Features and Columns · Movies

The Vertical Cinematography of Damien Chazelle’s ‘The Stunt Double’

Sure, you’d watch a film shot on an iPhone, but what if it were shot vertically?
Vertical Cinema Damien Chazelle
By  · Published on August 12th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores Damien Chazelle’s vertical short film.

Aspect ratios, like many elements of filmmaking, often go unnoticed. During the climax of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you’re not looking at the sides of the frame as they flit between 2.35:1 and IMAX 1.90:1. You’re watching a climactic helicopter duel. Maybe at the beginning of The Lighthouse, you thought to yourself, “Huh, is this whole thing going to be this square?” Then Willem Dafoe’s alcoholic farts whisk you away into a Promethean tale of jealousy, murder, and seagulls and you stop noticing the 1.19:1.

That said, when a film is shot “vertically” on a phone, you notice the aspect ratio. And, perhaps more than any other aspect ratio, filming “vertically” has an immense effect on what you can show. Sure, you have more vertical room to play with. But, horizontally, real estate is sparse.

As a promotion for Apple, Academy Award-winner Damien Chazelle shot a short film vertically on an iPhone. The Stunt Double is billed as “a journey through cinema history…reimagined for the vertical screen.” A film being shot on a phone is nothing new. But for Hollywood, “vertical cinema” is relatively uncharted territory. Below you can find a video from Thomas Flight, breaking down the pros, cons, and implications of Chazelle’s vertically-shot short.

Watch “Damien Chazelle’s Vertical Cinema Shot Breakdown“:

Who made this?

This video essay is by Virginia-based filmmaker and video editor Thomas Flight. Flight runs a YouTube channel under the same name. You can follow Flight and check out his back catalog of video essays on YouTube here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).