Apps Interviews News, , , , , , — December 2, 2013 12:45 — 0 Comments

Interview: Zach Lipovsky, the man behind the Shot Lister app

shot lister, zach lipovsky

Lipovsky: ‘It turned out to be very difficult to find Android filmmakers’

The Shot Lister app for iPhone has been a popular tool with filmmakers, so why isn’t it on Android? We talk to its developer on the challenges ahead


Zach Lipovsky is an indie filmmaker, director and founder of Reel Apps, the software company behind Shot Lister, the popular digital shot listing app for iPhone.

In an exclusive interview with smartmoviemaking.com, Lipovsky reflected on the success of the iPhone app and the challenges of developing for the Android platform.

shot listerWhere did the inspiration for Shot Lister come from?

ZL: I was shooting my first feature and couldn’t believe that scribbling all over a piece of paper was the state of the art for shot-listing. I really like to plan ahead, so I built an elaborate spreadsheet and printed it out each day, but as soon as I got to set, things needed to change. The only thing left to do was get a pen and write all over my carefully crafted plan. I was so frustrated, I built a prototype of the app in Filemaker which I could run on my iPad. Then enough people started telling me what a great idea it was, so I figured building it for real would be a good idea.

How many downloads of the Shot Lister app to date?

ZL: I believe we have had somewhere between 8K and 9K copies downloaded around the world.

Was it easy to develop for iOS?

ZL: The benefit of iOS is that you have a really clear idea of what devices and operating system all your users are running. That makes updating and bug squashing a lot easier. I hire a developer to do all the coding so I get to just sit back and design what I want.

Tell me about your experiences as an iOS developer and how you have kept on improving the app with various updates.

ZL: I’ve stopped using paper in my life. I even threw out all my pens, so I use a lot of apps. It’s been very rewarding to build one of my own, as well borrow and steal cool ideas from other developers. It’s a lot like how when you become a filmmaker you always watch films differently, now when I use other apps I really admire or hate the craft behind their design. The majority of the money I receive from sales goes right back into updating the app with new features. The Shot Lister community has been really great and suggesting new ideas as well as quickly reporting bugs. It’s amazing to look back at the 1.0 version and see just how much it has changed in only a year and a half.

How important is the Shot Lister community in terms of feedback?

ZL: Almost all of the features in each update are requested by the community. They are very vocal about what they want, and have also taught me a lot about how other people shot list. Especially how different countries have different systems for tracking information on set. The entire success of the app is in the hands of the users. We only sell copies based on word of mouth, and so if I keep them happy with new features, they keep telling people to buy it, so I can afford to develop new features.

What are the challenges iOS filmmaking developers face when developing Android?

ZL: Android is difficult because of the huge amount of different devices, as well as a much more fractured operating system landscape. This makes troubleshooting and updating more difficult. The upside is there are more users out there.

Tell me more on the 15-day shoots For SyFy and Lionsgate and how Shot Lister was utilised within these environments.

ZL: The film for Syfy was the one that inspired me to build the app. Shooting a film in 15 days is a very difficult thing to do. The only way its possible is to be very prepared, so that every possible second you are shooting something. The film I shot for Lionsgate and WWE called Leprechaun was my first feature since Shot Lister’s birth. Everyone was blown away with how well oiled our shoot was. There was never a moment where we were running around with our heads cut off, and we finished every day on schedule. The crew and producers where very happy with the app, and I was happy I got all my shots.

What are your other favourite filmmaking apps?

ZL: I really like Shot Designer, its the best way to make overhead shooting plans. I use Evernote a lot to organize everything for a film. Photosynth for making panoramas on scouts. Magic Plan for blueprints on scouts. Greenscreener is great for balancing a green screen. Sun Tracker so you know when you’re going to run out of light.  I could go on. There are a lot of specific things.

What are your general thoughts on filmmaking on mobiles?

ZL: I think paper needs to die. I’ve been living paper free for almost two years and my life is so much simpler. Once you make the jump you’re forced to work in a more efficient way.

Finally, where do you see the mobile filmmaking industry in two years?

ZL: I think movies, TV, streaming services like Netflix and user generated content like youtube are all going to continue to grow towards a common medium. Every day the lines get blurrier and soon content will just be one thing. In the same way that the app store has completely democratised software, so too will the internet democratise content creation. If a kid in his bedroom makes a game thats better then EA, and they both put it on iTunes, the kid has just as good a shot at finding an audience. The same thing will start to happen for film, TV – everything.

Zach told me that the next step for Shot Lister is to make the app available for Android, although funding for the project suffered a setback when a recent Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its target.

“It turned out to be very difficult to find Android filmmakers,” says Lipovsky.

Android filmmakers – show your support and make your life easier. The Shot Lister app is always featured as one of the 10 best apps for filmmaking on an iPhone, so hopefully we’ll see it soon on Android.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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