Adapted from a talk KitSPlit CEO Lisbeth Kaufman gave on the 2019 Faster Together stage at NAB in Las Vegas.
I grew up on the cult horror filmmaking set, this is a photo of me, age 10, playing a mutant child on the set of my dad’s film Tromeo and Juliette.
The HORROR of Filmmaking
As you can imagine, growing up on a cult horror film set was scary.
But I wasn’t scared by the monsters or zombies – the real horror is how difficult it is for filmmakers like my dad to get the basic gear and services that go into making a film. Even after 50 years of making films, it’s still a huge struggle for my dad and filmmakers like him to pull together a production.
Raising the money is a nightmare, everyone knows that. Even after you’ve got the funding, pulling together the gear, the crew, the locations, and all the services that go into a film is a huge hassle. It’s very time consuming and very expensive.
This is an industry of greenlighters and gate keepers, like Harvey Weinsten, Brett Ratner, and Les Moonves. Their job is to keep most people out so they can hoard the power. And we all know what happens when the gatekeepers have too much power (think #metoo and 97% of the industry dominated by men).
In short, Filmmaking is still really hard. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it’s getting easier.
Breaking Down Barriers and Bringing Production into the 21st Century
In the era of smartphones, everything from a simple cab ride to complex things like banking transactions are done with a touch of the iphone. Making films should be that easy too.
Filmmaking should be easy and accessible to all. That’s democratization of film
Democratization of film is my focus. I’m obsessed with making content creation easier, to enable more people like my dad to tell their story. That’s why my cofounders and I started KitSplit.
Forbes and Fast Company have called KitSplit “The Airbnb for cameras.” and “the dominant player in the online camera rental marketplace.” We’ve built a community of 50k filmmakers and production companies as well as hundreds of rental houses.
We’ve aggregated all of the gear and services in one place online, so that for the first time ever, filmmakers can save time finding exactly the gear and insurance they need and they can save money renting from other filmmakers as well as rental houses. We offer instant insurance 24 hours a day and have a team of rental agents ready to help 7 days a week.
Our aim is to take the horror out of filmmaking.
An Ecosystem of Companies Democratizing Filmmaking
KitSplit isn’t alone in the pursuit to make life easier for filmmakers. We’re part of an ecosystem of companies democratizing film. Together we are making it easier at every step of production, making the gatekeepers OBSOLETE.
Here are some of the other companies in the industry that are also doing amazing things to make life easier for filmmakers:
- Talent -> Upcast, Backstage
- Locations -> Gigster, Wrapal
- Crew -> ProductionHub, Mandy
- VR/AR/XR -> DepthKit
Removing the GateKeepers
We see this the amazing results of democratization of film all the time at KitSplit.
Take Isabel Teitler, a first time female filmmaker. She started her career as an editor for Darren Aaronofsky. Like many editors, she wanted to make the leap from editing to directing. She wrote an awesome script, pulled together an excellent cast and grew, and hustled to raised money for her first film. When it came time for gear rentals, she used KitSplit. Our rental agents got her an awesome deal from a rental house nearby and helped her save $10,000 of her budget. This means she could bulk up on crew and hire some of her friends from Darren Aronofsky’s editing team.
How awesome is that that! Isabel and other emerging filmmakers can make films without the struggle my dad had to deal with. They don’t even have to talk to the gate keepers, and they can save money on their shoots. This is the major benefit of democratization of film.
Growth Engine of Democratization of Film
So the emerging filmmakers are definitely benefiting from the democratization of film. What about the established filmmakers?
I was on a panel at SXSW a few weeks ago discussing democratization of film with the founders of Instagram and Frame.io. A more established filmmaker in the audience challenged the idea of Democratization of film. He thought that the democratization of film is a bad thing because it creates a glut of bad quality content that competes and dilutes the good stuff.
You guys, the readers might be worried and asking yourselves the same thing: Is democratization of film good for me and the established professionals already making film?
Yes there is more amateur content. But it’s not competing with the high end stuff. The whole industry is growing and as a result there is more high quality content, which means more jobs and opportunities for you, the established filmmakers.
At kitsplit we are uniquely positioned to see how democratization is benefiting the industry because we serve everyone from first time filmmakers like Isabel Teitler, to the indie filmmakers like my dad, to the established academy award winning filmmakers making Netflix productions.
Here is what we see happening – it’s what I call the Democratization Growth Engine.
When there are fewer barriers, more people can make content. When more people make content there is simply more content at all levels of production, which means more better content. Better content increases viewers appetite for content and creates more demand. This creates more opportunity for filmmakers. The cycle keeps going, feeding itself and growing the industry.
Ultimately democratization of film means there are more jobs and more opportunities for you, the filmmakers and content creators.
Growth Engine of Democratization of Gear Rentals
We see the same growth engine at KitSplit too – with the democratization of gear rentals. KitSplit makes it easy to rent gear. Easier gear rentals help people make content. More content leads to more demand for the gear. That attracts more owners listing gear on the platform, which grows gear in more places, and makes it easier to rent gear starting the cycle again.
Our cycle actually gets even bigger and better. With more gear we see lower prices, which also creates more demand. And because our gear owners are filmmakers they need to rent gear. As owners list gear and earn rental income, they can use that income earned on KitSplit to rent gear on KitSplit. This builds even more demand. The cycle feeds itself and grows and grows.
How Democratization of Film Helps Established Filmmakers
Let’s get specific about how democratization of film helps the established filmmakers. Jigsaw Media is Alex Gibney’s academy award winning production company. A few months ago they had an urgent shoot come up in Texas for a Netflix documentary series featuring prisoners on death row. This shoot was make or break for the show- literally a life and death situation.
The shoot was on Sunday and of course, they only learned about it Friday evening. They needed the gear immediately.
They came to KitSplit and within 10 minutes we found them gear from an owner operator nearby, and their shoot was saved. This shoot literally would not have happened without KitSplit’s platform to find gear nearby.
Plus the owner operator who rented the production the gear benefited. He got to make connections with the award-winning production team, and he earned a few thousand dollars. With that extra income he can now put money towards his next project and potentially renting gear on KitSplit. This is why the Growth Engine of Democratization is so powerful.
So thinking back to the question from the guy in audience at SXSW. The fear is that the democratization of film is only enabling the indie amateur stuff and is competing with high end productions. But actually the democratization of film is turning the growth engine of the industry and making more opportunities for established filmmakers
Video is the Future of Literacy: Video Has Won
When I look at the trends of my generation, the millennials and the next generation Gen Z, I see them turning the Growth Engine of Democratization at a dizzying speed.
80% see themselves as creatives and storytellers. 25% are uploading video content online on a WEEKLY basis. That’s BILLIONS of people making and sharing video on a weekly basis. By 2020 80% of internet traffic will be video.
Millenials and Gen Z have chosen video as their medium.
What this says to me, is that we are entering a new major shift in the history of human expression. We are entering a new creative era, and video is the dominant medium of storytelling.
What does this mean for you as filmmakers?
Your medium, Video and film has won. You have won.
Filmmakers are the High Priests of the New Creative Era
Yes billions of people are making video. Many are making dinky videos with cell phones. But this amateur production it is not watering down the quality of the industry as a whole. The amateur stuff is not replacing the professional stuff.
Making amateur videos with a smartphone is like going to kindergarten and learning to read. You need to do that to graduate from high school and to go on to college. To extend the metaphor, the professional filmmakers, have gone to college, gotten a masters degree, and a PHD and are now professor emeritus of video.
When professional filmmakers are shooting or editing films, they are literally developing the grammar and vocabulary of the future.
Professional filmmakers are the leaders of this movement towards video literacy. They are the high priests of the new creative era, the lexiconographers of the new language of video.
So we should all embrace the Growth Engine of Democratization and take advantage of this moment. This is the time to advance your craft as filmmakers. This is the moment to write the rules of the future video literacy.
Watch a video of the full talk here.