The bittersweet thing about short documentaries is their length and how when you’re watching a good one you don’t always want it to end.

Such is the case with “The Shape of Air” directed by Rob Layton.

It feels like a vacation.

A laid-back beach vacation where you wander into a surf shop and encounter a cool surfboard artist creating masterpieces as his cute dog runs around his workspace doing cute dog things, and you sit back and listen as the artist tells you about his life and artistic process, and then you blink, and suddenly your chilled-out holiday is over and everything feels like a great and dreamy whirlwind.

Yup, that’s what “The Shape of Air” feels like.

The artist in the film is Willy Nicholls. He has worked for Mt Woodgee Surfboards for over two decades as their artist/airbrush specialist. Over the course of 6 minutes, viewers are introduced to Nicholls and get an inside look at his incredible airbrushing skills and some of the mind-blowing designs he has produced through the years.

When you stop to consider how he’s creating these detailed pieces using a small airbrush to spray directly onto the board, the level of skill and talent behind his hand becomes unreal. You start to realize why there might be so few surfboard artists doing airbrushing like him these days–it takes a special touch!

Rob Layton shot the film using iPhone with the FiLMiC Pro app and LumaFusion to edit. The cinematic quality is immersive, sharp, and vibrant. The underwater shots showcasing Nicholls’ art on the belly of one of the surfboards as it glides through the water wows. You’d have no idea the film was shot on iPhone if not told by the filmmaker. Combined with Layton’s journalism skills and brilliant photographic eye, the result is a winning mix of storytelling and visual allure that fascinates.

More and more filmmakers will likely experiment with iPhone and other mobile devices and apps in the future due to their accessibility and relatively lower costs when compared to traditional equipment. If it inspires more people to create and share their stories and films then that can only be a good thing.

“The Shape of Air” may be brief but it offers an exceptional glimpse into the amazing talent of one of Australia’s unique surfboard artists. Layton’s mastery of mobile filmmaking is also sure to inspire others to consider what they can achieve on a device they may already have nestled safely in their pocket.

See “The Shape of Air” streaming online from October 1st-31st at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival during Shorts Session 3. For more information on how to stream the film, visit: