A Telephone Film

Nokia N8 phone
By Editor182 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How do you use your mobile phone? Robin Basselin and Liz Waid share a new kind of film - a film made entirely with a mobile phone.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Robin Basselin.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It is a bright morning. The sun is shining and the sky is clear. A young girl sits under a large tree. A small red radio hangs on a rope around her neck. The girl stands up and walks toward a tree branch. She sees a small, green insect eating a leaf. She puts her hands around the insect. And, she closes her eyes. When the girl opens her hands, the insect has changed. It is now covered with a green, protective layer or cocoon. The little girl closes her hands again.  This time, she closes her eyes as hard as she can. She waits. Slowly, she opens her hands again. The insect is now a beautiful butterfly with colourful, orange wings.

Voice 2 

This is how the story of Olive begins. Olive is a new film about a little girl who does not speak. Olive is very different than other films.  However, what makes it different is not the story. Olive is the first full length film made completely with a mobile telephone. Today’s Spotlight is on how the film Olive was created.

Voice 1 

Hooman Khalili is a radio producer. He lives in the city of San Francisco, in the United States. In January of 2010, he had an idea. He wondered if a person could make a whole film just using the camera of a mobile telephone. Khalili talked with friends about his idea. None of them had ever directed a film. But together, they decided to try.

Voice 2 

Khalili knew his idea was not going to be easy. Most full length or feature films cost millions of dollars to produce. They also require hundreds of different pieces of camera and lighting equipment. Khalili did not have any money or special equipment. But what he did have was a story - the story of Olive.

Voice 1 

Next, Khalili began looking for money to support the project. From the beginning, Khalili knew which mobile telephone he wanted to use to make the film – the Nokia N8. So, he decided to ask the mobile telephone maker, Nokia, for money. Nokia was not sure the film would be a good investment. They did not know how much money the film would make. So, they decided not to support it.

Voice 2 

After many months, Khalili finally found two supporters. One was a San Francisco businessman named Bill O’Keefe. The other supporter was a former Facebook businessman and producer named Chris Kelly. Kelly did not want to invest in the film just because of how it would be made.  He wanted to be sure the film told a good story.  Kelly told the magazine The Wrap:

Voice 3 

“So we looked through the story, and it looked amazing. We wanted people to say at the end, 'I completely forgot that film was made on a mobile telephone.'”

Voice 1 

But a telephone was not the only thing Khalili needed. The filmmakers needed to be very creative. A normal film camera has many pieces of equipment and extra parts. These parts help the camera film better quality pictures. However, a mobile telephone does not have these parts. So, the filmmakers had to make many extra camera parts.

Voice 2 

For example, the lens on the front of the telephone camera was not very large. It is important that the filmmaker can see the complete picture through the lens. So, making a larger lens was necessary. To do this, Khalili bought a very old camera. He removed the lens from the old camera and put it on the mobile telephone. Every day, he spent an hour attaching the lens to the telephone with little pieces of wood. Then, he attached this device to a stand. The stand made it possible for Khalili to carry and move the camera and lens.

Voice 1 

But the lens was only Khalili’s first problem. The next problem was a shaky picture.  When a camera moves, the picture can be blurry or unclear. In a normal film, the filmmaker uses what is called a Steadicam system. The Steadicam stops the camera from shaking. And it keeps the picture clear. Steadicam systems are very large because the cameras they hold are very large.  The Nokia N8 did not have a Steadicam system. So, Khalili had to make his own version of the Steadicam base to hold the much smaller telephone.

Voice 2 

Khalili and his friends had another problem - the camera’s power. The power for a telephone comes from a small device called a battery. The battery holds electricity. But a telephone battery does not last very long. So Khalili had to buy a larger battery that attached to the telephone. This battery kept the telephone from turning off during filming.

Voice 1 

Khalili made many special devices for the telephone. However, the small, mobile telephone camera was getting big. And this caused a final problem - the camera was difficult to move quickly. Khalili and his friends wanted to record some fast moving parts of the film. They also wanted to record a few parts of the film from high in the air. So again, they had to be creative. To fix this problem, they removed the heavy lens and other devices they had attached to the telephone. And they attached just the telephone to a child’s, play helicopter. They used a control device to fly the helicopter high above the ground. This way they could film from the air. They could also film fast movements.

Voice 2 

Khalili spoke with the Los Angeles Times news organization about the difficult filming process.  He said,

Voice 4 

“There were a lot of things that made filming near impossible for us.”

Voice 1 

However, even with all these problems, they managed to finish the film. And Olive is the first film of its kind to play in a theater. Khalili is very proud of his project.  He told the magazine Mother Jones:

Voice 4 

“I was just trying to be groundbreaking - to do something no one had ever done before. We had two first-time directors... No large company supported the film. Only one theater in the whole country played it. But there is no better story than this - a story of how someone with very little surprises people and succeeds.”

Voice 2 

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “A Telephone Film.”

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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How do you use your mobile phone? Do you use your phone to make anything?


Avatar Spotlight
said on March 15, 2012

I didn’t see the Olive film. The filmmaker invented a new way of making film and maybe his name was “guines book”.

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 18, 2012

I see that it is a good idea, that Khalili can provide a good job wiyh nothing

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 25, 2013

There are many jobs in the life. Each job has its own difficulties. Each job needs efforts to get good results. Good results bring us joys. Good things bring us and everyone good things. We live our lives. We live our lives for good things. Finding ourselves in good things is our great joys.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 30, 2013

I have never seen and heard the film made from Telephone mobile.
But I admire Hooman Khalili ‘s creative idea so much.
No one can think and try to make this kind of film like her by non-stop efforts.
I wish it will be succeeded in the future!

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 03, 2013

This is an amazing story of how big endurance and courage can bring the extremely surprising results. Whole Khalili’s team has created nearly miraculous production!
Thanks for the story!

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on June 07, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Tuesday 07, June 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Robin Basselin, Liz Waid, and Dianna Anderson:

First of all I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
I use my mobile phone : 55 - 41 - 11 987433698 (TIM Campany) to awake me every morning because I need to get up early at 5:25 a.m to go to gym so at 6:00 a.m.  I start to exercise me at the gym and I return from it at 8:00 am. At 11:30 a.m, I leave home to go to work. On afternoon, I start work at the hospital at 1:00 p.m. I finish my work at 7:00 p.m, and I get home from work at 9:00 p.m.
However, I need so much to use my mobile phone to control my time. Also, I use it to call my mother every week because she does not live with me any more. She lives in Pernambuco countryside with her husband who is not my father. My father died a long time ago. Besides, I like so much to listen to music (HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN from Rod STEWART and another musics ) with my mobile phone.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on June 07, 2016

I have a Nokia c3 mobile.
Recently, I,m concentrating on using it for learning English language by websites especially SpotlightEnglish through downloading the day’s programs evrydays to mp3 and listning, reading, writing it (I need to chatting with English native people).
In addition, I,m using mobile for usualy using like google translation, facebook, tweeter, google + and searching at internet. And calling of course.