Vertical Cinema: Damien Chazelle and Apple Team Up for Short Film

Odds are that you have probably, at some point in time, had to ask someone to tilt their telephone so that when they take a photo with their smartphone, then the picture will be nice and wide. For Damien Chazelle’s latest short film about a stunt double, the Oscar-winning director has opted against that piece of advice as he strives for Vertical Cinema. Steven Soderbergh, and other notable directors, have already toyed with shooting feature-length films with iPhones, but Chazelle’s film has been shot in portrait mode, thus producing vertical video, in an attempt to showcase the camera features on an iPhone 11 Pro.

So, is Damien Chazelle’s short film up to snuff? I mean, it is what it is. It was almost definitely a fun little exercise for Chazelle and his talented crew. Ultimately, it’s a tribute to stunt performers, which I do appreciate, and a trip through the history of moviemaking with a nice little surprise by the end. There are some interesting references and it is a nice tribute. But, yeah, it does feel more like an ad than a short film. It is by no means the most entertaining or impressive short film than I have ever seen, but I actually really like the message at the heart of this advertisement.


Making Vertical Cinema, a short making of-special feature released concurrently, is, honestly, probably more fascinating to cinephiles than the referential ad masquerading as a short film. Here, of course, the iPhone features used to make Chazelle’s short what it is are highlighted — such as an ‘ultra-wide lens,’ or ‘4k video’. Look, ultimately, this short film — and its making of-video — is, again, really more of an advertisement than an impressive, thought-provoking short film.

But, frankly, I really appreciate the ultimate message behind Vertical Cinema, which isn’t necessarily that films should be shot like this but that you should strive to make you own short films at home since your phone, iPhone 11 Pro or otherwise, is probably outfitted with a very good camera. I love when creators and brands encourage consumers and fans to be creative, and I hope you take that message and run with it. Tell your story.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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