“Showcase. Collaborate. Create.” The three-part slogan of Creative District reflects a perfect mirror of the production process.
A newly launched online networking site for film industry professionals, Creative District allows moviemakers to reach out to and communicate with each other, exchanging ideas and assistance on their projects. Like a lovechild of Kickstarter and LinkedIn, Creative District allows filmmakers to present their project to a like-minded community, so they can connect, collaborate and conquer. They’ve been making the news recently with a monthly grant program, which distributes up to $5,000 every month to films at any stage in the creative process. And, the best thing is that, right now, it’s all free! General Manager Micki Krimmel confirms this: “Our first plan for revenue is to charge large production companies for job postings, but that comes later. We’re just focusing on building tools.”
Legendary film processing company Technicolor is funding Creative District, and devised its original concept to “develop innovative solutions to address expanding digital markets.” On the new website, project managers are provided with space to describe their project and summarize its goals, list open positions with links to apply, keep users up to date on the film’s status, and update the project page with stills, teasers and links to other projects. A key result of these elements coming together in one place is the idea of “social proof,” a tangible way to evaluate how useful a potential collaborator may be to your film.
Krimmel answered our questions about the ins-and-outs of the cool new virtual hang-out.
Morgan Greenwald, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): Tell us a little bit about the origins of Creative District, and how Technicolor decided to venture into the community networking world.
Micki Krimmel (MK): Technicolor has been a trusted partner for content creators for the last 100 years. They’ve mostly worked within the studio system. Now, of course, new technologies and funding models are enabling a whole new generation of filmmakers outside of the traditional ecosystem. Technicolor is looking for ways to support this new breed of content creators by investing in endeavors like Creative District.
MM: “Social proof” is a term that we’ve been hearing lately. What exactly does that mean? And how do we rate someone’s abilities objectively on a public platform?
MK: Social proof is nothing new. We always ask for references when we’re going to hire someone and the first place we often look for referrals is to our friends. If I’m making a movie and looking to hire a cinematographer, it helps if I can verify who else he’s worked with. On Creative District, I can see if my potential cinematographer has collaborated with someone I know and respect, in which case, I will be more likely to hire him onto my project. We’re also working on a peer review system coming soon.
MM: What do you think of similar networks for creative types like Stage32, or even a website like Craigslist? What makes Creative District different?
MK: When we started exploring the marketplace and talking with content creators, we found that they have two main needs: funding and networking. There is a ton of innovation happening in the funding space with sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, Seed and Spark, etc. But we found that none of the existing networking tools were filling that particular need for the creative community. Filmmakers don’t search for jobs the same way a full time professional might. They jump from project to project and often find opportunities through their social networks. The creative merit of the project and the team involved are big factors in employment decisions. The text-based job boards and classified ads of the past simply don’t serve the professional needs of this community.
Let me give you a hypothetical: A filmmaker seeking collaborators first creates a project on Creative District. She shares the story of her film by adding video, photos and text to the project. She invites her current collaborators to the project. When they accept the invitation, that creates the “social proof” we talked about earlier. Now our filmmaker has this beautiful project on the site, full of great content and a list of credible collaborators, and she can post an Open Collaboration Position which gets shared with the Creative District community. When applicants view that project, they have all the information they need to decide whether they want to apply. And our filmmaker, in turn, can check out applicants’ profiles and projects to decide whether to hire them. Plus, as she adds collaborators to her project, she is building her professional social network. The next time she needs help, she’ll have access to this network and she’ll have the opportunity to expand it by viewing her collaborators’ collaborators. There’s that social proof thing again!
MM: You’ve mentioned that most filmmakers employ “guerilla tactics” (social media, email, etc) to find collaborators. In many ways Creative District takes away the traditional need for networking. Do you foresee networking as we know it going away in the future—or rather, how will it evolve?
MK: Filmmakers are a resourceful bunch. They use the tools available to get the job done. Right now, when they want to find collaborators, they turn to their social networks to track down people with the right skills – Facebook, email, text, whatever means are at hand. Creative District streamlines that process for efficiency and continuity. Why should creators have to start at the beginning every time they have a new project? Creative District helps creators build and manage their professional contacts over the course of their careers.
Creative District supplements but does not replace traditional networking. Nothing compares to meeting face to face. But once you meet someone at a networking event or on another project, you need to do something with that contact. By connecting with your professional contacts on Creative District, you can stay up to date with their projects, ask for their feedback on yours, and gain access to their network of collaborators.
MM: Could you give any insight into how Creative District’s $5,000 grants are rewarded? What are the parameters, or particular interests—or does anything and everything qualify?
MK: We’re currently awarding grants to film and video projects only but that could change soon as other types of creatives are beginning to experiment with our platform. In fact, the grant program has proven so successful that we are actively seeking sponsors to help us with its expansion. Projects enrolled in the grant program remain eligible on a rolling basis. If moviemakers apply this month, they remain in contention for next month’s grant. The best way to keep us in the loop on their progress is to keep adding content to their project.
Once a month, we award up to $5k to one or more projects at any stage. We’re looking for a diverse group of projects. We want to make sure we are highlighting the wide range of amazing projects on Creative District. We have previously awarded grants to an untitled feature film in post-production by indie filmmaker Arin Crumley, a web short in production that will premiere on Youtube’s Blackbox TV, and finishing funds for Fort Tilden, which won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW shortly thereafter.
We’re also granting $5,000 to Lena Khan’s Tiger Hunter which is currently in pre-production in Los Angeles. Lena is going to use the money to support the production design of her period piece, in particular the key production car, a ’70s Dodge Charger. Lena is currently hiring a Director of Photography, a Casting Director, and a Production Designer on Creative District. MM