Recently I had the opportunity to talk via email with David White, CEO of ReelClever.com – a new online film production management and promotion website. David was kind enough to answer my questions and give us more insight into this new tool for filmmakers.
How did ReelClever.com get started and when? What was the inspiration behind it?
ReelClever kicked off as an idea after seeing the frustration that indie filmmakers had when trying to promote and manage their films. Filmmakers are a creative bunch and usually hate the marketing and management side of things, so our aim was to create something that made this side suck that little bit less. We were also seeing most filmmakers waiting until after the screening of their films at festivals before doing any marketing. So we saw the need for easy to use tools that helped leverage social media in order to allow filmmakers to attract and engage with fans right from concept/early pre-production. We came out of our beta stage in July so it is a hectic and exciting time at the moment.
Describe your company. How many employees do you have? What are their backgrounds and positions? Are all of you located in New Zealand?
We have a team of eight, based in Hamilton and Wellington, New Zealand, along with an office in India. Our team is very diverse and we have a great mix of filmmakers, marketers, designers and developers. This allows us to look at things from every perspective when we develop and plan out new features.
Being a start up business has not hindered us in anyway when it has come to attracting staff. It is an exciting space to work in and we are lucky enough to have ex Adobe and Yahoo developers working full time with us. We tried to look at all the areas of filmmaking and brought in experts in each area. Though not necessarily from a film background, we wanted people who were not influenced by the current or supposedly right way of doing things. We think this is starting to pay off for us.
The great thing about having a presence in New Zealand and India is our time zones work perfectly. When we start in the morning, the team in India is just heading home and, when we finish, their day is just beginning. So we are able to have a 24-hour non-stop development and support process in place. Basically, ReelClever never sleeps and we are developing around the clock.
We are also in the process of creating our advisory board and we have some very influential filmmakers in the U.S. that we are speaking with. All going to plan, we will have some exciting announcements soon.
What were some of the challenges faced in starting ReelClever.com? How did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge was letting filmmakers know we exist. We were lucky that word of mouth has allowed us to grow so fast. We, also, like to think we are good at social media marketing and have been able to spread the word and attract over ten thousand filmmakers into our beta program.
Another issue we faced was how to identify if what we are creating is what filmmakers want or need. We had to make sure we listened to our users. Going hand in hand with that is often they did not know what they needed. So we had to assume the roles of both leader and follower, taking user ideas but also expanding on these and introducing new and easier ways to do things.
We thought that being in New Zealand may have been a geographical issue for us, but we have found it has actually helped. The amazing things that people like Peter Jackson and companies like Weta Workshop have been doing out of New Zealand has really put us on the map as a filmmaking country and destination. The fact that filmmaking itself really transcends culture and geographical boundaries has helped. Maybe if we were in another industry it would have proved a challenge for us. We are hoping that some of our users come and visit us “down under” sometime soon.
What do you feel are the advantages of managing a film’s production online?
Filmmaking is a very collaborative process it is not easy getting all your cast and crew in one room. So the beauty of an online system is that everyone has access at anytime regardless of the location. If all resources are on one laptop or amongst a bunch of emails then things get messy and, worst case, lost or stolen. Having all your files, images, documents, ideas, communication, schedules, locations, etc. in one central place makes sense.
What makes ReelClever.com stand out from the competition (if there is any competition)?
It is quite a new space that we are in. We have noticed a few other sites popping up that are trying to do part of the process. I think in the long run it will be our focus on technology that really differentiates us. We have developed all our tools from scratch and we are working on some very exciting player tools that we think will change the way that studios create web video.
Describe the main features of ReelClever.com.
ReelClever is a suite of project management and promotional tools for filmmakers. From a promotional perspective, we provide filmmakers with the ability to create a very cool online portfolio, along with film promotion tools that help filmmakers promote their film right from concept. Our Facebook app is almost ready to launch and it will provide filmmakers with a new and unique way to promote their film and grow fans.
The project management area of the site features web-based workspaces that include, storyboarding, scheduling, cast & crew management, discussions, file storage, video draft room, and film promo tools.
We are just launching our marketplace. The aim of this is to help filmmakers find paid work—we all want to make films but we also have to eat.
What kinds of projects are being developed by users on ReelClever.com?
The use is really varied. We have everything from large feature films through to music videos and short films. We are also noticing that a large number of studios and freelancers are using our project tools to manage client ad projects. Currently, 68% of projects are films.
Can anyone around the world sign up for your services? How does one go about signing up?
Absolutely. ReelClever is well and truly a global site. Although the majority of our users are in America, we have filmmakers spanning over 110 different countries. Simply visit http://www.reelclever.com/ and click the Sign-Up button, you can be up and running in 60 seconds. We have various plans that filmmakers can sign up to, including a free plan so there are no barriers.
What are your plans/goals for ReelClever.com, both the company and the website?
We want to be the first point of call when a film project is conceptualized. By default, you will jump on ReelClever, set up a project, and start planning and promoting as soon as you begin working on a new film concept.
We see distribution as a potential avenue we want to investigate—through on demand and digital platforms—allowing filmmakers to take control of a more hybrid distribution model so they can actually make money from filmmaking.
In terms of the site, we are in a constant state of evolution and iteration. We try not to plan too far ahead and try to be very agile. We have three exciting announcements planned between now and December, so stay tuned.
Anything else you would like to share with readers?
On a personal level, I would like to say – just keep creating. The entire industry is going through an amazing time of change and turmoil and I think it is exciting. Try and disrupt the old way of making a film, embrace new ideas and remember to put on your marketing hat from day one.
This interview can also be found on the United Filmmakers Association’s website.