This year’s indie-friendly business list takes to the digital frontiers of efficient independent moviemaking.
When the telephone was invented in 1876, no one could’ve predicted that it would unlock, for audiences everywhere, a world of transgender prostitutes in 2015 Los Angeles. Yet Sean Baker’s iPhone 5s-shot Tangerine proved conclusively that half the world now walks around with professional-grade movie cameras in their pockets. Modern moviemaking, in the age of smartphones, has been made compact, streamlined and intuitive. We want to make our movies when, where, and how we want, no questions asked. So with the help of dozens of filmmakers and innovators, we identified the individuals, communities and yes, gadgets that are changing the game in 2015 and beyond. These indie-friendly businesses will improve every stage of your journey, from that sketchy idea you wrote on the back of a Quiznos receipt to the rough cut you send off to festivals. After all, necessity is the mother of invention—and the independent moviemaker is forever in need, and so forever inventing.
- Amazon Studios Storybuilder // studios.amazon.com/storybuilder
Free up your wall space for a more Zen workplace. This virtual corkboard, a web-based app from Amazon, allows you to create digital note cards to find your story’s beats. The notes are easily sharable with others and accessible on the go on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Long gone are the days of old-fashioned index cards, prone to coffee stains and disappearing acts.
- Association of Film Commissioners International // afci.org
The local film commission should be any moviemaker’s first stop to access local resources, get permits, learn about tax rebates, and tap into the local community. The AFCI’s website helps you easily search for the nearest commission(s) anywhere on the globe—the organization has more than 300 commissions on six continents.
- Backstage // backstage.com
Backstage features experienced and committed actors and background talent, without the pesky “agent wall” you’d find on more industry-leaning sites—because anyone can post casting calls. It’s not free, but an annual membership (starting at $140) is cheaper than hiring a casting agent, and it operates nationwide. Bonus: With the promo code CASTFREEWAY, Backstage currently offers their top casting tools for free for members of Film Freeway (another company on this list).
- Blackmagic Design // blackmagicdesign.com
Blackmagic, maker of editing and color grading system DaVinci Resolve, has shaped its business model toward helping emerging moviemakers break into the business with free Lite versions of the software (a move Avid reproduced this year with Media Composer). The beta version of DaVinci Resolve 12, their biggest upgrade ever, is currently available for free download through their website. Or opt for the full-power DaVinci Resolve Studio for a reasonable $995.
- Celtx // celtx.com
With free screenwriting software, a 15-day free trial, or a $10-monthly membership to their entire suite of services, Celtx integrates all the steps of pre-production, both creative and organizational, into one site. From writing to scheduling, shot-blocking, and even script breakdowns, it makes a useful tool for synchronizing all the parts of your shoot that exist on paper.
- Cinegenix/FiLMiC Pro // filmicpro.com
Want your iPhone to shoot 24p? No problem. Cinegenix’s FiLMiC Pro is the $8 app that’s twice beat out multi-thousand-dollar cameras for the title of Video Camera App of the Year. Enabling your iPhone to record video at variable framerates, multiple aspect ratios and adjustable shutter speeds, it turns your iPhone into a broadcast-ready HD powerhouse.
- Filmsourcing // filmsourcing.com
Designed as a catch-all resource for filmmakers, this site offers free, ass-covering production paperwork and templates that’ll save you a lot of head-scratching. Plus, Filmsourcing provides graphics for fictional—read “filmable”—branded household products, and guidance ranging from the broadly valuable (“Electronic Press Kit Tutorial”) to the fun (“Horror Poster Tutorial”).
- FOCAL International // focalint.org
The Federation of Commercial Audiovisual Libraries (FOCAL) International is a nonprofit global consortium of archival footage libraries, professional researchers and copyright experts. It’s not free, but a yearlong newcomer membership is only £25 (US$38.74). Documentarian Matt Wolf credits FOCAL for the archival research on his feature Teenage: “They have a great list of professional researchers who will be versed in the more obscure archives of their given country or region.”
- Film Freeway // filmfreeway.com
Film Freeway’s freshly paved roads have eliminated so many of the bumps and potholes of submitting films to festivals. You’ll find many things to like: Their interface is clean and inviting, it’s free to use, and many festivals are applauding their services. Friendlier than long-time submissions behemoth Withoutabox, it’s only a matter of time until Film Freeway becomes the fest platform industry leader.
- FilmSkills // filmskills.com
At comprehensive online education resource FilmSkills, industry professionals take you onto the set to teach their craft through engaging videos, downloadable resources and illustrated articles. Incorporated into the syllabi of many top film schools in the U.S, courses are under $300 and run three months, on topics such as Safety Training and Scheduling and Budgeting.
- io // frame.io
Frame.io eliminates the need to use multiple programs to review and share work with your team. Acolytes promise that it will become your Dropbox, Vimeo password-protected viewer and email service all in one. For editors, the tool is a game-changer. “Frame.io is the best solution to client review I’ve seen, because you can add collaborators, and notes are automatically linked with timecode,” says Tom Sawyer, content producer and editor at Miramax.
- Glidecam // glidecam.com
Your independent film is a high-octane action flick, and you need superb production values on a microbudget. The versatile arsenal of products from still-going-strong Glidecam comes to the rescue. With new Steadicam hardware for DSLR bodies, and rigs specifically designed for the newest products on the market, Glidecam allows a single DP to do the work of a team of operators.
- Hollywood Camera Work // hollywoodcamerawork.com
Ever wanted your shot list to write itself? Hollywood Camera Work’s wildly popular Shot Designer app does just that. With interactive animated diagrams of your camera, lights and talent, shot-listing and camera-blocking becomes simple and intuitive. It’s free to use on a single scene at a time—or upgrade to Pro for $20 for larger projects.