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netribution > features > shooting from the chip > jess search - shootingpeople

I contacted Shooting People's Jess Search after a coincidental, numerical stumble. I noticed she worked at Channel 4 by her phone number. I met her a couple of weeks back (the hottest day of the year with the highest pollen count and after a spate of sweaty, frustrating meetings in Soho) in the calm oasis that is the Channel's Horseferry road garden. Oh what a timeless hollow of lavender infused peace! With its unending supply of free coffee and velvet tissues I tended to the symptoms of my accursed affliction like they were the wounds of an ailing puppy...where was I...?
Yes, sorry. Jess is one half of the double faceless email digest that has helped thousands of low/no budget filmmakers in the two years since its conception, so it was better than meeting a star of The Archers. The word is that Shooting People is expanding, people. It is about to launch a new list with The Script Factory, and will soon follow with a profession specific database that will trim the existing digest to a more palatable size and further professionalise that crucial end of the industry

| by tom fogg|
| photos by tom graphics by nic|
| in london |

How many are there at Shooting people?
There's two of us that run Shooting people, myself and Cath Le Couteur, and we do it every night after work basically. It takes about three quarters of an hour to do the digest every night, we take it in turns for two or three weeks at a time.

How long has it been running?
We started it in November '98 with sixty email addresses that we poached from various places like the NPA book and also people that we knew. Very few of whom unsubscribed actually, which is great and its grown pretty much exponentially since then to about six and a half thousand. Its growing by about hundred to a hundred and fifty a week, every little lump of press that we get from Time Out or the Guardian or something seems to give us about 300 the next day.

What was it in '98 that inspired you to do this?
Well we were making short films and needed the resource for ourselves really and obviously Cath and I have been Internet literate for many years and we knew the principles to do such community lists. We thought that it would be pretty useful for us as for anyone else and it has been.

What are your backgrounds?
Cath comes from an online background. She was part of Ciberia, the first Internet café and went out to Tokyo with them doing web stuff and special events. She's now at the BBC while doing a part time graduate course at film school, doing an interactive drama project. I've got a TV background, I've been working in TV for...forever! I was an independent producer, working for independent companies producing documentaries. I directed a documentary about Bruce Lee called Tale of the Dragon that was on Channel 4 last August. That was the only documentary that I directed as well as produced and then I got this job as deputy commissioning editor in the independent film and video department here at Channel 4. The department does many documentaries and bits of drama and other stuff.

Where do you want to take Shooting People?
Well, because its grown so quickly its become very obvious what other services people need now, so we've got various plans for expansion. One is the writers digest that we are launching in a couple of weeks and its going to be exactly the same model as shooting people, an email digest that would go out to people everyday. Exactly the same model. The majority of members will be writers talking about writing with each other but also producers and looking for writer and writers looking for script editors. Basically a forum for people to find writers and to talk about writing. We've gone into partnership on that with The Script Factory, we met up with them and liked them because they have a similar attitude to us. They are running an interesting little outfit on very little resources but have a can-do, must-do guerilla sort of attitude. They are quite small, 3 key people and a couple of part timers but they work writers trying to break through into major film industries. People go to them looking for writers who they obviously find but they also do fantastic script readings for writers that have feature scripts that need pushing a bit further. They'll get a casting director to cast it and then have a reading to that the writer can see the script working and see where it needs to be tweaked, then bring in other producers to give them feedback as well. They're funky, they do those social nights that have been advertised on the list, they hire a bar called AKA next to The End and fill it up with people. They are in with the Lynne Ramsay, Chris Cunningham, Simon Beaufoy crowd, in the right place to help people from the grass roots come up but close enough to people established in the young British film industry.
They will actually edit the digest while we provide the tech and together we'll decide what the editorial line is but because they are script experts they'll edit it. They'll bring their body of writers as part of the start up group, it'll start with about a thousand members and I think it will grow incredibly rapidly. I also think its a slightly different niche because there are people who lurk on the list, higher level industry people who never post, who monitor and are particularly interested in plucking people out of it.
Scripts are the most important thing in filmmaking and that's why we think its necessary to have a list dedicated to it and it'll be a very good locus between grass roots and established writers because in the end, big film companies don't care where you come from or what you've written before, if they like your script they'll want it.

So that's that. We've also been working on the database which, when it launches will be fantastic. The problem with working on very little resources is that it is slow so we are looking for money that will accelerate that process. Its a very intelligent database and we had no idea of the number of people that would crew up on the list, there's probably between fifteen and twenty productions being crewed up a week. That's great but it means the list is being clogged up with crew postings but the database would serve that need a lot more effectively and also hive off the digest. The big problem for us is that because we are growing in members and we want as many people as possible to use it but if you've got 30,000 people who are all trying to post you'll have a daily digest that's just too long. The writers list and the questions they ask about what to do with their script or how to get an agent will be hived off into the writers list. The database will take care of all the crewing entries. Urgent requests will still hit the list but otherwise it'll go to the database, you type in what you need and it will email you back with a list of available people. It will professionalise the no budget/low budget area, its not about anyone doing anyone else a favour, you come together to a space where everyone has something to gain and the database will push that. Sometimes the web can be bad because information is old. The database will allow people to advertise their availability for work but every three months those registered will be emailed asking whether they still want to be on it and if you don't reply you'll be taken off. What that means is that if you click on looking for sound recordists in Bristol, you'll get a list of sound recordists and you'll know that they are all available.

Have you ever felt any of it as a sacrifice?
No, I think because its a genuinely needed service that we are offering for free, bar a few rude and difficult people, most are so incredibly grateful. When I bump into people who know me from Shooters they always thank me. It sounds corny but it genuinely makes it worthwhile.

Have you ever thought about a website?
No, the reason for it being an email digest is that we are big believers in information push rather than information pull, it only works because its a community. Its different from what you are doing which is saying, 'we've gone out and collected this information that would take an age for you to do, come and get it.' whereas all we are doing is enabling people to help each other.

Shooting People is launching a brand new service for members - the Screenwriters Network. Just like the Shooting People Filmmakers Network, the Screenwriters Network will be a moderated email digest, delivered daily to all subscribers. The focus for this list will be writers. as well as script editors, producers and directors looking for writers. From the feedback and postings many of you have sent in, we saw the need to create a specialised communal space for writers - who as many have pointed out - are often isolated in their work. Its aim is to allow for more specialised discussion amongst writers about script-writing, to get the latest info on writing opportunities/funding/competitions/news, to share advice on copyright/experiences, debate technique and to hook writers up with those looking for writers etc.
So...The service will be run in association with The Script Factory - a UK writers organisation devoted to promoting new British screenwriting talent. Like the main Shooters list, it will be totally free. The service will be launched in a few weeks. To add yourself to the start-up membership group send an email now to
Jess Search
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