Shooting People's Ingrid Kopp

Susan Gerhard October 22, 2007

Making a film is anything but a virtual experience. But there’s no reason the vast and spidery networks of the virtual world can’t help mitigate the very live hassles of putting together a crew, planning a shoot, and marketing a finished product. The dot org Shooting People, like so many of us, is helping filmmakers collaborate not just by accessing virtual communities, but also facilitating live gatherings, expanding into book publishing and even selling a DVD or two. A membership community originating in the UK, SP expanded out to California last year, and provides an SF/LA filmmakers’ bulletin for subscribers with calendar info, employment opportunities, and a few other timely notes, sent out on a daily basis. If you have questions or ideas for Shooting People’s point person in San Francisco, editor/producer Malcolm Pullinger (“Following Sean” and “The Key of G,” among others), give him a shout at Malcolm [at] shootingpeople [dot] org. We got a chance to ask Ingrid Kopp, who runs Shooting People in the U.S., a few questions over email after meeting her in a Shooting People gathering here in the Mission.

SF360: Whose idea was Shooting People, and when and where did it start?

Ingrid Kopp: Shooting People was started in 1998 by Jess Search and Cath le Couteur. They were making a short film together at the time and were looking for better ways to collaborate and share resources. Being able to share information is an incredibly powerful tool and Shooting People expanded rapidly just through word of mouth.

SF360: How big has the network grown?

Kopp: The network started with 60 filmmakers in London and now has over 35,000 members. 22,000 across the UK and 13,000 in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

SF360: On its web page, Shooting People seems to have a little bit of everything — blogs, interviews with filmmakers, a short film collection, an indie film calendar. What am I missing. Can you offer an overview?

Kopp: Everything we do is to fight to get independent film made and seen. We believe in the power of filmmakers to affect change and we want to facilitate that, to be part of a creative and sustainable filmmaking community. We use our website to promote our members’ films and provide them with some useful tools to get their films out there, but the heart of our community is in our daily email bulletins. This is where members post in to crew up their films, find equipment, debate the latest technical gear, get information about funding and festivals — in other words this is how they connect with each other as a community of filmmakers. We also provide a FIND A SHOOTER option on our website where members can search through profile cards of other members to find crew and actors.

SF360: What has been the most unexpected offshoot of Shooting People? The happiest hookup that you’ve heard about?

Kopp: We hear so many amazing stories about the ways that people have used Shooting People. Ashvin Kumar crewed up his entire short film ‘Little Terrorist’ through Shooting People, they all traveled to India to shoot it and it went on to be nominated for an Oscar. We’re actually doing a speed dating event in NY soon — but it’s a little less romantically inclined! This event will be so producers, directors, editors and camera people can meet each other and make new connections. We do as many parties, salons, screenings, master classes and other events as we can so that people can meet face to face — and we’ll be doing more of these in San Francisco in the year to come.

SF360: Is the concept translating well in the United States?

Kopp: Yes, today everybody is realizing the power of networks. We combine this incredibly powerful tool with services and resources for the active filmmakers that make up our community. The issue of physical location does work a little differently here though. In the UK it is relatively easy for filmmakers from all over the country to meet up and collaborate together. In the United States we are having to launch our bulletins in specific cities in order to allow for easy collaboration. That being said, it is great to see how Shooters are using the bulletins to network with members in other cities and countries. For example, to find places to stay when they are traveling to festivals, or to find local crew and fixers.

SF360: I notice two cities not known for their admiration of one another — Los Angeles and our fair city of San Francisco — are grouped together for Shooting People’s bulletin purposes. Has anyone complained?

Kopp: People were concerned about this before we launched the SF/LA bulletin but since then everybody seems happy! We recognize that there are enormous differences between the filmmaking communities in the two cities, but as far as independent film is concerned everyone is mostly in the same boat — passionate about getting their films made and seen, and often struggling to get finance or distribution. The SF/LA bulletin allows for common problems to be shared and for new strategies to be debated which ultimately helps everyone.

The hardest thing is the physical connections but it works really well for writers (we have a Writers Network and a weekly Script Pitch bulletin too).

As the membership keeps growing we may have to split the bulletins eventually but we will build in the facilities for members to continue to share information much like it currently works between our US and UK bulletins. Strong, local filmmaking communities are obviously very important but it is also exciting to be able to network with filmmakers elsewhere. It has led to all sorts of creative partnerships.

SF360: You call yourself a ‘semi-Brit’ on your blog; how are you translating in the United States? How long have you been here?

Kopp: I’ve been here for 3 years. I think I’m translating pretty well except for my ongoing tendancy to say ‘loo’ and ‘fab’ too much! I love the energy and resourcefulness of the independent filmmaking community over here. It has been really inspiring to see what filmmakers have been able to do, especially recently as distribution has opened up through the web and other new technological developments. I’m also very excited by the new tools of Web 2.0 and how people like Lance Weiler (Workbook Project) and Arin Crumley and Susan Buice (‘Four Eyed Monsters’) are experimenting and reinventing what is possible — and providing fantastic resources for other filmmakers in the process.

SF360: What’s next for Shooting People?

Kopp: We are expanding our mission to fight the good fight for filmmakers. We are re-launching the website very soon with a big video project that will include more sophisticated networking tools so that members can see the films they have worked on and the work that others have made. This will obviously be a great way for our members to share their work with each other and the public but it will also really improve the possibilities for collaboration as filmmakers anywhere in the world will be able to check out each other’s work and reels online. Together we will be exploiting this tool to find new audiences and alternative distribution paths.

We will be introducing an Indie Film Map which will allow filmmakers to upload their favorite cinemas, stores for gear, wi-fi coffee shops, and more.

We will also continue to release our Best v. Best collections of award-winning short films from around the world. We have also just released our latest publication: Get Your Short Film Funded, Made and Seen. A US version will be available in early 2008 with a contacts directory and all the information filmmakers need to get short films produced and distributed. We are really excited by what are members are doing with their completed films as distribution becomes more democratic. We believe that audiences want to see independent film and that it is very important for filmmakers not to think of their audience as an afterthought. The exciting thing now is that filmmakers are starting to get more control over distribution of their films and are being very creative about creating passionate and dedicated audiences through the web and beyond.

SF360: What’s the big Shooting People question I neglected to ask here?!

Kopp: I guess just: Who should join Shooting People?

We have a huge spectrum of skills and experience in our membership which is part of what makes the network work so well, from students to incredibly experienced camera people and producers. Our members include anybody and everybody working in independent film: producers, directors, actors, editors, writers, composers and so on.

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