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The I-List: Top 40 Independent Film-Friendly Businesses

The I-List: Top 40 Independent Film-Friendly Businesses

The year was 1967. As the Vietnam War waged, much was happening in the arts world: The Doors released their self-titled debut album, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” hit the airwaves, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band became one of the music industry’s most acclaimed albums and a little film called Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, forever changed the face of American moviemaking.

The shift from studio-focused films to auteristic productions, where the writers and directors were king, changed the business of making movies. Whereas American moviemaking had previously been relegated to Los Angeles and (to a lesser extent) New York City, other American metropolises were now getting into the act.

In the 40 years since that landmark film, independent moviemaking has become a truly global industry, transcending both location and language. In honor of this “anniversary,” MM decided to seek out those companies—old and recently-established—that have helped to define the look of American indie cinema from behind the scenes.

Here, then, is MM’s latest “I-List”—the 40 companies every indie needs to know!

Andersson Technologies, LLC
2 Carrie Lane
Malvern, PA 19355
For those looking to up the ante on effects, SynthEyes offers unprecedented camera tracking and stabilization technology. The software’s 3-D tracking features can be used to create spectacular sets via the use of green screen or to add effects into existing footage. According to owner Russ Andersson, SynthEyes has been “used on projects ranging from YouTube shorts to the biggest blockbusters,” including this summer’s Transformers. For a paltry $399, moviemakers of all skill levels can have access to the same technology as the big-budget hits.

Artbeats, Inc.
P.O. Box 709
Myrtle Creek, OR 97457
Any royalty-free stock footage provider can offer moviemakers the rights to various film and video clips, but Artbeats’ motto—“footage you can use”—hints that theirs is footage you will actually want to use. After going to extra lengths to film high-quality, hard-to-obtain footage, Artbeats will do everything it can during the rest of the production process (including preserving and restoring source footage frame-by-frame) to guarantee the film’s lasting integrity. Artbeats’ proprietary interest dates back a decade to its first series of special effects packages, continues into the future with their ongoing additions to one of the largest HD libraries available and means quality to you, the discerning moviemaker.

The Asylum
1012 North Sycamore Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
With 50 features in its library, The Asylum has become a remarkably prolific self-contained studio. For horror and sci-fi moviemakers in particular, The Asylum is a distributor to know. “We produce and distribute a feature film every month,” boasts COO Paul Bales, so The Asylum is a great bet for that “stylish genre picture” you just made (or wrote).

Band Pro Film & Digital, Inc.
3403 West Pacific Ave.
Burbank, CA 91505
To a moviemaker looking for the very best in production and post-production technology, Band Pro Film & Digital is more than just a supplier. The company’s commitment to the needs of individual productions makes it a true industry resource. Besides a wide range of high-quality HD and DV/HDV equipment, the company prides itself on the extensive support of its staff—market advice, hands-on instructions and public workshops. Band Pro’s dedication to moviemakers has meant success worldwide, evidenced by the company’s offices in Burbank, Tel Aviv, Munich and now New York.

B-Side Entertainment
815 Brazos St., Suite 300
Austin, TX 78701
Movie businesses usually cater to either moviemakers or fans; it’s the rare service that succeeds in doing both. When Chris Hyams (son of famed action moviemaker Peter Hyams) founded B-Side Entertainment, he wanted to keep quality independent movies from going the way of the dodo by increasing their exposure. Through its Website, B-Side provides audiences with unprecedented access to festivals and allows them to search out movies they might have otherwise overlooked. For moviemakers, it acts as a distributor and promoter, creating a buzz by fostering online discussions and selling films online.

BoilerPlate Software
1818 Gilbreth Road, Suite 200 Burlingame, CA 94010
Why pay a huge amount for software to manage your movie budget when you might only have hundreds to begin with? BoilerPlate president and owner Bruno Borello first encountered budget programs in the mid-1980s, one of which retailed for over $1,200. So, using Lotus 1-2-3, he designed an easy-to-understand program that retails for only $99—perfect for new moviemakers or even larger productions looking to save a couple of bucks.

Breakthrough Distribution
8840 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
For many moviemakers, distribution is a daunting balancing act. They want their movie to be seen by many, but don’t want to simply hand the film over to a faceless corporation. That’s where Breakthrough Distribution’s idea of “hybrid distribution” comes in. The idea is to divide the rights on an international level, at once broadening the film’s audience and its opportunities. The company attempts to attack the marketplace from all angles including festivals, the Internet and with traditional print ads. Add this to their dedication to the moviemaker, who will always retain control of his or her project, and the result is quite tantalizing.

Bright Systems, Inc.
5301 Longley Lane, D157-158
Reno, NV 89511
Independent moviemakers continued their exodus to the digital realm in 2007 in order to cut costs and increase facility. Not satisfied with the advantages of the medium at the moment, Bright Systems strives to make digital film even more beneficial. The company has seemingly perfected the process of media sharing with their BrightDrive, a data storage device that is used to create more effective workflows and allow several people to work on a project at once, increasing productivity on VFX, tapeless editorials and dailies. This, of course, promises to cut down on both the time and money it takes to complete a film—two concerns for any moviemaker.

Cinequipt Inc.
2601 49th Ave. N., Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55430
800/809-9080; 612/627-9080
Have everything you need to complete your film except cameras and a place to film? If you live in the upper Midwest, Cinequipt is your solution. Founded in 1970, the company has provided equipment and studio space for projects ranging from Comfort Mattress infomercials to films like 2005’s Factotum. As president Dawn Mans puts it, “We rent film equipment, lighting and grip, trucks, generators—anything needed to produce the full project.”

Digital Film Central Inc.
177 West 7th Ave., Suite 200
Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Y 1L8
Located in film-friendly Vancouver, Digital Film Central is a state-of-the-art post-production facility. With services that include film scanning and recording, color grading and management and HD mastering, the company has worked on the visually stunning Rize and the documentary Paper Clips. With high-end equipment such as the ARRISCAN 6K film scanner and Truelight Color Management System, DFC keeps the independent moviemaker in mind.

Independence Square West
The Curtis Center, Suite 1050 South
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Located in the City of Brotherly Love, DIVE specializes in visual effects, titles and 2K digital intermediates. The company is dedicated to indie moviemakers and doesn’t cut corners. Case in point: Visual effects supervisor Mark Forker, hired because of his work on such films as Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, works as DIVE’s director of creative services. If you are an independent moviemaker looking for animation, CGI or title design, DIVE offers it at a world-class level.

Eastman Kodak Company
6700 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
You know the name, but Kodak does far more than sell cameras and film. The company’s years of experience enable it to help prospective moviemakers achieve their visions by consulting about budgets and efficiency and helping to “make connections that could make a film project a reality,” according to marketing manager Nicole Phillips. Offering a wide variety of film stock and post-production services, Kodak has shown it also cares about the next generation of moviemakers, recycling 18 million pounds of used film prints each year.

eCinema Systems, Inc.
25026 Anza Drive
Valencia, CA 91355
eCinema Systems is a manufacturer that prides itself on meeting the demands of independent moviemakers—namely the need for “cheaper, better” equipment. With the release of its PRO-Class of monitors, the company has answered the call. Available for a wide range of applications, from Avid to to the RED Camera, the monitors are “The best value in the industry at this performance level,” according to founder-CEO Martin Euredjian.

Field & Frame
107 Tulane SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106
For guerilla moviemakers, the project is either quick or it’s dead. Fortunately, a small production house named Field & Frame is there—in Albuquerque, NM, specifically—to help. Catering to the needs of moviemakers packing light and working fast, Field & Frame offers highly portable video packages for rental—at whole and half-day rates. Besides renting all of the necessary lighting and display equipment, Field & Frame offers editing services, too, so you can start and finish your project in one place.

11822 Teal Street
Culver City, CA 90230
Sometimes an indie film needs that splash of vehicular ballet normally restricted to Michael Bay movies. With the help Filmotechnic, creators of the Oscar-winning, car-mounted camera known as “The Russian Arm,” that need can be actualized. Offering affordable rentals of action-ready equipment used on such films as War of the Worlds and The Italian Job, Filmotechnic can help amp up smaller projects.

First Glance Films
P.O. Box 571105
Tarzana, CA 91356
FirstGlance runs two events each year, a June festival in Philadelphia and a December one in Hollywood. Run by indie moviemakers rather than executives in suits, the festivals take every step to cater to the community, offering flexibility in their screening programs and low entry fees. They are especially accommodating to shorts, offering their official selections both online and for retail distribution at no cost to the director. FirstGlance has teamed with IndiePix (see listing) to offer a unique, non-exclusive profit-sharing distribution system that allows directors to retain the rights to their movies. The company includes selections on a compilation DVD and, through IndiePix, allows movies to be downloaded off the Internet and burned to DVD.

2220 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91506-1734
Fujifilm is a behemoth of a company, one that might not necessarily pop into your head when thinking of businesses to utilize for your next independent project. However, according to Sandy Kurotobi, national sales administration and operations manager, the company’s most famous product is known as “The Indie Friendly Film.” With products ranging from negative to print stocks, Fujifilm is one of the most respected names in film. When purchasing equipment for you dream project, it’s never a bad idea to go with a reliable product.

Global ImageWorks, LLC.
65 Beacon Street
Haworth, NJ 07641
When you need the perfect shot, but just don’t want to make the trek to the peak of Everest, stock footage becomes a necessity. While it’s possible to simply browse online libraries and download the footage, Jessica Berman-Bogdan, president of Global ImageWorks, thinks that this causes a digital disconnect between business and customer. “Although we do provide digital screeners and online delivery,” says Berman-Bogdan, “we personally contact every one of our clients to discuss their production needs.” To make it even easier for their customers, the company also offers rights clearance and research services.

IDX Studios, Inc.
13858 Lazy Creek Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
Special effects seem to come in two categories: Big-budget and no-budget. IDX Studios is bridging the gap between the two. According to production supervisor Milko Davis, “We work hard to achieve a million-dollar look for each effect. It’s a challenge to match the bigger budgets, but the collaboration of many talented people can make the difference.”

6532-1/2 La Mirada Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
The path to distribution is a complicated one. Studios are wary of lawsuits and so will want an insurance policy in place to make sure they’re protected. Moviemakers looking to secure distribution would do well to get a script clearance report. IndieClear, which only works with independent productions, will scour a script for any possible legal snafus, including character names and copyright information. It also offers research and general fact-checking services, which are especially handy on scripts heavy on history and/or technical details.

Indie-Dolly Systems
820 Thompson Avenue, Unit #26
Glendale, CA 91201
A moviemaker never wants to sacrifice his or her vision for a reduced cost. With Indie-Dolly Systems’ collection of tracks and their “Universal Dolly,” you can film that 10-minute tracking shot and still have enough money to complete the rest of the movie. The tracks, which travel easily in their specially-designed carrying cases, can be adjusted for any terrain, too. The Universal Dolly fits on any of the tracks—straight, curved or S-shaped—without adjustment.

IndieFlix, Inc.
1207 41st Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98112
206/323-FLIX (3549)
IndieFlix offers moviemakers a distribution solution that puts their work in front of a worldwide audience—125 million strong, according to CEO Scilla Andreen. By offering non-exclusive rights, 70 percent royalties and cooperative packaging, IndieFlix has become practically irresistible to thousands of moviemakers. Said moviemakers enjoy exposure not only through the IndieFlix Website, but through its partners sites, including Joost, Vuze and UnBox. Royalties include all aspects of revenue, including various kind of digital platforms, DVD sales and advertisement sales. By doing its best to bring independent movies to as many people as possible, IndieFlix helps moviemakers find their audience.

31 East 32nd Street, #1201
New York, NY 10016
With the goal of “bridging the gap between the independent filmmaker and those passionate about independent film,” IndiePix boasts a catalog of 3,000 independent feature films and documentaries from around the globe. For moviemakers, the company is a one-stop distribution destination, offering DVD authoring, design, duplication, fulfillment and sales. But they also cater to the rabid film fan market, too, offering a Website full of exclusive video interviews, daily blogs from a worldwide base of film festival locations, weekly news and information on the latest trends in moviemaking.

LAB 601, Inc.
621 North Ave. NE, Suite A-100
Atlanta, GA 30308
A post-production company that does it all, LAB 601 won’t just edit your movie with the kind of creativity that has helped features like Venus and Vegas and The Cry stand out, they’ll work as promoters and financiers, too. LAB 601 can become a co-producer on your movie, advocating for it through fest, press and distribution contacts. Who couldn’t use that kind of help?

Movie Forms Pro
2050 Stanley Hills Place
Los Angeles, CA 90046
All movies thrive on structure, which is why software like Movie Forms Pro and Movie Forms Pro-Interactive are essential. Help yourself and your crew stay organized day-to-day (and minute-to-minute) with forms, logs and standardized sheets to support every phase of production. In the constantly changing environment of a film shoot, interactive forms make updating and distributing information easy, so everyone can be on the same page, putting more creative energy into the project.

7400 Valjean
Van Nuys, CA 91406
3007 SW Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Backed by nearly 20 years of experience in film and video production, NEBTEK keeps abreast of the changing trends in the marketplace—and the subsequent needs of moviemakers big and small. The company’s latest HD onboard camera monitors answer the demands of independents directly. As a manufacturer, NEBTEK is able to customize many video assist setups and cables for their customers. The company also rents the most versatile video assist packages, several fast and easy remote heads and even offers computer graphics and content creation for hire.

Novko, LLC
12040 Marine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Complications can arise easily during the hours spent on set, so laying out a shooting schedule should be a no-brainer. Novko president and assistant director Ross Novie created his scheduling software program, CompanyMOVE, “to make it affordable for all filmmakers.” With features such as integrated call sheets, production reports and crew lists, it is specially designed to help independent moviemakers conquer the challenging scheduling tasks they may not have been brave enough to tackle before.

Oppenheimer Cine Rental
7400 Third Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98108
Is your camera package putting you over your budget, or was the decision to rent a no-brainer from the get-go? Either way, you want a rental company with experience, and Oppenheimer’s got 28 years behind them. The company has a long legacy of serving independent productions, from Bombs Away to Chasing Amy, and its immense stable of cameras, lenses, displays and everything in between means that, even on an indie budget, your film can always look its best.

PS Production Services
80 Commissioners Street
Toronto, ON. M5A 1A8
800/461-0037; 416/466-0037
This Canadian rental giant keeps an eye on up-and-coming movie talent. Over the 35 years that its been in business, the company has demonstrated an ongoing dedication to indies because, as marketing manager Lowell Schrieder explains, “They represent the future of our industry.” What the company’s support means exactly to its recipients can range from merit-based equipment credits and discounts through the “PS Kickstart” program—past beneficiaries of which include Atom Egoyan and Sarah Polley—to free instructional lessons and thorough troubleshooting help for customers.

PowerProduction Software
15732 Los Gatos Blvd., Suite 300
Los Gatos, CA 95032
With their feature StoryBoard software line, PowerProduction Software offers moviemakers of all experience levels the tools to create quality, professional storyboards. A beginner might choose Storyboard Quick for its ease of use, while someone more seasoned could turn to Storyboard Artist Studio and enjoy the expanded features and unprecedented control it offers. Narc director Joe Carnahan and “Lost” stunt coordinator John Medlen, who “plan[s] on using it on all [his] upcoming projects,” are among those who sing the software’s praises.

2805 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505
The inventor of Super 8 negative film, Pro8mm offers a wide variety of film selection for prospective moviemakers. Originally founded in 1971, the company then focused on the production potential of Super 8mm film, with a breakthrough in 1993 when Pro8mm negative film was developed. Today the company offers film, cameras, processing and mastering services. Pro8mm has also had a hand in the digital revolution, modernizing their services by including digital transfer services.

The Rights Workshop
39 Mesa Street, Suite 112
San Francisco, CA 94129
For most moviemakers, getting the perfect song for that one scene is essential. So The Rights Workshop, headed by Brooke Wentz, offers affordable music supervision services for artists who need some guidance. The company acknowledges that not everyone can afford “The Stones, Sinatra or Steely Dan,” but remains focused on helping choose quality music that meshes with the action on-screen. They also offer creative licensing for artists of all genres and hold seminars on music and copyright issues.

Rogue Post NYC
18 W. 21st Street
10th Floor
New York, NY
A variety of remastering services give Rogue Post the versatility to edit film as well as digital clients. Directors Andrew Bloomenthal and Giancarlo Esposito, among others, have already teamed with Rogue to establish exactly the kind of finishing work their projects need. Access to in-house titles and opticals, color-correction and even downconversion to any level means that any of Rogue’s potential clients can find just the right look they need.

Show Starter Budgeting & Scheduling Plus
For a budgeting and scheduling software package, how can you beat the accessibility and compatibility of anytime/anywhere Web access? Show Starter Budgeting & Scheduling Plus makes an efficient, simple application for creating schedules, budgets and contact lists available to you at any time. Any moviemaker—no matter how experienced with budgets and schedules—will appreciate the ease and affordability of such a valuable tool.

1501 W. 5th Street
Suite 102
Austin, TX 78703
Located in the independent film haven that is Austin, Texas, Soundcrafter has helped achieve pristine sound for narratives and documentaries alike. Opened in 1993, the company has worked on everything from PBS specials to student films to studio pictures. A favorite of Austin legend Richard Linklater, who has used Soundcrafter on many of his films, beginning with 1993’s Before Sunrise, the company will provide outlines regarding the organization and editing of audio for moviemakers with smaller pockets. The idea, says supervising sound editor Tom Hammond, is to make sure that “budgets are applied in our areas of expertise within the facility and not in areas that filmmakers can do themselves.”

The Standby Program
135 West 26th Street,?12th Floor
New York, NY 10001-6833
Being “independent” shouldn’t mean you have to go it alone. As artists, moviemakers benefit culture with their visual and narrative creations, and The Standby Program is a way for society to demonstrate support for those making such movies. The Standby Program works in conjunction with commercial studios in order to provide discounted studio time to independent and student moviemakers—at discounts of 25 to 80 percent.

Tobin Cinema Systems
17128 E. Baldwin Ave.
Spokane Valley, WA 99016-9506
Old formats never become any more outdated than their content. Sometimes, however, the content and the format itself need a little assistance to reach a new generation. Tobin Cinema Systems, a manufacturer of film-to-video transfer equipment, specializes not only in making the images on delicate film more accessible to present and future viewers, but enabling you to do the same. With sales of and information on telecine machines, Tobin is the film-to-video resource.

Trew Audio
For non-LA/NYC moviemakers, truly professional location sound services weren’t as readily available before Trew Audio came to town. Trew reaches customers across North America and in 40 countries worldwide with their praise-worthy sales, rental and support services. Knowledgeable staff “know what it’s like” for sound crews, and someone from Trew can always help you with a solution, no matter the situation or the location—even if it’s the middle of Hollywood.

Twisted Media
1341 W. Granville, Suite 1
Chicago, IL 60660
What’s the best kind of help an indie moviemaker can get on a project? Free help! That’s what’s great about Twisted Media. Arranging a score here is like cashing in a favor from a professional musician acquaintance—if that acquaintance happens to be skilled in more than 30 genres and even more different combinations of instruments, guaranteeing a complementary sound for any scene. If your soundtrack is just right, the better your chances of having viewers take notice of your film. When they do, that’s when Twisted Media asks you to remember the little people: You only start paying standard licensing fees once your movie begins showing publicly.

P.O. Box 201990
Austin, TX 78720
888/826-3399; 512/219-7722
VariZoom is a company dedicated to offering affordable camera equipment to the independent moviemaker. Their line of products ranges from lens controllers to TFT monitors. Their always-evolving newest items include a motion control pan and tilt system and a camera crane. While these products may seem a bit luxurious, you can be sure that this fact won’t be reflected in the price tag. The company never forgets about the independent moviemaker. One reason for this, according to Andy LeMaster, general manager of VariZoom, is that “many of our knowledgeable and friendly staff are independents themselves and understand the needs of today’s indie filmmakers.” MM

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