The episode, called "Connection Lost," centers around Claire Dunphy, a mother stuck in an airport on her way home from a business trip. She's trying to make up with and find her daughter Haley after a fight.
The entire episode takes place on Claire's MacBook screen, as she uses email, FaceTime, iMessages, and a bunch of other apps to try to find Haley, according to the New York Times.
Apple provided the devices, but didn't pay for product placement, Levitan told Re/code.“We called them and informed them what we were doing,” Levitan said. “They loved the idea. They provided the iPhones for us.”
Levitan said the episode was inspired by his own life. “I have two daughters at college, and we do a lot of FaceTiming," he told the New York Times. "One day I was on my computer, and I had some emails open, and some websites, and then my daughter showed up. But I couldn’t only see her, but I could see me.”
Levitan says he was also inspired by a short film called "Noah," created by two Canadian film students. The 17-minute film takes place on a computer screen as the main character, Noah, goes through a breakup, using iTunes, Facebook, and messaging apps to portray Noah's heartbreak.
Filming with mobile devices was challenging. From the New York Times:
"At certain points in the episode there are three different screens open on Claire’s computer — one shows her sitting in the airport, while the others show various family members in their respective homes. To create a sense that the actors were all actually communicating on FaceTime, the scenes were all recorded simultaneously, sometimes with as many as three sets rolling at the same time.
“Everything was shot on the iPhone 6 or new iPads,” Mr. Levitan said. “With one or two small scenes shot using MacBook Pros.”
Tony Orcena, an editor on the show, said there were also some learning curves when figuring out how to shoot the episode with mobile devices. “At first, actors tried holding the iPhones themselves,” he said, but given that they had to focus on lines and other cues, some shots ended up showing the ceiling or floor, rather than an actor’s face. To solve this problem, camera operators took control of the iPhones and the actors grabbed the operator’s arm, thereby appearing to be in control of the phone as it moved around."
"Connection Lost" will air on Wednesday, February 25 at 9 pm on ABC.