Tangerine, the Sundance hit from “Starlet” writer-director Sean Baker, was recently acquired for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. Shot entirely by cinematographer Radium Cheung with an iPhone 5s, the film stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor as transgender sex workers in Hollywood.
The inspiration for the film came from the West Hollywood Donut time, according to Baker. But it was a visit to the nearby Los Angeles LGBT Center that led him to find Rodriguez and Taylor. The film’s storyline, about the sex workers hunting down the cisgender mistress of their pimp of Christmas Eve, was even partially drawn from stories Baker learned in conversations with his stars. The film’s story has been praised by critics for it realism and relatability, no small accomplishment for such a gritty and unusual subject matter.
Taylor, who, along with co-star Rodriguez provided a great deal of input on their characters and the story, was pleased with how the film turned out. “I met Sean very early on into my transition,” said Taylor to a reporter at Variety. “Looking at the film, it’s very special to me. That’s what I looked like then and how I look like now. Actually it exceeded expectations.”
Along with the stand out stars, the film has also received a great deal of buzz from how it was made. The filmmakers took advantage of a prototype anamorphic lens adapter from Moondog to help achieve a widescreen format, and shot the footage using the Filmic Pro iPhone app. Shooting entirely with an iPhone wasn’t without it’s challenges, claims Cheung. While the result doesn’t match up with what can be achieved with more traditional cameras, it’s still possible to produce something that looks good, as long as you know how. “You still need to know how editing works. You still need to know how sound works. You still need to know how a camera works,” Cheung said to The Verge.
According to reports, the film will receive a nation-wide release later this year.