Finding a stable entry point for the aspiring moviemaker in the ever-shifting waters of cinema can be a difficult task. But with 10 years of connecting independent moviemakers under their belt, the online community, Shooting People, has become just that, an integral part of the way in which thousands of moviemakers survive in this dog-eat-dog business.
As the moviemaking world moves more and more toward the digital world, the renowned international networking organization, which has grown to include 37,000 members, has become a haven for moviemakers to share tips, search possible job prospects and upload their own work; a place where indie moviemakers from all ends of the spectrum can come together to support, promote and share with one another. Because while the term “independent” may conjure thoughts of renegade moviemakers, Shooting People understood early on the importance of creating a community where, above all else, moviemakers could collaborate with each other.
Celebrating its 10th birthday on November 22, MM caught up with Shooting People’s Ingrid Kopp to discuss the organization’s decade-long contribution to moviemaking, the future of independent movies and what makes their online forum a sturdy rock, despite a medium that is constantly changing.
Beth Levin (MM): Shooting People allows moviemakers to upload and share their work online. How does the site differ from YouTube, MySpace, etc.? How does Shooting People work to create more of a “community” of moviemakers?
Ingrid Kopp (IK): Shooting People was founded in 1998, this year is our tenth anniversary, so we existed before online social network was a well-known concept. We were founded by filmmakers and our goal has always been to create a real community of working filmmakers rather than to exist purely as an online social network or a place to exhibit films. Of course, we have adapted our technology to provide more Web 2.0 resources to filmmakers as these fantastic tools become available and we are constantly excited and inspired by the possibilities of this for filmmakers. We have also partnered with sites like MySpace. We encourage filmmakers to take advantage of all these networks but we have always seen ourselves as an organization working to promote independent film and independent filmmakers first and foremost. We have events in the “real” world, so that our members can meet each other face to face: Parties, masterclasses and workshops. We recently did a big event with BAFTA in London called Short Sighted which focused on short film exhibition and distribution.
MM: How can moviemakers best profit from the site?
IK: There are a number of ways that Shooters use the site: Filmmakers can create a personal profile and then upload their films and reels. This means that they are searchable in our database—which Shooters use when they are looking for cast and crew. One of the great things about SP is that we have a very holistic approach to independent filmmaking and we understand that it is not all about the director. We encourage writers, producers, actors, camera and sound people, designers, animators, composers, distributors, art organizations and everyone else that it takes to get a film made and seen to join up. This means that you can work with other members to collaborate on your film throughout the project from pre-production to distribution and many great partnerships have been formed this way.
We also have a series of member-driven daily email bulletins that Shooters use to post jobs, ask questions, find out about submission deadlines and debate issues around production and distribution. We also provide resources like links to other organizations providing services to filmmakers, downloadable contracts and a series of blogs covering key issues in the independent film world—from festivals to digital distribution strategy.
MM: So the site provides a whole networking system for moviemakers. Why do you think these online resources are so essential in the current industry?
IK: Anyone who has been following the current debates over the future of independent film know that we are going through a cycle of enormous change. More films are being made than ever before and the few that actually get theatrical distribution are competing for audiences in a glutted market where it is very difficult to thrive. Digital distribution is opening up new channels for exhibition and the Web is allowing us to connect with niche audiences in new and direct ways, but very few people have figured out the secret to monetizing this new world of distribution yet. Peter Broderick made some excellent comments in an indieWIRE article during Independent Film Week and I am a huge fan of Ted Hope and his comments during his keynote at the Film Independent Filmmaker Forum recently. I believe that our members are the truly free filmmakers he is referring to and I think that together we need to be the innovators that will seek new solutions. Shooting People’s network is a great start. We are 37,000 members strong, we have some incredibly talented filmmakers on board, and we are forging a path between film and the web together. I think it is this combination of film and interactive, along with the passion to make good films and get them seen, that will create the change that we need if we are to have a healthy and truly independent film community.
Networking is essential in the current industry and it is more than simply having lots of online friends. It is about connecting to other filmmakers to work with, and then connecting to audiences who will then become the cheerleaders for your film. This was much harder to do before the Internet. Now it is possible to really reach out to the people who might be interested in your film and to self-distribute to them if that is what you want to do. This is very exciting and empowering for filmmakers but it can be tricky to figure out and this is where Shooting People can be of help. We are all about sharing knowledge and resources and we connect filmmakers to other interesting people and organizations who are working at the coal face of independent film in the digital age: Lance Weiler and the Workbook Project, Liz Rosenthal and Power to the Pixel, Scott Kirsner et al and The Conversation.
We also believe that is is very important for filmmakers to be extremely strategic at the moment. It feels like anything goes but we know that filmmakers need to value what they are doing and come up with production, festival and distribution strategies that work for them and their films. Part of our goal is to provide the information so that filmmakers can make informed decisions going forward. Knowledge really is power.
MM: Do you think the future of film distribution will alter as a result of more online forums such as Shooting People?
IK: The Internet and the connectivity and participation possible through Web 2.0 technologies has already changed film distribution. Filmmakers can now upload their films for streaming or download, sell DVDs from their Websites, connect with potential audiences and market their films, without going through any gatekeepers. This is a huge change. It is now in most filmmakers’ power to avoid total obscurity. Obviously we are tremendously excited by this and we want to make sure that we continue to stand by our mission to promote independent filmmaking by embracing these technologies and by helping filmmakers to explore all the options open to them. We are also interested in creating a sustainable culture for filmmakers where they can make a living and where good films are championed. This means advocating for filmmakers and fighting for net neutrality and promoting the really good stuff. There’s a lot to do but it is vital that we do it well because we really believe in independent film and we know how hard it is to get films made in this way and we want our filmmakers to be able to continue to create good work and find audiences for that work. For me personally, it is very important that I fight for a world in which interesting, creative, thoughtful and challenging work is embraced—and that includes supporting the artists who make that work.
MM: With locations in the U.K. and the U.S., your members are certainly a diverse lot. Do you plan on reaching out more to moviemakers in other countries?
IK: We already have members all over the world and we would love to reach out to more countries. We have been talking about starting a SP in India for example. But right now we are concentrating all of our resources on the UK and the US—we want it to really thrive before we try to take over the world!