SHOWTOOLS

Avoid­ing the ‘email clus­terf **k’ was at the top of Brian Kassler’s agenda when he founded Showtools

Idealog - - Contents - – ROB MAC­GRE­GOR

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 de­sign com­pany 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 does 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 ca­pa­bil­i­ties to score fu­ture gigs.

“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

‘There are lots of com­peti­tors do­ing sim­i­lar things, but no-one else out there is putting it to­gether in quite the same way. A com­plete plat­form like this re­ally is a world first’

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 texted or emailed to ev­ery­one who needs to know.

“If there’s a change late at night and we want to start shoot­ing tomorrow at 9am in­stead of 7.30am, it would be a night­mare to get in touch with every­body. With Showtools it’s a lot more sim­ple. You 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&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 what it might be able to do in 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.

And Kassler, from whose back pocket the ma­jor­ity of fund­ing has come, says the core time­sav­ing and or­gan­i­sa­tional ben­e­fits of the soft­ware makes the de­ci­sion whether or not to use it a no-brainer.

“In Showtools you do things once, whereas 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.”

(L-R) An­gela da Silva, Allen Han, Peter Moore and Brian Kassler.

The back end ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Showtools means huge time sav­ing.

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