Editorial Vision (Then & Now)

Original Excerpts from the October 15th, 2005 launch:

My name’s Jeremy Hanke and I am a low-budget filmmaker.  I’ve been a web developer for nearly 20 years now and worked as a professional reviewer for a variety of different sites.   [In 2005], I became aware of a huge divide in available resources for filmmakers: there were “Indie” filmmaking magazines and 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 was a professional reviewer, in addition to being an ultra-low budget filmmaker, I wanted to find a way to remedy this situation, which is where the idea for MicroFilmmaker Magazine came from. 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.

MFM 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.

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 Mandy.com 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.

October 15th, 2012 Update:

It’s been seven years since the launch of MFM and a lot has changed.  The entire landscape of low-budget filmmaking has shifted in ways we never could’ve predicted in 2005. 

At launch, the focus was still on theatrical distribution, because that was still the goal most filmmakers strove for.  The Internet was a place to find information, but it hadn’t become a truly viable way of integrating film and media content in the way it is now.  Social media was still in its infancy, with Facebook still in a fledgling state, YouTube a novelty, and people still believing MySpace and Xanga would survive!  The goal of filmmakers in those days was to try to make digital look more like film with lens adapters from folks like Redrock Micro and the original MFM was programmed in traditional HTML with JavaScript spliced in where needed and used no CSS, updates coming out just once a month.

As Hollywood tries to continually make requirements to prevent Indiefilmmakers from gaining purchase, they’ve also continued to make missteps that alienate the filmwatching public.  This has led to the empowerment of digital distributors like Netflix–which have a powerful rating algorythm that serves as a much more democratized gatekeeper for Indie content than has been available–and RedBox, which allows Day-and-Date national releases of films like our very own Mike Flanagan’s Absentia.

Shortly after the launch, everyone thought RED would take low-budget filmmakers to all new heights but, after pandering to Hollywood and screwing up the Scarlet, their chance to change micro-budget filmmaking was lost when Canon stumbled on a way of creating nearly 50mm film quality on a $5,000 DSLR camera called the 5D Mark II.  The DSLR revolution took everyone by surprise (not the least of which was Canon, who had added the video recording feature as a last-minute addition to try to give people a reason to upgrade yet again) and have since permitted the creation of a new class of filmmaker who use the democratizing forum of YouTube to do battle with the forces of Hollywood.  So impressive has this work been that talented artists have been pulled into a new stratosphere of content creation and been hired by the best companies in the world!  Companies like Redrock, who made a name with lens adapters, quickly morphed their creations to support the DSLRs and made an even more powerful breakthrough in this new world! 

As more and more types of media creation have come into being, MFM has continued to re-evaluate how best to assist it’s readers who are no longer just low-budget directors, but now are low-budget content creators of all stripes, including film, multimedia, video games, comics, and role playing games.  Just as our readers needs have transformed, so has their need for getting their information in an easily cross-linked environment.  As such, MFM is now published in a WordPress environment, allowing our readers to subscribe to feeds as new articles, reviews, and content come out throughout the month. 

And, after seeing that there was a great need for quality film reviews for publicity for low-budget films—as opposed to just critiques, which have always been film training tools, rather than publicity tools–MFM has now launched its Straight Shooter Film Reviews which are straight, to the point, and brutally honest reviews of films as a film watcher would see them!  In addition, we’re now working to cement a relationship with the folks at MoviePals.com, a social networking site for film/movie creators, which would also do day-and-date reprints of Straight Shooter Reviews, as well as reprints of many of our articles in our archives.

So where do we see ourselves going in the years and months ahead?  Well, I look to us covering even more of the events and breakthroughs that are important to our readers, from NAB to GenCon to ComiCon, and more in-between.  I look forward to more video content being availble and more ways to easily access our content in mobile environments so that our info is always just a step away.  Additionally, we are currently working on a way to allow our readers to post reviews and articles directly in a reader submitted section with special programming that would professionally format and make this content readily searchable, without any technical knowledge required on the parts of our readers. 

It’s been an exciting seven years and we look forward to continued new changes in the future!

Jeremy Hanke
October 2012