How to Produce and Sell a TV Show Shot Entirely With an iPhone (Interview with Kristian Day)

Kristian Day

There's really no limit to what you can do with your iPhone. In this interview, I get the opportunity to talk to Kristian Day, a filmmaker from Iowa who managed to shoot an entire TV show with his iPhone, and sell it to a local network. He talks about how he got started, the best apps for filming, and overcoming rejection. Check it out below!

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Interview Transcript

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Alex: Hi there everybody. This is Alex Cequea. I'm the editor in chief of

iPhone Life and Android Life magazine. This is our mobile

interview series where we interview the movers and shakers in

the mobile space. Our guest today is Kristian Day. He's a film

maker, entrepreneur, and exotic composer from Iowa. He has the

unique distinction of creating and shooting an entire TV show on

his iPhone and we're going to talk to him about it today. Thank

you so much for being here, Kristian.

Kristian: Thank you for having me, Alex.

Alex: So first of all, tell me about the show. Tell me about the show that

you made. What is it about?

Kristian: Okay. Well back in 2012, I was up late at night working and a

guy who's famous in the Des Moines restaurant scene, Sam Allen,

posted online, he said, "I really need a cooking show." Now Sam

is not your average looking chef. He was this big bearded guy,

tattoos, listened to Black Metal, and he had a restaurant that

was a mobile restaurant called Taco Apocalypse. It was mobile at

the time. And I thought, this could be something really fun to

do. To have a TV show that was punk rock. But originally when we

met, I what I wanted to do and I said, "This can be man's

cooking show." When I say man's, it's not steaks or anything; I

wanted to do something sort of highbrow with what we were

cooking, but we were doing it in a very lowbrow fashion. And

originally, we weren't going to shoot on the iPhone, we were

going to use some JVCs. I thought that this could be something

that could be marketed very well. It was simple, it wasn't

complicated. And I could sell it easily by saying [inaudible

01:52] the Punk Rock cooking show. That's all you need to say

and you get the idea of what we're doing. We pitched the idea to

a local station - channel 17 here in Des Moines. And they were

interested in it. And they said, "Well let's do a pilot on

Christmas Day." Do a holiday special that would lead into a

series. We made the arrangement and it's interesting going back

to that time it was just a whacky idea. I used to do things

because I feel that, Oh, this is something really interesting.

But now it's changed. What happened was what lead to the iPhone

thing is I had some gear stolen - my main cameras.

Alex: I was going to ask you about that.

Kristian: Yeah. The gear was stolen, literally, two weeks before we shot

the pilot.

Alex: Oh, my God.

Kristian: Well, what do you do? I didn't have the funds to go buy

[inaudible [03:03]. These were $6,000 cameras that were stolen.

Now granted, they were outdated at this point but they had nice

lenses. And I'm just like, what am I going to do. Even my

digital recorder - my portable recorder was stolen. And I said,

"I can maybe buy a new recorder, but I've got nothing." And I

had this arrangement set up already, this deal for this TV show;

I've got to make it. Towards the end of September, I went

camping and I was thinking, the iPhone can do all this stuff.

What about maybe making the show on the iPhone. Can it do that?.

You see these ads that say, "You can shoot full 1080 HD video."

But when you actually look at it, it looks like garbage. It

still looked bad. I said, "I don't know if I can do it." So I

did some research. And this is just how time and technology

changes. An app came out just a few weeks before this happened

and it was called, Film Maker Pro. I didn't quite trust it so I

looked online. I looked at some YouTube test videos. I was like,

My God. This is gorgeous. And I remember when I had told Sam,

"Hey" I slide it in there I was like, "Hey. Listen man. We're

also going to shoot this on the iPhone." And this first thing,

he was like, "What?"

Alex: Just slip in there.

Kristian: Yeah, just slip that in there. And he's like, "Is this going to

jeopardize quality?" I'm like, "No, it'll be great." I really

didn't know what it was going to be. It was a hit and miss, but

you'll fast forward to now, that's the whole aesthetic. We have

the opportunity to shoot with other things, but I'm like, No. We

got to shoot it on the iPhone. This is in fact, not a 5 or the

5S which has amazing video quality, this was on a 4S.

Alex: That's incredible.

Kristian: It just happened.

Alex: So tell me. You use Film Maker Pro. What other apps did you use?

Kristian: Besides Film Maker Pro, I play around with some of the audio

recording programs. Actually, the voice memo on here, actually,

does pretty good audio. Now we were trying to capture audio

directly, because Film Make Pro does allow you to capture

uncompressed audio. However, it's really difficult to do that

and shoot. So we did have to do that separately. I do use a

light meter app which I believe is called Light Meter. And that

helps but we don't really use lights, but I can take

measurements with it to figure out, Okay, this will work and

this way I'll have enough light to do it. I also use the Eight

Millimeter app that was made famous because of Searching for

Sugar Man. That is a great app. Now, it doesn't shoot 10A, it

shoots 720, but I've seen the blow up on it on the big screen

and it looks great. The quality with it is fantastic. And the

fact that you can take things out; you can do all these

different effects to make it look like an old movie camera. It

doesn't look corny. Remember the iMovie days where could and the

Eight Millimeter effect and it would play the loop of the

stripes and stuff?

Alex: Right.

Kristian: This actually has some texture and you can take texture out. So

you can do some really cool stuff with it. But aside from that,

I did play with Amos DSLR which is another decent, quality video

app you can get for you iPhone. However, it couldn't do what

Film Make Pro does. Film Make Pro has one big asset; It can

encode at 50 megabytes per second. The bit rate's really high.

DSLR, which is what a lot independent filmmakers and web video

guy's use, only maxes out at 38 megabytes per second, okay?

Alex: Wow. That's amazing.

Kristian: Yeah. And Blue Rays are encoded at 40 megabytes per second. So

the iPhone 4S could encode at 50.

Alex: That's incredible.

Kristian: Right. Now what that does is if I shoot that video, convert it

to the Apple Pro Res, which is the file format that I edit in, I

can bring it into Final Cut and edit and actually do effects to

it - do color correction. If you start doing color correction on

a low bit rate video such as DSLR, you notice it breaks up very

quickly. You start to see the pixels. But with the iPhone, it

still looks really smooth. The limitations, though, are there.

You have this built in lens that you can't change. You can add

filters and stuff to it. I use olloclip which is actually a

sponsor of us. They throw us the new olloclips every time one

comes out. They're great.

Alex: Yeah. We know those guys well. We advertise with us too and I've

tried out all their stuff. I actually have one over here it's

one of the latest ones from CES. It's the Macro 3-n-1.

Kristian: We don't have that one yet. That looks great.

Alex: I got in Vegas at CES. They were unavailing it.

Kristian: Nice. They do some great quality stuff.

Alex: Totally.

Kristian: The other thing I use, Zacuto, they are sponsored. They gave us

the point-and-shoot which I can basically put in which the

iPhone goes into a holster and it has a pistol grip. And I

attached that to a mono pod so I can get some better balance and

do some handheld stuff. In fact, the show, about 90 percent of

it, I had a mono pod attached to it to help with balancing.

Because it is difficult to do a hand held with ... And I'm doing

pretty good with hand held right now. But when you're moving

around trying to get it, it's really hard, because you're right

on it. Another great piece is the EM CAD, the Owl [inaudible

09:16] which is a device that a wide angle converter, but you

can also attach a 35 millimeter adapter. So I can actually use

DSLR lenses with my iPhone which is a hit and miss. Because they

have to put in a little sensor in there that's noisy, but you

can do some cool stuff with it with focusing and things when you

get some [inaudible 09:40]. That's more for art sake. Alo Clip

is fantastic. We use the Alo Clip all over the show.

Alex: Very cool. That's great, man. That's awesome. And just for the people

who are watching now, you mentioned you're doing a pretty good

job doing hand held right now. We're doing this on his iPhone.

He's shooting on his iPhone. So we were joking that he doesn't

use anything else.

Kristian: Yeah, I like how you said, He's doing great hand held, then I

was switching hands and it tilted a little bit. I sometimes

sound like a technology buff folks, but when it comes to certain

things like Skype, my mind just looks and it's says, "I don't

know how to use this." Technology changes overnight. If loosing

that equipment did not happen when it did, if it could have

happened earlier, we may not have had a show. But it changes so


Alex: I know. That's crazy. So tell me a little bit about that. So you did

the special and then what happened after that for you to sell it

them and do your series?

Kristian: Well after we did it, we actually didn't go with that first

network. Here's what makes it really difficult to do what we do.

Unless the station itself produces it in-house, no one really

knows how, at least in this area, how to shoot and encode and

close caption to deliver original content. It's very difficult.

And there are two things that make it really difficult. One, is

the format. To deliver the final product is MXF which is a wrap

and you also have it closed caption. Now, closed caption seems

like something not a big deal, because most people don't look at

anything that's closed captioned or has the captions on it. But

at the time, only one piece of software did it and it was three

to four thousand dollars. But you could hire everybody to do it

for you for a hefty amount. So we had a lot of technology

barriers. The show did air, but when it aired, no one could

figure out the format. And I don't blame the station, because

the chief engineers do not deal with what we're dealing with on

a regular basis. They get a tape of an HD Cam tape of the final

shows of what airs and they just pop it in, it downloads, it's

done, and they don't do anything. When it comes to having to

bring a file format in and do all this stuff, they don't know.

And I got frustrated and I said, "You know what? I don't know if

this is worth it right now." So I took it away and I sat on it

for a little bit. But I don't want to let it go, because we got

Nielsen ratings and for Christmas Day at 8:00 a.m., we had over

800 viewers just in the Des Moines market. Which doesn't seem

like much but that's how many people did tune in. So I set up

for a little while and I had a friend over at the KCCI, the

Hersh station here, and she's head of sales. And I just said,

"Hey. We have this pilot Sam, Sam had gotten bigger since then

because he's this micro celebrity in this area and people just

follow him, whatever he does and wherever he goes. So I showed

her the pilot and they said, "Hey, we really like this. We may

be able to do something." At that time, they had the Me TV

channel. Do you guys get that in Fairfield, Me TV?

Alex: I don't think so. I'm not sure actually.

Kristian: It's one of those digital sub channels, 8.2 is what it is here

in town. And they said, "Well we're starting to do some custom

programming on there." At the time, the Vikings were going to do

a pregame show. And they said, "This would be great to have your

show and then the Vikings pregame show." And I said, "OK." I

told Sam, "All right. We got it. Let's start shooting." Well,

that got pushed back all the way in May. And they said, "We're

going to start in June." I said, "All right." And it got pushed

back all the way to October. Well, in the midst of all that, we

shot a bunch of shows, tried to get ahead. Sam opened a

restaurant here in town, actually opened a brick and mortar

location. So he was getting a lot of attention. And then the

Vikings pulled out. And so I said, "Well the Vikings pulled

out." To me, that was our anchor. That was like, okay, that's

going to help drive people to watch us. Well, they pulled out.

And I got a little nervous and it came down to when they said,

"Well, you could produce a whole hour of the show." And I said,

"I can't do that. I don't think people would remain interested."

They said, "Well you could do two half hour shows." So I sold

them [inaudible 15:20] in the pan. But I also sold them .... I

literally made up a secondary show in 20 minutes and had it

start shooting two weeks before we first aired.

Alex: Wow. That's crazy.

Kristian: Yeah. And that was intense.

Alex. So a whole new show.

Kristian: A whole new show. It was called Fork in the Road with Sherry

Clark which was a raw food vegan more holistic show. It probably

would do very well in Fairfield. I produce that and got both

shows in the can. And the next was getting the formats down

again, because this is a different station, different server. We

went back and forth. I found a company that would do the closed

captioning and that at a hefty amount times two shows. So a lot

of our initial sponsorship dollars that we were getting was

going towards that. And this just shows how technology changes.

Come mid October, Adobe released Adobe Premier CC 7.1, the

update. That's been the first affordable program that you'd be

able to code the MXF. And it was really surreal because no one

knew. I was [inaudible 16:42] online still. There's got to be a

better way to do this. And [inaudible 16:50] coding for you and

you're good to go. And I'm like, "That's insane. You cannot tell

me that that's the only way to do it." But again, just like when

I lost my equipment and had to start shooting the iPhone and

literally weeks before that app had come out, this just

happened. So we were able to shoot the show and we got a good

pattern down. We would shoot [inaudible 17:13] on Mondays, okay?

And then on Tuesdays, we would edit. Wednesday we would close

caption, final encoding, I would deliver a hard drive on

Thursday and as you , I run the movie theater in Fairfield, I

would come to Fairfield, then I would actually watch the show

from my iPad in the lobby, because it would air on Sunday

mornings. Come back to Des Moines and start over again. I would

have Sunday night off.

Alex: And you could sleep on Sunday.

Kristian: Yeah. That's why I said earlier, "It's still here. It's still

going." And I'm actually at that the point now where I'm ready

to upgrade to a 5S. Part of the limitations too is your hard

drive on your phone. Now, I only have a 32 gig phone and

shooting at the high bit rate equals to about 1,000 gig a

minute, minute and a half. So you had to be very...

Alex: Wow. Yeah. So you got about 30 minutes or so max.

Kristian: You get about 30 minutes I would try to have a hard drive there

to download stuff. Plus, it drains your battery big time when

you shoot. But then Sam had a five so, if my phone was dead, I

would put my phone down, grab his phone, and then start shooting

again. So really, you have unlimited amount of cameras because

everyone has...

Alex: You just pass around a hat.

Kristian: Yeah.

Alex: Please put your phones, we need more cameras today.

Kristian: Exactly.

Alex: Oh, that's so funny.

Kristian: I was really cool. [inaudible 18:55]

Alex: Oh, you froze there for a minute.

Kristian: All right. How am I now?

Alex: Okay, you're good. So let me ask you about the reception of it.

Because when you pitch it to these channels, it's a cool

content, it's a good idea, how receptive were they to the fact

that you were shooting it on an iPhone?

Kristian: They laughed at me.


Kristian: I'll tell you, honestly, the average audience member didn't


Alex: Right. Probably a lot of people, I'm sure, couldn't really tell even.

Kristian: No. The people that had a problem, and I get a lot of remarks

about it, was the industry scene of Des Moines. We have two

major commercial production houses here - screen scapes and

applied art and technology that spend lots of money. We have

guys with some big toys to make these things and there was a

part of me, the stubborn, arrogant, punk kid that's still

somewhere up here, thought ... A lot of these guys here would

spend money and get companies to 15, 20,000 dollars to shoot a

pilot hoping someone would pick it up, but no one ever would.

And they would spend all this money burning the scene to try to

get people to put up money for pilots. And I said, "You know

what? We shot this with literally nothing, an iPhone." And a lot

of those guys were very much talking about, "He makes stuff on

his iPhone." And someone even went as far as shooting a video on

their regular iPhone video app on their $25,000 Red camera and

then go, "Oh, look at me, I'm shooting on a HD iPhone. Look at

this." It looked like garbage. And I was like, "You know what?

It does matter, necessarily..." The things is, first off, I sold

the show. Did a 13 episode season and we didn't spend any money,

it comes down to it, it's not 100 percent about the technology

that you use. Can you keep an audience? Are people interested in

it? That's what it really came down to. Remember Jackass when it

was on TV?

Alex: Totally.

Kristian: That was poorly shot. Cops, poor shot. And, actually, the

iPhone has better quality than that and those were all video

cameras. We were able to do something with little money, very

little technology, and as long as the content's good, people are

going to watch it. It doesn't matter. And that's what this

proved. Yes, we had a lot of limitations. We had to do our audio

on a external device and then sync later. Yeah, that's a pain.

But at the same time, people watched. And that's the bottom line

of anything - are people going to watch? And people did and

we're still on as much as I wish we weren't

Alex: So what's happening with the show now? You mentioned, before we

started the interview, that it's on reruns. Are you guys doing

more with it?

Kristian: Yeah. We are planning a season two, but there's a couple things

I want to do. I want to expand our reach a little bit with it

because I'm all about growth all the time. We have sales rep who

is shopping it around with some distribution markets - your

Hulu's, your Netflix's. Because we do feel that there is a need

for that. Because cooking shows, in general, I find, to be

boring. And the one effect that the show, at least later on,

because you just said you watched part of the pilot, the holiday

special, you can tell the show evolves as it goes on. First,

we're very ambitious. We're shooting on farms, we're

interviewing people, and then we got lazy and were just in the

kitchen. The one on the Gringo Taco as he called it. The

[inaudible 28:41] episode, were just in the kitchen. And someone

commented about the, we had a review come through and they said,

"You know what? It's like you're just in the kitchen hanging out

with him and he's cooking in front of you." And that's really

what it became. I pretty much shot it in a Cinema [Verde] style.

If you're familiar with documentaries like The Grey Garden or

Salesman, that's, basically, happening in real time. That's how

it went. The show, basically, as you see it in the later

episodes is as if it's happening in real time. And that's

literally why I would shoot it. The editing became easier and

easier because it was just shot in order. So people liked that

idea. We weren't all over the place. It's, "Okay. We're going to

make Bomb Me Sandwiches." And it gives you a little history

behind it, but not much, we don't want to bore you. We do a lot

of cooking with beer. That does really well. So it's really down-

to-earth. And even today, for me, I find myself remembering

stuff that we shot and using it in the kitchen too. I would like

to see it go on a much wider scale if all of what I need to make

it happen, happens. I'm one of those people that's not,

necessarily, married to any project. As I said to somebody, I

was like, "I will put any project to bed if it's too much. No

matter how great it is." And again, we have opportunities to

shoot the show on different formats, but the iPhone's part of

the aesthetic. It's that punk rock mentality of DIY. We're going

to do it no matter what. "Oh, we don't have a $10,000 camera?

Whatever." See, this is when I get politically incorrect and I

say, "It's like terrorism." You can't stop it. We find ways

that we can't be stopped.

Alex: Right. Creativity is going to find a way to express.

Kristian: Exactly. Limitations don't mainly matter. We will find a way to

do it. Like in Jurassic Park when the dinosaurs started

recording. We're the same way. No matter what, we can't be


Alex: Very cool. Well congratulations on all your success. It's really

fantastic and I commend you for going through and making a whole

show with the iPhone and doing all of that. How can people find

out more about you and about your films? Where do they go?

Kristian: I would say go to,

That's my go-to place. I have archives of shows, I have my blog,

and pretty much anything, music, it's all on there. And I'm very

loud. So you can find me on Twitter or Facebook, I'm very loud.

We're always making content somehow.

Alex: Yeah. Very cool. Awesome. And I'll put the links below so you guys

can check that out. All right, man. Well thank you so much,

Kristian for doing this interview with us and best of luck with


Kristian: Cool. Thanks, Alex.

If you have suggestions for people to interview, or ideas about making the interview series better, please shoot me an email at

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Alex Cequea's picture

Alex is marketing consultant, regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and the host of a web series called Social Good Now, where he highlights social issues through short animated videos. Formerly, he was a Marketing Exec at Cisco, and Editor in Chief of iPhone Life magazine. His projects have been featured on TEDx Houston, CNN, TIME, ABC News, CBS, Univision, Fast Company, and the Huffington Post.