Film Production Software Deserves Better

ProCliq has been a more than a 5-year labor of love for me. It’s the film production software for connected screenwriting, scene breakdowns, shortlists, scheduling, call sheets and more that I had to make to use on my own film sets. How it came together involved a series of key events in my life coming together at the right time, but how badly we need it is something about which every filmmaker I’ve met feels the same way I do.

Discovering Producing

I fell in love with filmmaking halfway through college studying another major. Upon transferring to film, I quickly discovered that everyone else making movies wanted to be a director too. Consequently, none of the ambitious stuff we wanted to do was turning out very good. It was then that through the guidance of my professors at SCAD and Myrl Schreib’s “Indie Producers Handbook : Creative Producing From A to Z”, I discovered the whole new world of producing. There was a unique thrill to pulling all the details together just in time to get them on screen. What others found intimidating, I found exhilarating. In coordinating an army of people to work together, we created greater results than we could accomplish individually. 

I was in awe of the process of film production management that gets you from idea to final product. As I binged watched the behind the scenes for Lord of the Rings Extended Edition a second and third time, I knew I had found my calling.

The “No” Guy

As the years passed, I narrowed my focus to Line Producing and Post Production Supervision and experienced some of the harder parts of the role. As an LP, I spent hours breaking down scenes, scheduling, prepping call sheets, and communicating with other teammates. Then my Director would come to me and say “I just saw the dailies, and it isn’t quite selling the emotional arch to the… etc. etc…  so I had to rewrite this scene”. And usually he was right, the scene did need to change. So, I’d work into the night to redo all my planning for that scene, and frantically get the memos out to the other departments in the morning while grumpy and running on little sleep.

Often I’d be unable adapt to a change as quickly as I’d like (occasionally I’d need to sleep). This put me at odds with my director, who I was supposed to be empowering. Because of the limits of the budget and staff that we could afford for the film, when a money decision was on the table, we’d constantly have to choose between “I can take a couple hours to work up the why we can’t, or we can go with my gut now and I keep the production office on track”. Often conversations ended with “you just have to trust me we can’t do that”.  I was supposed to be the HOW guy, but instead, I was more often than not, just the NO guy.

The Problem In a Nutshell

The limited tools I had made it difficult to help the director make the best-informed decisions. Getting to comparative information always required massive investments of time. I needed a better way to visualize our choices and communicate the “business of things” to the “creative of things”.

We were making film on the backs of 50-year-old innovations. We were running an army, but just making movies alongside each other in our individual silos. Our team had film production software, even filmmaking software on the web, but it was basically our old paper systems on a computer screen. Our systems didn’t dynamically talk to each other, and so we’d rely on our exhausted human brains to translate between departments. In-person production meetings still held our shoots together.

Our system of the-way-things-are had met its limits. The only way for us to get more out of it was to suck the quality of life out of everyone involved.

A Better Way to Make a Movie

But surely we could change all that. What if we upgraded the way we do film production as we had for our animation and special effects tools?  Through my time as Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Rocksauce Studios , a technology and innovation company tackling some of the worlds most complex logistical problems, I started to ask the right questions.

What if our collaborative screenwriting program was built into the app right alongside scene breakdown and schedules? When the script is revised, we could automatically flag the effects on props, schedules, etc (i.e. “we no longer need Jim on this day”, “we’ve got some new prop’s we need ready for that day”). This would reduce all the rework and communication across various teams to a few clicks of a button.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had connected shot-lists where team members from continuity, performance, video and sound could all leave their notes? With this feedback consolidated on the shot, editors would not longer spend days to sort it all out. Directors could pull it up for review instantaneously.

Why couldn’t call sheets to generate themselves, for both print and handheld devices? No more need to stay up for hours after the shoot is wrapped each day to get them done. We could publish a new one at any point. A push notification for the update could go out to everyone’s phone.

If we could visualize progress and trajectory of our shoot at all times during our film production, no matter how detailed or early-on we were, we could make the best creative decisions under our constraints. Our choices could include both the business and creative team’s input.

Film Production Software, Take Two

We’d connect all these features: screenwriting, scene breakdowns, scheduling, shot lists, call sheets, etc. so any team member’s change in one section highlights the impact of the change in everyone else’s department.  We’d also optimize the workflow for each department, so we can each work without the noise of everyone else’s data.

With ProCliq, these are the questions we are asking. Our solutions so far are just the tip of the iceberg for where we are going. We are crossing a new horizon in our film production software, and this is just the beginning.