Chalga is a Bulgarian feature film that is being successfully screened all over the country overcoming hits like Creed 3 and Shaza 2. The movie was shot entirely on the Samsung Galaxy Ultra 22 by veteran DP Dimitar Gochev. Hence, Chalga is the first feature that was shot solely on a smartphone and screened on the big screen. This achievement can officially mark smartphones as filmmaking machines.
Shot on a smartphone, screened at a movie theater
Lately, we see many cinematic projects that were shot on smartphones. Although it’s nice, most of the time it’s not more than a marketing trick, and without real intentions to bring those projects into real feature films screened in a movie theater. Top-notch directors and cinematographers are being recruited by smartphone companies, in order to convince the audience that those smartphones are filmmaking machines. Apple utilized Emanuel Lubezki, and Samsung called Ridley Scott. However, this is the time a feature film was shot entirely on a smartphone, with pure deliberation to screen it on the big screen. The film called Chalga, which is a Bulgarian feature film that turned out to be a blockbuster, is being successfully screened all over the country. Chalga was shot entirely on the Samsung Galaxy Ultra 22 by veteran cinematographer Dimitar Gochev that stated: “In March of this year, my latest feature film “Chalga,” which I shot as a cinematographer, was released in cinemas. The film is 1 hour and 40 minutes long and was shot entirely on a Samsung Galaxy 22 Ultra. This unique approach may have contributed to its success, as it has had the biggest box office in cinemas in Bulgaria for three weeks now”. Indeed, “Chalga” beat “Shazam 2” and “Creed 3” at the Bulgarian box office. Amazing, Let’s read what Gochev has to say about the making.
Shooting feature with phones
This is what Gochev told us:
My name is Dimitar Gochev, and I am the DoP for the movie Chalga. I have been working in the cinema and TV series industry for a long time and have collaborated with director Marian Valev on many projects. When Marian approached me about shooting the film Chalga with phones, I was immediately on board. I believe that whether you’re shooting with a phone or a camera, it’s the creativity and approach that matter most. In this case, we used the phone as a cinema camera, and the results were impressive. The phone allowed us a great deal of freedom and flexibility in our storytelling, as we didn’t have to wait to collect funds and could work with a smaller, more mobile team. I was initially worried about how the image would look since I wasn’t used to shooting with a phone, and it has a different depth of sharpness than what I was accustomed to. But I realized that I was telling a story for a generation that perceives images differently, thanks to social media and the abundance of images it provides. We used two phones for filming, alternating between them when one was full. The Samsung phones we used came with excellent accessories that made filming much easier. We were able to attach monitors to them for the director and focus puller, and we used the tracking option to make handheld shooting smoother. We were careful with the brightness interval since it is still smaller on phones than on cameras. Thus, I avoided shooting in bright midday sunlight, which has high contrast that is difficult to overcome with a phone camera. We used very limited lighting, mostly relying on the ambient light of our chosen locations. The Samsung Galaxy 22 Ultra phone we used for filming gave us a lot of creative freedom and helped us achieve the almost-final picture I aimed for on set. This made post-production easier and the final result a success.
DP Dimitar Gochev
Watch the trailer below:
Also, Below you can find some BTS, so you can get the idea of how the crew utilized smartphones as cinema cameras:
And here’s another video demonstrating the process of making Chalga:
Thanks to Gochev’s creative courage, another cinematographic milestone has been achieved. Shooting a feature on a smartphone is not new. But to get this feature to beat other blockbusters is something to be proud of. I haven’t had the chance to see Chalga at a movie theater, but I’, truly curious about how it looks. Furthermore, smartphones own pretty decent specs these days (high MP and 8K resolution), and thus, there’s no reason that this imagery will not be screened on a big canvas. All you need is an act of creative courage, and to be open to new methodologies in cinematography. The story matters the most. Also, the sound is 80% of the making. So you don’t have to use a RED or ARRI to create a beautiful and successful project. We’ll end the article with a quote from Gochev: “Our film (made on a smartphone) is now showing in over 60 cinemas in Bulgaria, and it’s gratifying to see people holding their breath and engaging with the story we have told. Ultimately, whether you shoot with a phone or a camera, what matters most is the story you tell and the impact it has on your audience”. Do you agree?