Happy 10th Birthday Shooting People
Remember, if you can, ten years ago. You connected to the web by rubbing two telephones together. The film world was a dark and mysterious place, illuminated only by the appearance of Jones and Joliffe's Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook, and Rodriquez's Rebel Without A Crew some three years before. For most outside the demilitarised zone of Soho, digital was just a watch that was not yet retro enough to be cool, and film jobs were for the most part passed through families like hereditary peerages. Until one day, out of this primordial soup, a mailing list appeared.
A year later, on a dark night, in a pre-Nathan Barley Hoxton, a group of early Shooters came together for the first birthday party. We were all stunned to see that a) we were mostly real normal people, b) no-one told us we weren't important enough to stay and c) quite how many of us there were - at least twice as many as expected with the planned screening split in two. It's easy to disregard it in today's web with a gazillion websites and contests trying to appeal to filmmakers, and 13 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute - but back then - other than The Eejits Guide to Filmmaking and a monthly updated Six Degrees, there was nothing for UK film. And in turn we had no idea how many of us there were making films - I remember being shocked to learn of 3,000, then 6,500 members when Tom interviewed Jess for Netribution in 2000, long before it hit 20, 30 and 40,000.
To think of the number of careers, friendships and films that have been started and inspired as a result of Jess and Cath's baby is quite awe inspiring. Indeed it was that evening I first started asking people's opinions about a free website of funding info and industry resources and it was on the SP bulletins again a few months later than Netribution was launched. Two years on (almost seven years ago, gawd!) when Netribution had run out of money and steam I was fortunate to join Jess, Cath and Stu as preparations were made for the switch to a subscription service. It was an exciting time, brimming with possibilities. Even just learning the secrets of the then crude moderation system felt like being admitted to a secret society (every possible post arrived in your inbox as an email, which could either be rejected or accepted by clicking a link, and which if you were clever you could do in the right order to get the paid work at the top and the chatter at the bottom, and if you were dumb could see you post a whole heap of gunk to the list irretrievably).
If there is a winning quality to Shooters, which launched before Cluetrain was published, I'd say it was the approachable human-ness of it all amidst a huge amount of energy. Even now, as Jess heads up the UK's leading doc organisation, she finds time to respond to criticism in blogs. It always amazed me how between keeping full time jobs, running SP, making shorts, studying, DJing and keeping abreast of the cool they still managed to cook a cracking dinner for the weekly meetings. And how huddled around their kitchen tables, the overwhelming memory from discussions that could go well into the night was the sense of responsibility to serve the members well, while constantly moving forwards, something I was proud to be a part of and played a hand in.
So Happy Birthday Shooting People! Many Happy Returns and congratulations on being such a vital part of indie filmmaking for so long. It's brilliant to see you such an established and important part of the film world now - here's to many many more years.
(some great images and messages from SP members, here )
(NB - I just wrote a much longer and detailed post about Shooters over the years, but Firefox didz eatz it).