Damien Chazelle-Directed Apple Ad Shows That Vertical Video Can Be "Vertical Cinema"

Movies shot on the smartphone are becoming all the rage in Hollywood, as auteurs test the limits of what that little piece of handheld technology can do. Sean Baker and Steven Soderbergh proved that iPhone movies could play on the big screen, but what about the format that has become so commonly associated with that handheld device: the vertical video? The format that makes us all want to scream "Turn the camera, Susan," the vertical video is the bane of many a movie lover's existence. The fact that Quibi is trying to pioneer the vertical video isn't helping either.

But Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle is here to prove that vertical video can actually become "vertical cinema" with the help of a few clever camera angles, multiple expensive sets, and some very willing stuntmen.

The Oscar-winning director of La La Land has been known for pulling a few stunts — he shut down LA's 105 freeway to pull off La La Land's famous opening scene, and a promotional performance for the film recruited eight aerial dancers to perform on the side of City Hall in Los Angeles. But this Apple Vertical Cinema ad may be one of his most impressive stunts yet, simply in the way he made a vertical video look good.

The short film, which follows a stunt man through the history of Hollywood, is shot entirely on the iPhone in vertical video mode, making use of the format's limited aspect ratio to play with perspective and camera angles. The 9-minute short film was shot by Chazelle using an iPhone 11 Pro, according to Apple, which described the ad as:

A journey through cinema history is reimagined for the vertical screen in Damien Chazelle's "The Stunt Double," a short film Shot on iPhone 11 Pro.  Watch as classic genres are flipped on their side, from action movies to silent films, spy flicks to westerns, reframing and modernizing the movie magic we know and love.

Apple also shared a behind-the-scenes video titled "Making Vertical Cinema," in which Chazelle described his process and his excitement in experimenting with vertical aspect ratio. The behind-the-scenes video also features interviews with Oscar-winning cinematographer Linus Sandgren, BAFTA-winning production designer designer Shane Valentino, costume designer April Napier, and more, and gives some tips on filming with a wide angle lens and "how to compose shots for the vertical screen."

See the making-of video below.