The web is a great resource for independent filmmakers, whether you make two-minute short films or feature movies.
Here are 10 of the sites we find most useful as sources of information and education – for film-making techniques and tips, and for that all-important networking. They are presented in no particular order.
There’s always Shooting People, which is a site aimed at linking up professionals. But if you’re not making (much) money from your filmmaking, then its monthly fees are hard to justify. Stage 32 is LinkedIn for the creative industries. It’s easy to connect with actors, crew and other useful and interesting people. You can find us here: Steve & Clare.
This forum attracts an interesting mix of professionals and amateurs, with a heavy bias towards first-timers and zero-budget filmmakers. The tone is calm and helpful – not something you can say of the web in general – so there’s no problem with asking naive or seemingly stupid questions (though it’s still a good idea to use Google first). With any luck, someone’s already asked the question you’re too embarrassed to bring up – and got a lot of useful responses.
This site is like a rolling film festival. It curates short films that have been made available on Vimeo, YouTube etc. It’s a great place to go when you’ve got 5 or 15 minutes to spare and feel like watching a movie.
Of course. Yes, we’ve heard of YouTube, and that’s great too. But there’s something about Vimeo that just seems to attract quality filmmakers and worthwhile movies, especially shorts. If you look at Film Shortage (above), you’ll see that the films hosted on Vimeo greatly outnumber those on YouTube. Maybe it’s because YouTube has become so synonymous with cute cats and dumb stunts. Also, Vimeo was the first to introduce HD streaming and generally provides better quality video.
Naturally, Vimeo is also where you’ll find our movies.
These guys clearly know how to have fun while making movies. Film Riot specialises in how-to tutorials and reviews. And the site is full of money-saving tips – invaluable for those of us without much in the bank but who still want to produce high-quality films. The enthusiasm of the presenters is infectious, even when you’re groaning at some of the gags.
Another infectiously enthusiastic how-to site – actually, a YouTube channel – aimed at low-budget filmmakers. It has a lot of material on do-it-yourself kit – handy for the zero-budget filmmaker.
If you’re a cinematographer, this is where you hang out if you want to benefit from other people’s experience. It’s an online forum for professional cinematographers, though open to and welcoming of amateurs.
This is of interest mostly to those of us working in France, or filmmakers who are interested in the French film festival scene. It’s a better-organised, more user-friendly rival to sites like Amazon-owned and much-despised WithoutABox. France has a huge number of film festivals – a large percentage of them aimed at short films. And a surprising number are free to enter. This site is an easy way of keeping up with what’s happening and provides a central submissions portal.
It makes sense to lump these two together. Filmmaking depends on organisation, and zero-budget filmmaking is especially difficult to organise. Ensuring people turn up on time for each day’s shooting is hard enough. But when you’re not paying them, getting people involved in the first place can be a significant challenge.
We’ve found Meetup to be an effective way of letting people know we exist and of organising events such as workshops and shoots. And the Mailchimp newsletter/email marketing tool is the perfect way of keeping everybody up to speed with what’s happening. It’s more effective than maintaining a mailing list and sending out your own emails because more than one of you can manage the lists and newsletters, and people can sign up easily via your website.
Reddit: There’s a sub-reddit for filmmakers. How useful or entertaining you find it will depend greatly on your feelings about Reddit in general (it’s a high-noise environment). However, it’s a good place to ask questions and get a fast response.
The Guardian: For my money, The Guardian has some of the best movie reviews around. It’s generally the first place I go to find out about a new film.
IMDB: Still a great resource, even though its ownership by Amazon seems to be pushing it increasingly towards being simply a marketing front-end for that online shop. Also, it seems to rely more and more on community-provided data, with the kind of degradation in quality one normally associates with Wikipedia.
Walter Murch at Transom: This is just a single article, but it’s still the best thing you can read about film sound. In my mind, it’s required reading at least once a year and therefore deserves a place in any list.