surprised by your win in two categories at the MoMo film festival?
Alfonso: This short was being rejected by many festivals. We did not understand why. So it was very exciting at MoMo, first winning the Jury Prize for best fiction. The euphoria came when they announced the Audience Award.
Vincent: It’s funny because people are more interested in our work outside Spain than in our own country. It is a universal language. On that we agree. The award in Switzerland was a surprise, a double surprise, and also a confirmation.
* * *