Best of 2020 No. 18: Damien Chazelle directs Apple iPhone's genre-spanning blockbuster showcasing the wonders of vertical cinema

The Oscar-winning director of 'La La Land' proves superb storytelling is possible within the standard mobile format

Published On
Aug 06, 2020

Editor's Pick

Through New Year's Day, we'll be counting down the best brand campaigns and ideas of 2020. 

No. 18: In August, when many of us were tired of heartfelt messages of hope and perseverance and just ready for some straight-up good advertising, Apple and TBWA/Media Arts Lab delivered with their most ambitious and captivating expression yet of the “Shot on iPhone” platform. They tapped “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle to create this sweeping, cinematic tour of Hollywood’s most beloved storytelling styles—all told in the vertical video format. 

Traditionally, the vertical format of video shot on mobile devices has been seen as a hindrance to compelling filmmaking. But Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle proves otherwise in a new genre-spanning, nine-minute blockbuster for Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign.

Chazelle was at the helm of this story centered on a grizzled stuntman, on his nth job putting his life on the line. He hurls himself off a skyscraper and midway, pulls the cord of his parachute. Unfortunately, his gear is shot and this may turn out to be his final gig.

As he plunges toward the sidewalk below, the stuntman flashes back to his countless jobs over the years across a spectrum of genres. Film after film, he does the grunt work—the pratfalls in a silent film, the gunfight in a Western, getting crushed during an archaelogical mission, and—in a nod to Chazelle’s Oscar-winning turn in “La La Land”—he even performs the fancy footwork of an old-school musical. Yet in the end, he never gets the satisfaction of getting the gal. After he’s completed his duty, the director always pulls him out of scene, replacing him with a more handsome, unscathed leading man. 

His chance encounter with another stunt person, however, leads to a turn of events and a heartwarming Hollywood happy ending, which we won’t spoil here.

The film ends with a humorous nod to the format—end copy reads “Vertical Cinema,” but since those words don’t easily fit into the framework, they’re chopped with hyphens across six separate lines: “Ver-ti-cal Ci-ne-ma.”

TBWA/Media Arts Lab was behind the film, which is the most impressive example yet of what’s possible on the iPhone. Previous outings by big name directors (like the David Leitch-helmed “Snowbrawl,” and the Chinese New Year film by Ted Melfi) demonstrated the impressive cinematic capabilities of the device’s camera, but this is the first to make the most of the standard mobile format. Make sure to watch the original on your phone, for full effect. 

See how Chazelle pulled off the film in the behind-the-scenes video.