Avoiding the ‘email clusterf**k’ was at the top of Brian Kassler’s agenda when he founded Showtools. Now anyone in the film production biz can collaborate painlessly.
Brian Kassler, founder of production company Flying Fish and a veteran with more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, knows first-hand how inefficient and confusing information sharing between the often obscene number of people involved in a film project can be.
“Normally what would happen is this raft of emails going back and forth, and countless location photos being sent that are 10MB each,” he says. “I call it the email clusterf#@k.
“I’ve done work on jobs here where you cc in the advertising agency and client, and all of a sudden they start cc’ing stuff back, and by the end of day you’ve got 30 or 40 emails that you haven’t had time to look at.”
Over 10 years ago, an idea began germinating in Kassler’s mind to tackle this issue by taking advantage of the technology at his disposal and starting a website that stored all the information in one place and connected producers with everybody involved in a project.
It started as crew booking service Quickcrew because, according to Kassler, you had to get film crew on board first for the long term vision to materialise.
While the website is still free for crew to use, the evolution of the company’s capabilities over the past six years has culminated in a recent rebranding to Showtools.
Now Showtools is a multi-faceted film production website that caters to production, rentals, crew and even agents.
After initial help from web designers Springload, Showtools’ small team of four, which along with Kassler and head of business development Angela da Silva includes web developer Allen Han and head of marketing Peter Moore, has been refining and tweaking the website to make it more adaptable to the demands of its users.
Archiving information, sharing location photos, communication platforms, a database of contact details – Showtools provides all this and more while allowing for privacy adjustments at different levels so only those you choose can access certain information.
Moreover, everything can be easily accessed on location straight from a mobile phone, saving precious paper and time.
“It’s smart,” says da Silva. “We have computers, why wouldn’t we do it like that?”
Thousands of crew in New Zealand from stunt co-ordinators to directors are now signed up to the website. Da Silva says crew who work on projects that use Showtools can put together a portfolio of work to showcase their abilities for future employment.
“Crew get so many benefits if they’re part of this system. Normally getting a showreel together is a real pain in the proverbial, but because all these jobs were done via Showtools and the production company chose to put them up on the site, crew just click in there and drag them into that timeline and bam! They’ve got a showreel,” she says.
In terms of production, not only is all the archived information and contact details of those involved stored in one place, but the software provides text and email platforms to facilitate timely communication.
This makes life easier when it comes to the distribution and editing of call sheets – the itinerary for the next day’s shooting. Although Kassler has written one on a piece of toilet paper in the past, he says it would be much more logical to, at the click of a few buttons, make changes to the call sheet that are automatically text or emailed to everybody who needs to know.
“If there’s a change late at night and we want to start shooting tomorrow at 9am instead of 7.30, it would be a nightmare to get in touch with everybody. With Showtools it’s so simple. Just tick the box of everybody involved and a text is sent,” he says.
“A massive part of the film industry is sharing information,” da Silva points out. “It’s so huge, and you’re sharing so much information with so many different people at different levels. What Showtools does is provide a platform where it streamlines this whole process.”
A social media feature is also available for those who so choose via the presence of a community page where users can interact with one another and share content from projects they are working on.
So far Showtools has predominantly been used for commercials and other shorter-form productions, but recently Kiwi feature film Orphans and Kingdoms was produced using the website, a move that Kassler and co. hope will encourage others to do the same.
The pay-as-you-go pricing system, which Showtools estimates would total just $405 for a medium size feature film, is a small price to pay for simplifying the entire production process, da Silva says.
Currently only operational in New Zealand, Showtools is now setting its sights for the future. Despite the inevitable difficulty in getting the film industry across the ditch to make it its default production software, da Silva says it is the obvious location for Showtools to first take its product to the world.
Hollywood and the UK aren’t pipe dreams for this small outfit either. Kassler thinks the range of options Showtools offers its users could grow at the same rate as the company. He says integrating a video-editing platform isn’t unforeseeable.
Kassler, from whose back pocket the majority of funding has come, says the core timesaving and organising benefits of the software makes the decision whether or not to use it a no-brainer.
“In Showtools you do things once when traditionally in the industry you will be typing things over and over,” he says.
“There are lots of competitors doing similar aspects, but no one putting it together in the same way. A complete platform like this is a world first.”