People, shooting people

One of the great benefits of the Internet is the ability it gives creative people to communicate with and support each other, by sharing techniques and providing feedback on work they’ve offered up for review. One of the great benefits of the Internet for the rest of us is that it allows us to see and enjoy their work. For fans of independent film, Shooting People is a must-visit. Launched in 1998 (the same year in which Jesse Ventura got elected governor of Minnesota and Viagra was approved by the FDA, if that gives you a better sense of just how far back that was), S.P. ran on an entirely volunteer basis for its first four years. It now boasts a community of more than 37,000 U.S. and U.K. filmmakers who each pay only $40 a year for a range of services including DVD distribution, casting, and crewing — and more importantly, for the chance to meet and help others like themselves.

Of direct interest to non-filmmakers, the site hosts a “Leaderboard” page that shows the best films uploaded by S.P. members as ranked by other members; since the number of member viewings for each of the top films numbers in the hundreds, the rankings are a good indicator of quality. You can narrow your search by visiting “Best in Show“, which hosts the top 3 films from each of the most recent several months, or “Film of the Year“.

As an easy introduction to S.P., spend a few minutes with the top two films from February (embedded at the bottom of this post). First place “McCain’s Theory”, directed by Marc Cluchier, is a well-acted and professionally-directed 17-minute comedy about an ambitious young executive with a performance problem. A couple of its gags are a little derivative, but its overall plot is well-crafted and its narrative wittily-presented — all of which makes it significantly better than today’s average network TV sitcom. And second place “SuperBob”, a micro-documentary about one of the world’s lesser-known superheroes, is funny, well-timed, and superbly acted.

Watching the best of these films is inspiring. Not only do they showcase emerging talent, but they also demonstrate what talent can achieve despite limited budgets and scarce resources. More broadly, they demonstrate what a community can achieve when it comes together in a spirit of mutual support and encouragement — and with the aim of making good people better.

“McCain’s Theory”:

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