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Okay, so here’s my brief opinion on the top ten websites that are helpful to the indie filmmaker in the development or pre-production process.

10.  QuickBooks Online – Yes, it costs some money.  But it allows you to easily categorize expenses, which in turn allows you to build better, more reasonable budgets. I’m able to quickly run reports on how much we’ve spent on “Winner Takes All” and “Dumbass Filmmakers!” and break down the expenses into categories.  Plus, it helps in allowing you to create 1099’s and other financial documents you might need and easily creates quarterly reports, which you’ll legally be needing to create if you’ve formed an LLC.

9. Google Analytics – If you have any previous projects, Google Analytics is a must to see what kind of traffic you have and where it’s coming from.  For the site for “Winner Takes All,” we’ve had visits from 86 different countries.  I know the countries where we’ve established a following.  I know how many hits various cast members have driven to the site.  I know what sorts of search words have sent people to me. This is all crucial information when thinking about marketing in the future.

8.  WithoutaBox – Yes, I believe if you’re in any stage of your film’s process, you should be looking on WithoutaBox.  There are so many categories for researching film festivals and it helps to start tracking the festivals long before you apply so you get a sense of the flavor of each festival. Eventually, you can target your submission to the specifics of those receiving it.

7.  Wordpress – This blog is being written on WordPress.  My personal acting site and business site are flash.  The sites for “Winner Takes All” and “Dumbass Filmmakers!” were created by a graphic designer, who is fabulous.  However, with each little update I make on any of them, I have to rely on someone who’s not only brilliant, but also very, very busy.  And not free.  Wordpress allows me to go completely DIY and create more content cheaply.  If you can create some sort of site for your film on WordPress – at least in the beginning – it saves on marketing costs when you don’t have a budget yet.

6.  Vimeo – This is now the go-to site for filmmakers sharing their work on the Internet. The comments and people involved are a cut above what you find on that other major video sharing site.  OK, let’s be real.  The people on Vimeo are like four or five levels above the other site.  And most filmmakers worth much would rather have their reel on Vimeo, so it’s a great place to sample work for potential creative collaborators.  I’m not sure why it hasn’t caught on with actors quite as much yet, but I’m sure they will follow soon.

5.  Constant Contact – If you’re going to do any type of email marketing campaign to accompany your film, Constant Contact has tons of videos about strategies and tips on email marketing.  Even if you don’t end up going with their service and decide to DIY, the tips and mindset they advocate are worth sampling.

4.  IndieWire – I’m cheap.  So I don’t want to pay to subscribe to Variety, but I want to read about trends in filmmaking somewhere.  My choice is IndieWire.

3. FilmSpecific – The free blog section of FilmSpecific has lots of articles about financing and distribution.  Interesting is blog author and former sales agent Stacey Park’s discussion of “distribution-in-reverse” whereby filmmakers figure out their target audiences and pipeline to those audiences before even getting out of the development process.  I’m always nervous when we take the audience into account too much in the creative process – I trust the story to tell me where it’s going – but I do think the advice about being realistic about the target audiences and markets available is well worth reading and considering.

2. Facebook – Maybe it’s stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious is essential.  Facebook allows me to connect casually with other filmmakers and actors I meet without coming across as needy or wanting something from them.  It also allows me to understand the filmmakers a little more from their profiles.  I always check what movies they like before heading to a meeting.  And again, it goes without saying how valuable it is to know who-is-mutual-friends-with-who.  Are they connected to a bunch of theatre people?  To GayMafia:Gen2?  Etc.

1. IMDbPro – I know that almost all of us are struggling for money as indie filmmakers.  But IMDbPro is worth the monthly fee.  When researching actors, I don’t want to call SAG to figure out who their agent is.  I want to look it up on IMDbPro and see who else that agent represents while I’m at it and I love the function of being able to see if I’m connected to the other person through mutual co-workers.  And believe it or not, even with only 16 credits (but who’s counting? ;)), it’s amazing just how many people I’m already connected to in this way.  And very helpful to know when making introductory calls.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).