Dallas reporter Mike Castellucci has been shooting stories on his iPhone for a while now, and said he wanted to try something bigger. He shot the first few minutes of the special on his own time and got a thumbs up from management. Phoning It In, shot entirely on an iPhone 5 (and edited in Final Cut), aired on WFAA last month.
Castellucci told me the experience was challenging, surprising and fun. He already knew what gadgets he’d need: a tripod adapter, a suction cup, an audio adapter for a standard XLR mic input, and an Olloclip wide-angle lens, which he says he used for about 90% of the shots in the program. Castellucci also knew he couldn’t zoom with the phone. “I had to get close, and I had to plan well.”
But shooting with a phone has its advantages, too. “It was freeing for people, not intimidating,” he said. The results bear him out.
If you watch the whole show, you can’t miss Castellucci’s references to the way TV news is typically shot. “What do you mean, you don’t need me?” asks WFAA photojournalist Mike Muller at the start. Midway through, Castellucci describes himself as being at a crossroad, “at the corner of creating a television special using only my phone and keeping professional camera people as friends.”
The program did start a conversation among photojournalists, some of whom saw it as the end of the world as they know it. “We’re doomed,” one TV photographer posted in a Facebook discussion. “This is a reason to start going to night school to learn a new profession,” said another. “I can already hear management salivating at the chance to save money.”
That wasn’t a universal reaction, however. Several photojournalists complimented Castellucci’s creativity. Others said they planned to try shooting with their mobile phones.
WFAA executive news director Carolyn Mungo says using an iPhone is Castellucci’s “art,” and she’s proud to have him as part of the team. “I believe a successful newsroom is comprised of a staff with multiple skill sets and different kinds of talents,” she says. “Depending on the story, it’s a two person shoot, a one person shoot, an iPhone report, or two still photos and a tweet. It depends on the story.”
The iPhone is “just a tool,” Castellucci says, “maybe for one or two people in a newsroom who want a creative outlet.” What’s most important, as he says at the end of the program, is that “technology will always change. Storytelling will never change.”