He fearlessly shot his new film “Tangerine” entirely on the iPhone 5s. It dazzled audiences and critics when it premiered at Sundance 2015 and is now being released theatrically. It looks great on the big screen and has energy and style to burn. Using the iPhone was the most affordable way to shoot Tangerine, and turned out to be the very best way to make it.
Baker shot his first feature “Four Letter Words” in 1996 and finally finished it in 2000. Made for $80,000 with 35mm short ends, it’s the only movie he has done on film. In 2004, he shot “Take Out” on standard definition video for $3,000 and “finished it with favors.” In 2008, he made “Prince of Broadway on HD” for $45,000. Then in 2012, he completed “Starlet,” which was filmed in HD on a $235,000 budget. “Starlet” received enthusiastic reviews, won the Robert Altman Award at the Independent Spirit Awards and was distributed by Music Box Films. After the success of “Starlet,” “something almost happened,” Baker explained.
Having made four features that received steadily increasing recognition and distribution, he hoped he could finally access much higher levels of financing. Only interested in directing his own scripts, Baker has been unwilling to work as a director for hire on films he didn’t write. It looked like his script “Caviar” about the Russian-Armenian underworld in Brooklyn was going to be financed for between $10 and $15 million. After waiting 1 1/2 years for the money to arrive, Baker decided he would have to return to the world of micro-budget filmmaking. He contacted Mark Duplass, who agreed to put together the financing for a new film set in the world of transgender prostitutes. Baker committed to make it for less than half the cost of “Starlet” (i.e. under $117,500).