The thriving industry of film — in 2017, Georgia-lensed movies and television productions generated an economic impact of $9.5 billion — is a massive job-generator between set crews, post-production, actors, and more. However, in an industry that depends heavily on good freelance talent, there’s no easy way to connect emergent needs with available crews.
Michael Patterson has worked as a set lighting technician in the industry for years and often has a need for last-minute talent. When he needed a new crew member, he would send out a group text to his contacts to find out who was available, sometimes after hours, often with no immediate response. The inefficient process would often leave him forced to use less-than-desirable talent.
As an answer to this major pain point, Patterson founded CopyThat to connect crew members to available openings across departments and increase their visibility to companies outside their network. The app, available on iOS and Android, lets you set up your profile and availability calendar so department heads can jump on, easily see your credentials, and book you in just a few clicks.
Patterson shares more about the pain points of recruiting in this ever-changing industry, why he pivoted his B2C marketing strategy, and seeking customer feedback from his co-workers.
How did come up with this idea?
Everyone who works on a show is an independent contractor. You’re never guaranteed to be there for any length of time. You’re there for a couple of days, up to a few months, then you move on to the next thing. Like many businesses, each show/film is comprised of different departments — painters, set design, drivers, caterers, etc. However, they all function in their own little cliques, but we all deal with the same problem — finding work and hiring people.
I’m in both sides of the spectrum as I am a department head in the electric department and available for hire as well. When I needed to add six people to my crew last-minute at 10 p.m. and they needed to start the following morning, it was very difficult for me to find people due to the method. The only way to find available people at the moment is to text your immediate contacts and say, “Hey, can you work?” Then you sit around and wait for responses.
On the other side of the spectrum, when I needed work, the only way to find out was to text those in the tier above me and hope they did.
What’s your pitch?
Wouldn’t it be easier if we were all in a social network, where everyone had a calendar and you punch in exactly when you can work? No calls or late-night text chains. You can go into the app, enter the department and requested dates, and see who pops up.
You’re not a technical founder. How did you approach the app development?
I had this idea in my head for a while, and I just figured someone else would do it. I became obsessed with the problem. More and more people kept saying: why don’t you just do it? The first thing I knew I had to do was bring on a technical partner to take the ideas in my head and make them come to life. I stumbled around town going to tech meetups and events to meet the right person. That’s how ended up partnering up with Atlanta Tech Village’s AppZoro Technologies. We launched the app on May 2017.
How are you recruiting people to use your app?
Initially, I went heavily on Facebook advertising and marketing. It was working to a degree, but I wasn’t getting the right kind of engaged user. Then I pivoted to straight word-of-mouth marketing. To me, that actually tells you how good your product is since it doesn’t inflate what it is. I started with the people in my phone book and that was it. We now have users in California, New York, and a few other states with active film industries.
What’s your current funding status?
Bootstrapped at this time. We’re going to be looking for funding in the near future, but I wanted to push this idea as much as I could on my own before seeking investment. I want to make sure I can deliver the intended product before asking for money. We’re working on a revenue model right now and exploring monthly subscription.
How are you balancing your filming jobs with being a full-time startup founder?
I don’t sleep very much, but there are benefits to being on-set. It has allowed me to be able to interact with my users on a very personal level that I don’t feel like I would get if I wasn’t still working. Once we seek funding and I add to the team, I’ll be moving to the startup full-time.