Tools for Indie Filmmakers

If you know me, you know I’m big on tools to make your working life work better and smarter, at a low cost. There are a variety of tools out there that filmmakers can use to take their independent film management and marketing efforts to the next level. We’ll go over a selection of them here, and come back for more later.

The first task of any independent filmmaker is making sure that everyone on the cast and crew has access to the right information to make the film happen. This includes access to the schedule, the script and script changes, location information, edits and more. A good document sharing plan and file sharing platform can make the difference between an efficient film process and a film that goes hard.

We know that Macs really are a fantastic tool – we are an all Mac company here after all. We also know that not everyone can afford a Mac, so while iDisk is a great solution to many of these issues, it excludes some of your cast and crew who may be using a PC. You want to make sure to include everyone. To that end, most of the recommended collaboration tools are “in the cloud” and free or low cost.

The primary tool we recommend is a file sharing application called Dropbox. This allows you to keep up to 2GB of files synched between your computer and as many others as you invite, using synchronization through the cloud. Up to 2GB is completely free, no many how many users you give access to the folder for the project, but you can pay for additional storage if you need it. Only invited users can see the folder and its contents.

One of the reasons we like Dropbox is that it doesn’t limit you to a certain type of file. This means you can upload all of the aspects of your film, from images and sound to video, documents and more. It automatically syncs changes to the folder with your folder every time you open the program as well, eliminating the need to remember that task, and freeing you for more important things. You can then see changes to the folder by clicking on the “Recently Changed” viewing item. You can get Dropbox for free by clicking here.

The next tool is one you may already be using: Google‘s Docs, GMail and Calendar. Access to Google Docs and Calendar is free for everyone and only requires you to have a (free) Gmail address. Keep in mind, you do not have to use the email for anything other than account confirmation. You can go into the GMail settings and forward any mail to your existing POP3 account (you can also go in and use GMail to check your existing POP3 account if you decide you prefer its interface).

Google’s Calendar is useful as it synchronizes between multiple calendars in a group of people. This means you can color code your film deadlines and dates in a color everyone can associate with the film, then sync everything together, keeping everyone in the loop. It also synchronizes to iCal with a few settings tweaks (or with third party software if you prefer) if you have a mixed Mac/PC group working on the film. It also allows you to invite people to various meetings and events using email.

Google Doc’s is handy for collaborating in near real time if you need to make changes to a Press Release on the fly, or create a Presentation for a potential investor. IT also allows you to create and share spreadsheets if you run an open ledger for the film, and a variety of other things that enable you to communicate if not everyone has a program like Microsoft Office for Mac and PC.

Without a Box is a great freemium tool for filmmakers who want to submit to various festivals. It allows you to not only get a snapshot of which festivals may be valuable to your film, but also to sell DVDs and auto list on iTunes and Amazon, promote and stream on IMDB, screen at partner festivals to the service, and more. It’s worth looking at for the concise festival information alone, in our opinion.

There are many other great tools for independent filmmakers. We’ll be covering more throughout the year for you. If you have a favorite free or freemium tool not listed, let us know!

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