The Real Digital Filmmaking
CinesourceMagazine.com, Dec 17, 2017
I AM A BIG FAN OF THE SOFTWARE FROM
ProductionNext, which came in a couple of years ago. It turned out to be a fantastic way for my filmmaker clients to instantly breakdown their scripts and find out basic, but highly significant, information about their films.
Given that the majority of my clients were making low- and micro-budget movies, seeing a script broken down to the number of locations and number of actors was extremely helpful.
Although my clients trust me, when I would tell them that their scripts were too expensive to make, it was nowhere near as powerful as when, in a few seconds, ProductionNext could show them they had 54 actors and 43 locations!!!!!!!!
"OK," they reluctantly agree, "back to the drawing board."
ProductionNext is the brainchild of founder and CEO, Jim Miller and co-founder and CMO, Ben Yennie, who is well-known to the independent filmmaking community through his books, blogs and teaching. Mr. Miller is a software engineer and Mr. Yennie brings a Silicon Valley sensibility to filmmaking that is long overdue. Indeed, he recently published a report of the results of a survey of over one thousand independent filmmakers.
Between Yennie’s work and that of Stephen Follows in the UK, it’s possible to get data on the independent filmmaking business that is often hard to come by, beyond box office figures for Hollywood movies.
(I would even argue that the recent sexual abuse scandals are partly the result of this lack of transparency and accountability in the indie industry. Not knowing actual figures, we place our faith in master impresarios, the most notorious of whom, whose name shall not be mentioned, started this whole mess.)
The two founders of ProductionNext, Miller and Yennie, brainstormed answers to the “disruptor” question: “What has the internet, advances in S.A.A.S. (software as a service), and project management software brought to the table that we can apply to the filmmaking industry?”
What they came up with is a software environment for all indie filmmaking needs, that results in easier project management, and, most importantly, more collaborative communication.
“It’s re-doing the way that films are made/managed by bringing tasks into the 21st century,” says Mr. Yennie. “And it’s much more collaborative that anything else on the market,”
Production Next was officially launched, in its Beta version,in September of 2017. Right now, the number one goal of the company is to bring more filmmakers onto the platform. In the meantime, additional features are being rolled out on a quarterly basis. By way of analogy, ProductionNext is at a certain stage in its development.
“Think about opening a hotel,” says Mr. Yennie, “you create a building that has rooms, bathrooms, showers, a lounge, and a process to check people in and out.”
“That’s where ProductionNext is right now. We are ready to receive visitors and provide a great service. Down the road, we will start adding a restaurant, a bar, and karaoke on the weekends! 2018 is our year of growth—building the user base while we add those new features.”
Much like other software I use, I find I barely use all the features ProductionNext has to offer. However, I have clients who have taken advantage of all of the capabilities (at least a lot more than I have!).
Some of the features filmmakers consistently praise are the breakdown function, the call sheets, and the sides. Certainly ProductionNext allows filmmakers to present themselves to their crew and actors in an organized and professional manner that is crucial to filmmaking at any budget level.
So what is ProductionNext in competition with? Well, there are definitely other programs out there: you can have Scenecronize break down your script; you can have Movie Magic create your budgets.
But, you’d have to go way beyond spending a few hundred dollars on each of these to get the truly professional software solutions. Indeed, Studio Binder or Production Minds are prohibitively expensive.
I haven’t actually used either of those programs, so I can’t say, but it would probably be hard to find anything out there that could provide the same level of connectivity as Production Next. And, in terms of cost, their monthly or annual subscription fees works out to far less than a dollar a day, with nominal/token fees for film students.
And now I’m going to say something controversial...
In my experience, independent filmmakers have a too much emphasis on the Independent instead of on the collaborative part of filmmaking.
Unless you are working in a very art-world arena, it’s impossible to make films alone. I find that filmmakers truly struggle with collaboration, even though that seems counter-intuitive (and, if this is not you, I apologize!) Frankly, anything that supports collaboration has my blessing be it group hugs, set psychiatrist or ProductionNext.
ProductionNext offers countless levels of security/access to the system. So once you’ve uploaded your script and that instant breakdown happens—that I continue to find magical! —you can provide full access to that system to the producer but only to certain elements to the DP, make-up artist, investors, etc.
Everyone can see exactly what they need to see and NOTHING more. This way, you can have your entire crew on the system, if you wish, but also the business team involved only in budget, for example. In addition, there are other communication tools you can use. The entire system is in the cloud, so full connectivity is always available.
One caveat: ProductionNext is a sophisticated piece of software. While it is intuitively designed, it takes more than a glance to understand it. I’ve seen filmmakers spend five minutes on the system and give up. When I worked in the fundraising world, we used CRMs that cost tens of thousands of dollars that smaller nonprofits would invest in for their employees, but then balk at the expensive training programs. But without training, powerful tools like Salesforce or Raiser’s Edge, were little more than a fancy Excel sheet.
Production Next requires perhaps an hour of time—and no cost—to go through the on-boarding video trainings. This one hour of time invested will pay off with at least an hour of recouped time per week for the rest of the year! And possibly much more.
Given my mission is to educate independent filmmakers on the business of filmmaking, I am interested in any tool that augments the filmmaker’s work and can improve their efficiency and excellence.
And I particularly like this tool that can automate a lot of the tedium of creating strip boards, calendars, call sheets etc., and improves ways that project members can communicate.
Right after the beta launch, ProductionNext included me in their brand new affiliate program. So, for full transparency, I am an affiliate of the program. On the other hand, I still wanted to write about it because I’m an affiliate member precisely because I am such a fan! Anyway, ProductionNext—as with thousands of SAAS products—offers a 30-day free trial so you can try it out and see how it works for you.