I am currently sitting 30 thousand feet in the air on a flight home from my Thanksgiving weekend in Washington D.C. I am overly tired as I spent most of the evenings getting work done after being with family all day. Not able to concentrate much I was unsure of what to discuss this week. I took a break from staring at the blank document and sent a few emails. It was that moment that I knew what I would discuss this week. Email is something we take for granted every day of our lives. We are given the instant gratification of sending and receiving a piece of communication with such ease. Taking that one step further, I just sent an instant piece of communication 30 thousand feet in the air.
In the film industry technology is always evolving and paving the way for new pioneers of the craft. As with the film industry, technology seems to have a profound impact on any industry. As a young entrepreneur you are not always given the luxuries of what larger companies may offer like conference rooms, faxes, office numbers, and computing power. The film industry, in particular, is an industry of culture and technology always changes that culture. Whether it is new, cheaper cameras or portable computers that allow for powerful computer generated effects, staying on top of what is new is important.
Even more important is being up to date with what is coming next. Understanding technology and its trends can better you as a businessman and better your start up company as well. Over the next few paragraphs I am going to discuss some pieces of technology that make my life, as a mobile businessman, much easier without putting a giant hole in my wallet.
The first piece of technology that I think every young entrepreneur should invest in is a smart phone. Whether it be a Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, or Android these smart phones can change the way you work. The smart phone has become the weapon of choice for road warriors. I often joke that I run my entire company from the palm of my hand, but the truth is its not entirely a joke.
With the iPhone I am able to keep in constant email communication with co-workers whether through a phone call, a text or most importantly email. While sitting in a car I can email an important document to an investor, have it returned, counter sign the document directly on the phone and return it to finish a deal using nothing but the phone.
I can keep multiple calendars in sync between my phone, my home computer and laptop with no work involved at all. Now I can even dial in to video conferences or host a conference call on my phone with up to 10 people. I can check current news on the film industry at all times.
At one point I met an investor at a party and he was very interested in our work. I whipped out my phone and loaded a video so he could see a tangible piece of work immediately. With that he was interested enough to schedule a meeting. We then used an incredible little iPhone application and exchanged all contact information just by bumping fists.
Recently I went on a location scout for a film, snapped pictures from the phone and immediately emailed them to executives to see if the locations were suitable or not. With constantly being on the road and not paying overhead for a central office, I am able to take my entire office on the road with me for a low monthly cost of a phone bill.
If I am ever delayed at an airport I can make ample use of the extra time and read a script or type up a document. As an entrepreneur capitalising on time means saving money and when you are starting off that can be the difference between failing or succeeding.
The next piece of technology that I think every young entrepreneur should have is a Google account.
Whether it is for the email, storage, calendar or just Gchat it can really benefit a startup company. The best part about all Google has to offer is it is free! For my company I run our corporate email through Google apps (unfortunately I think that may have turned into a pay service). Even without Google apps you can still benefit greatly.
Through Google I manage a business calendar that pushes out information to my business partner and any other worker that I deem necessary. When I create an event in a calendar my business partner can immediately see the event and determine if he is free or not. He can then click “attending” and instantly I know that he is confirmed for the meeting. Through Google calendars we can also subscribe to other calendars that might pertain to our line of work such as movie release dates or DVD release dates. With Google calendar my partner and I are always up to date on our meetings and aware of where we need to be and when.
Another great feature of Google is their Gmail. With running my mail through Gmail I can get free exchange push mail. There are two ways email servers work. They either push your email or they have to pull your email. The benefit of push is rather than my phone having to check for email on a set interval the Google servers push out the email to my phone as soon as it hits the server. This allows for more instant communication and also saves on the battery life of your Phone.
Along with the Gmail and calendar, Google offers a great place to keep all your business contacts nicely organised. A great compliment to the organisation your company’s contacts is Google Voice. Without having to pay any money our company recently set up an “office” number. With our free Google Voice number we can set customise the account for both my partner’s and my phone.
This one central number will notify both of us when a call comes in and we can decide who should answer or just let it go to our answering service. We can even set certain contacts that call the office number to ring to only one of our phones. With this new free number we no longer have to give out our personal cell phones to every single person. This allows us to give contact information on important websites like IMDB, but we are not forced to reveal our personal cell phones to the general public. We can even place calls through Google Voice so that our Google Voice number shows up on the recipient’s caller id.
There are many more features to Google like Google docs, buzz etc. and every entrepreneur should look into setting up an account for their company. The best part about a Google account is everything is stored in a “cloud”. If you lose your cell phone and get a new one, your contacts, calendars and emails are not at risk of being gone forever. On your next phone all you have to do is re-sync with your Google account and all the pertinent information will automatically be pushed to your phone. The same goes for your computers if they crash. The days of taking your phone to the store and paying for technicians to transfer all your information are long gone.
Another great tool for entrepreneurs is a free conference line. For the past two years we have been using, on a regular basis, our free conference line. With this service everyone who needs to partake, calls the same number and puts in the same seven-digit code. It does not matter what the code is as long as everyone puts in an identical one.
Working with people in Los Angeles and New York this has allowed us to conduct meetings when no one can be in the same room. It also allows for easy collaboration between groups of people when on the road. When executives ask to talk to multiple members of the team and we offer our conference line they are very impressed with our capabilities. They have no idea that it is a free service we stumbled upon.
Another great piece of free technology is called Dropbox. Dropbox is a service that syncs any desired folder on your computer to a cloud and then to any other device that you set up Dropbox on. I have two Dropbox accounts, one for personal contents and one for business. Dropbox allows me to save a document from my phone and have it automatically show up on my laptop and desktop. This way every device I use is in sync and I never have to wonder where the file is.
With my business partner we use Dropbox to keep in constant contact with legal documents, investor books and even video and audio files. If I am sent a legal document I can sign it, upload it to our Dropbox account and then he can sign it and re-sync. This allows us to know we are looking at the same document at all times and are always on the same page.
There have been times where he has been editing a project and he uploads the clip to Dropbox (the file is too large to send via email) and then I can view it and give feedback. It is an excellent tool. If you wish to pay for Dropbox you can expand the storage capabilities for a relatively low price. The free service includes 2 GB of storage and for just sharing documents that is more than enough space.
These are just a few of the many pieces of technology that my company and I use to create a better workflow at a very minimal cost. There are so many more out there and keeping up to date on what is new can really save you time and money. I don’t think my company would be able to function as well as it does without the advancement of technology. Although somewhat superficial, these pieces of technology often give the appearance of an already established company, which is sometimes needed when taking an initial meeting with a client. After the initial meeting they are hopefully sold on your actual capabilities, but to convince them in the beginning these technologies don’t make you look bad at all. I am now going to send this blog to my girlfriend to edit from up in the air. Feel free to message me if you want to hear more about any pieces of technology we use and how we implement them. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.
An Independent Producer
An Independent Producer is an anonymous film producer working in Michigan. He writes a weekly column for Benzinga every Monday, and he can be reached at [email protected].
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