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My name's Jeremy Hanke and I am a Micro-Cinema filmmaker who began his career as a webmaster. About five years ago, I co-created a review website called Gamerz-Edge Magazine for Sinclair Broadcasting, the company that owns television stations all across the country that reach roughly a quarter of the population of the U.S. Since it's inception, the site grew from about 10 hits a month to a few million hits a month and is now hosted on over 65 television websites nationwide for local affiliates of Fox, NBC, CBS, and the WB.

In Gamerz-Edge, I did reviews for all sorts of video games, films, and DVDs, refining my view of what made a good narrative and improving my own filmmaking through it. However, I didn't come up with the idea for starting a spin-off website until I tried to do a Google search for camera reviews on prosumer and professional DV cameras for filmmakers with budgets similar to mine. Despite the oversaturation of websites devoted to consumer cameras and the like, there were very few reputable websites that reviewed prosumer and professional cameras for low and ultra-low budget filmmakers. In fact, I actually found more reviews for the $120,000 Sony HDC-F950 (the camera George Lucas used on Star Wars Episode III and Robert Rodriguez used on Sin City) than I did for the new $6,000 JVC GY-HD100U (JVC's new true-24P HD camcorder). That's where I became aware of the huge divide: that there were "Indie" filmmaking websites for equipment that low budget filmmakers could never afford and there were consumer websites for equipment that filmmakers would never want to use, but almost nothing in-between.

Since I'm a professional reviewer, in addition to being an ultra-low budget filmmaker, I wanted to find a way to remedy this situation. At first I was just considering starting a straight equipment review site for cameras, lighting kits, and accessories for the ultra low budget filmmaker. But, then I started coming up with ideas for making the site more helpful to low budget filmmakers in general-the sort of things that would have helped me out when I first got into filmmaking. For example, I discovered a wealth of helpful articles scattered all over the internet for making light kits, steadicams, dollies, cranes, jibs, carts, and whatnot, but many of them were horribly formatted, lacked any sort of pictures to go along with them, and were so scattered that most people would get a migraine trying to find them at all. Then I decided to try to create a fairly thorough library of plans and ideas for ultra low budget filmmakers. Not all at once, but over time--with new plans, guides, and DIY manuals published each month in the form of issue-like updates. Rather than just haphazardly adding new articles, reviews, and DIY guides throughout a month, I would make it so people would know that each month a new issue would be available, free of charge, to be read online. And all the articles that were published in the past would be part of a searchable database.

My site might have ended there until a filmmaking friend asked me what I found the most frustrating about being an ultra-low budget filmmaker. I confessed that the most frustrating thing was the fact that, because I make films on such low budgets, I have to involve all my friends and family in making my films. The reason this is a bad thing is because, when I'm done with the film, there's no one to proof or review my film with any intelligence who isn't already involved with-and therefore biased toward-the film. Which means that I have to submit films to festivals and distributors without an unbiased critique of my films from someone who knows what they're talking about. And festivals and distributors never send you a critique-they just tell you if they'll accept your work or not, with no explanation given if they don't like your film.

My friend then asked me if I couldn't provide this service to other filmmakers, since it's such a frustration to me. I realized he was correct…I could provide that service. I am especially suited to this task because, in addition to myself, I have a group of filmmakers here that are professional reviewers…who are tired of the repetitive garbage of Hollywood and long to review new work from fresh voices. And, to make our critiques as beneficial as possible, our site will actually review your film up to three times if you make any changes after our initial review(s). We also provide links to trailers, websites, and contact information for any studios that might be looking to pick up your film.

Down the road, we are also hoping to enlist the assistance of well-known Indie producing companies. Our mid-range goal is that the top three reviewed films each year would get a production deal from one of these larger companies.

Our eventual goal is quite simply to become the one-stop website for ultra-low budget filmmakers and people looking to purchase ultra-low budget films. Whereas sites like provide just your contact information and a synopsis of your film as you see it, our site will provide an impartial review of your movie which helps encourage would-be release agencies to request your film for consideration--plus the reviews provide professional quotes that you can put on your film's home page and press releases. To help connect us all as a community of filmmakers, we will eventually incorporate a community bulletin-board section so that more experienced filmmakers can mentor and help less experienced filmmakers along. I also intend to get special guest writers from the professional gaffing, film correcting, and special effects houses in Hollywood to give tips and tricks on things like lighting, color-correction, and special effects on ultra-low budget films.

God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke
MicroFilmmaker Magazine

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