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Websites that bring actors, directors, screenwriters and others together to make films Print E-mail

Monday, 08 July 2013 00:00

Written by Daniel Lehman

After her original editor bailed, writer/director Nancy O'Mallon desperately needed a film editor for her first feature documentary, about a journey across New Jersey's blueberry country. She turned to the online network Shooting People and found Melissa Ulto in New York.   

"We ended up working really well together, and now we are partnering on a few other projects," said Ulto, who became both editor and animator for O'Mallon's The Mighty Humble Blueberry.

Part social network, part job search and message board, and part video showcase, Shooting People and other new sites like it are helping filmmakers, actors and crew find each other to produce films and also to show films to new audiences.

Other specialty film sites include the Asian American Filmmakers Network, the Louisiana Independent Filmmakers Network, Queer Screen (for Australian gay and lesbian filmmakers), and Intellifilm, aimed at college film students.

Three New York University film students started Intellifilm in 2006, to help their film school peers cast and produce their work. Membership is free, and more than 1,000 filmmakers and movie-lovers have joined. "People put all this money into making their movies, but the sad truth is, a lot of them don't get watched," said Eric Krausz, who started Intellifilm with fellow students Surjyakiran Das and Steve Gnoza in 2006. "Short films don't have a long life after they're made. So we wanted to make a venue where they could be watched, where a film doesn't get lost among viral videos, like on YouTube."

Before they find an audience, though, filmmakers need a team to make a movie. "You can't make a film on your own," said Jess Search, who co-founded Shooting People with fellow filmmaker Cath Le Couteur in London, then helped expand it to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. "Film is different from photography or painting or really any other art. People come together to make a film."

For his 2006 DVD Yoga 4 Fellas, a spoof of instructional exercise videos, London actor and filmmaker Ailon Freedman went to Shooting People to find actors and get advice on topics ranging from casting to DVD distribution to publicity. His DVD has now been picked up for international distribution. Shooting People members have won awards at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, premiered at Sundance, been nominated for Oscars, screened at Cannes and have found wider audiences than they might have otherwise, its founders say.

The network began with 60 of Search and Le Couteur's friends; today, about 30,000 members participate in more than 100 productions each week. Membership costs $40 per year, but its founders say Shooting People has yet to make a profit.

Dr. Simone Ahuja often travels to India, where she is shooting a PBS travel series to be called "Indique: Untold Stories of Contemporary India." In Bombay, she spotted a Shooting People ad for a producer to work on a film about the national diabetes epidemic. She eagerly signed on, to a production that eventually ran on CNBC as "Diabetes Around the World." Shooting People's Mobile Cinema also crosses the country each summer, screening its members' films along the way in theaters, bars, even living rooms. "There's a plethora of ways to get films seen, especially on the internet," said Ingrid Kopp, the network's U.S. director. "But it's sometimes hard to separate the noise' from the good creative filmmaking."

Not everyone is sold on the idea of linking up with strangers online, though. "Every job I've had on a movie has come from another job," said NYU film student Scott Rashap. "I would not think to look online, because it's all based on personal relationships in the film business. Why hire someone you've never met?" But one connection leads to another. Many established filmmakers also look to Internet sites to find fresh, young talent. "There's no big corporation here," Search said. Each member is "just a guy trying to make a film."

 

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