How I Made My iPhone Special
To all my DIY’s!
In 2014, I bought 10 iPhones, recorded a stand-up comedy special on them, and then returned the iPhones and got allmy money back. The special is called “Good Luck Everybody” and it’s available here: Good Luck Everybody. Over the years I’ve received quite a few requests from fellow comedians and curious people alike, wanting to know how I did it. It’s been 6 years so forgive me if I don’t remember all the details. But the good news is phone technology and the accessories needed have come along way.
The best advice I can give you is don’t rush and plan everything out if you are doing this solo which is kind of what I did.
STEP 1 – The Phones
For starters, I bought 10 iPhones with the MOST MEMORY AVAILABLE on them – I can’t remember how man gigs but it was the most. I ended up only using 9 of them, kept one for myself and returned the remaining 9. At the time, in 2014 I think it cost me a little more than $17K on my credit cards.
NOTE: APPLE WON’T LET YOU BUY MORE THAN 2 PHONES AT A TIME
Also, at that time, Apple wouldn’t let me buy more than 2 iPhones per visit to a store per day. Because a disgruntled Apple engineer left the company and took his talents and Apple’s iPhone secrets over to Samsung and gave them the blue print – which is how Android was born.
Apple sued Samsung for stealing their patents and it was a rumor going around that Samsung was ordered by a judge to pay Apple $1Billion in damages. And that they payed it in dump trucks filled with ALL PENNIES AND NICKLES. (The dump trunk payments were debunked btw, but at the time people talked about it like it was real).
So, the good people at Apple became mad paranoid when I walked in there Santa Monica store talking about “I’d like to buy 10 phones please.” The way the employee said, “Uh… hold on a second” and frantically typed something into his iPad I knew this wasn’t going to go smoothly. First, a guy in a white shirt came from the back, then a blue shirt, then two guys in red shirts. I found myself surrounded by shirts! I felt like I needed a lawyer present because each time a different color shirt appeared they would ask me the same question, “Why do you need so many phones?” At first, I thought it was because I was Black, but before I could pull that card, the two red shirt dudes told me about their Samsung beef. #TechBeef
Because Samsung did Apple like Pusha T did Drake, it took me 4 days to get 10 iPhones – I took my brother-in-law with me on the fourth day so we left with 4 phones. I know as comics we like to do things last minute. But with something like this it’s important to give yourself some time because you never know what obstacles can appear.
STEP 2 – OPEN PACKAGES VERY CAREFULLY / EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
If you are planning on returning the phones you must open the packages very carefully. Even video tape how all the stuff goes. Because after you record the footage on the phones you are going to dump that footage on an external HARD DRIVE – I used this Hard drive – and you will then RESET THE PHONE like it was never used and REPACKAGE THEM and return them. So open all of them very carefully. I wish I recorded this process, but I felt like if Apple saw it, instead of reward me for my ingenuity and cleverness, they would sue me, because it did feel kind of criminal.
STEP 3 – CHARGE ALL 10 PHONES!
This might seem self-explanatory. But you want to make sure each and every phone is charged at 100%. I have never seen my wife’s phone with more than a 3% charge on it, so if your woman is anything like mine, don’t trust her to do this part. LOL
Okay, now this next part gets a bit techie and I suggest you do this with one phone and familiarize yourself with it before you dive in and buy 10 phones.
STEP 4 – GET SOME LENSES FOR YOUR iPHONES
This article will send you to the best place to get lenses. I used a company called Olloclip. (NOTE just click on the word “article” to send you to the webpage and the word “Olloclip” to also send you to the amazon page where I got the lenses from.)
The lenses are around $60 bucks each and they are awesome. They let you zoom in a little better and all that stuff. If you have androids they provide lenses for those as well. And they also provide protective cases so your phones aren’t damaged. And those are cheap as well. I recommend getting ALL that stuff.
I also recommend you spend a few days on the Olloclip website to see all the accessories they offer.
These lenses will make all the difference in the look of your special and avoid you from being blurry or what DP’s like to call “soft focus” during key moments in your special. So, get familiar with their lenses and once you see the ones you want, dive in and get them.
STEP 5 – MONO-PODS, TRI-PODS, & STEADICAMS
Okay, I used all three. Let’s start with the Steadicams. This article gives you the 10 Best Steadicams for Smartphones. So, there are a lot of different types to choose from. Go into any Best Buy or B&H. They should have some version of a smartphone Steadicam on the floor for you to test. Unfortunately, because I shot this 6 years ago, the exact model I used no longer exists, but the good news is the company still exists and they have an even sexier, sleeker version that you can purchase here.
And here’s what it looks like:
I purchased (2) two of these and paid two improv kids like $100 bucks ($50 bucks a show) to walk around and get shots of the crowd, me on stage, follow me around, etc.
STEP 6 – MONO-PODS / TRI-PODS
Because I shot in a small confined space, I also purchased 2 basic MONOPODS. I had 2 tripods lying around so I just used those. The monopods were cheap. You don’t need an expensive Fluid Head, because you’re shooting with iPhones and not DSLR cameras.
STEP 7 – THE VENUE
I used a small intimate venue. It’s called Westside Comedy Club here in Santa Monica, CA. They let me shoot in their space for free as long as I left their Logo on the wall. So, I did. Westside, if I’m comparing it to spaces in NYC, would be bigger than the Comedy Cellar but smaller than the Village Underground.
STEP 8 – HIRE OR CONSULT WITH A GOOD DP (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY)
When you go scouting for venues, this is when you want to consult with a DP (Director of Photography). I used a guy who was the DP for a show I was writing on. What I recommend is you find a DP that worked on one of the many TV show you did stand up on. Reach out and see if they will help you light the room. I didn’t use or need any additional lights. Small Comedy Clubs are generally well lit. And the reason I used iPhones is because it’s more about the lighting than the camera. But get a good DP. The guy I used is based in NYC. He’s awesome. His name is Bill Berner.
STEP 9 – DRESS THE ROOM
If you notice, I put fake candles on each table. Look at the aesthetic of the room you pick. How do you want to dress it? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to consult a SET DESIGNER for this. I don’t have a contact for one of those. But we did it on the fly. We ordered fake candles the day of and put them on each table and it cost less than $30 bucks.
STEP 10 – THE STAGE ITSELF
Again, a set designer is perfect for this. This is where a lot of budgets spend big money for comedy specials because those sets have to be built. I was lucky that Universal Studios has a program for creatives where for, I believe $60 bucks, they made my backdrop for me. I had to have a graphic designer design it of course, and that cost around $50 bucks and Westside let me stick it on their wall. I can’t remember if I had to pay for them to get it repainted or if Bill Berner helped me remove it. But what your stage looks like is important. If you can find a SET DESIGNER and get with them early in the process it will be beneficial.
This time lapse shows how we dressed the room.
STEP 11 – BUY BLACK CURTAINS & BACKDROP CURTAINS
You may not need to do this for your joint. But depending on the room you use I had to RENT BLACK CURTAINS to cover up the EXIT SIGNS and the BATHROOM AREA, and to give the room a little more warmth. We used Grosh Curtains. They cost maybe $200 bucks for a day rental. They sent a guy, day of the shoot. He arrived in a truck, set up the curtains several hours before show time from floor to ceiling, bounced, and then came back at the end of the shoot, or the next day and picked up the curtains. One day rental cost between $200 – $300 bucks. I can’t remember. https://www.grosh.com
STEP 12 – THE CAMERA PLACEMENTS
I used 8 phones for the shoot and the 9th & 10th phones were backups. We had to use the 9th phone because one phone ran out of memory or battery or both. I can’t remember. But a 9th phone was used. And we used the 10th phone to shoot fun stuff like stop motion and other things that we ended up not using. Oh, and for testimonials from people at the end of the show.
Now you have the blueprint. It was fun reliving this and going back down memory lane. I believe all in it cost me less than $3,000 (three thousand dollars) to pull off. Remember I got all my money back from Apple when I returned the phones. My DP did it for a favor, the venue was free, I had to pay for the external hard drive, curtain rental, backdrop art work, candles for the tables, monopods, Steadicams, lenses for cameras, camera cases for cameras and I paid 5 students $100 bucks each to operate the iPhones. I DO NOT RECOMMEND TRYING THIS AT HOME but if you do I’d go with students because they are the most skilled with phones. Trust me. LOL
|iPhone 6s (10 @$910.55each)||$9,105.55|
|External Hard Drive||$200|
|Candles for Tables||$50|
|Lenses for iPhones (5)||$300|
|Protective Cases for iPhones (10)||$150|
|Camera Operators (4×100)||$400|
|Director of Photography (DP)||$0|
|(iPhone 6s – 9 @ 910.55each)||($8,194.95)|
The grand total is over $2K because I kept one phone for myself, but if I didn’t and returned all 10 the comedy special technically would have cost me under $2K to make.
Hope this helps, and Good Luck Everybody!
View the special here: