Why the director of ‘Tangerine’ is trading iPhone filmmaking for 35mm

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Still from the new film “The Florida Project,” which was shot entirely on 35mm film. Photo by Marc Schmidt, courtesy of A24

“Tangerine” was Sean Baker’s 2015 breakout dramatic comedy about a transgender sex worker upset that her boyfriend, who is also a pimp, had cheated on her.

The plot played out in the shadows of Hollywood on Christmas Eve, and received a great deal of attention for not only its subject matter but how it was shot: entirely on an iPhone 5s, proving that with the right story, creative vision, and access to a smartphone, anyone could make a feature film.

But with Baker’s new follow-up, “The Florida Project,” a summer adventure about a mother and daughter living in the shadows of Disney World, the 46-year-old filmmaker traded his iPhone rig for 35mm film. He recently explained that decision to NewsHour arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown, arguing that both digital and celluloid should have a place at the table in today’s filmmaking world.

“It’s a big subject because there’s always that debate about digital, and film, keeping film alive,” Baker said. “And I’m in a weird position because [with] Tangerine I sort of became ‘the iPhone guy’… At the same time, I also am somebody who sees the value in film and celluloid. It’s how cinema was created. It’s a medium that I think we should keep alive.”

And in fact, though “The Florida Project” was shot almost entirely on film, Baker again picked up an iPhone to shoot the final scene of the movie, captured clandestinely inside Disney World.

Watch more of Brown’s interview with Baker:

And below, watch our full segment on “The Florida Project,” out in theaters now.

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