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Joel on Software

Documentary Filmmaker Wanted

by Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

We are looking for a talented filmmaker, student or experienced, to make a documentary about the software development process this summer. If you think you're interested, read on for more details!

This summer, Fog Creek Software has hired four summer interns from Yale, Duke, and Rose-Hulman. Our selection process was extremely competitive, with over 800 kids applying for only four positions.

Instead of wasting their talents giving them the usual dull and unimportant tasks of a typical summer internship, we decided to let the interns create a complete new software product, from beginning to end, over the course of one summer. With experienced software developers as mentors, the team will design, program, test, and roll out a complete software product over the course of one hectic summer, going from concept to paying customers in about ten weeks.

This project would be an excellent opportunity for a documentary filmmaker to create a film about the software development process, in the spirit of Code Rush, Triumph of the Nerds, Startup.com, etc. We've been thinking of it as a kind of serious Apprentice-meets-Real-World. Unlike The Apprentice, our business challenge will be a serious ten week project that becomes a real product, not four hours of wrapping chocolate bars disguised as a "business challenge." And we don't have a crazy boss with a bad combover firing people every week.

Why would I want to make this film?

We think it will be extremely interesting to everyone who is curious about the process of developing software. It is a unique opportunity to film the complete software development process over the course of one summer in New York City. And it might serve as an excellent demo for your portfolio if you are interested in making documentaries, industrials, or working on a reality TV show.

How will the film be financed?

This is not an industrial; it's a documentary. We're looking for a filmmaker who will finance and make the film themselves and own the rights. We want someone who can promote the film to typical documentary outlets (TV, IFilm, cable, video, etc, or just as a student project for a class).

Producing the film on digital video is probably good enough, but again, it's your film, so it's up to you.

Fog Creek Software will make available a cash grant of $5000 plus up to $5000 in expense reimbursement to the filmmaker we chose to work with, conditional on producing a finished film. If you're a student and are willing to scrounge a little bit, this may be enough to actually make the film in DV. If you're a professional documentary filmmaker, you probably know how to raise money to make films better than we do.

Again, this is not intended to finance the film, and we do not expect to own the rights to the film; it's just a subsidy that may make it easier.

Who will see the film?

The founder of Fog Creek Software, Joel Spolsky, has his own website called Joel on Software which is extremely popular among software developers around the world. This site gets over 7,000,000 hits a month, has 350,000 unique visitors every month, and usually ranks first among personal web sites read by software developers. The Joel on Software audience is extremely interested in the software development process and will likely be very interested in this film. The interns will be maintaining a weblog all summer describing the development process, and building up a natural audience for a documentary about their experience.

When the documentary is ready, Fog Creek Software will make the DVD available on its website, serving as a traditional retailer and promoting the film extensively to Fog Creek customers and the Joel on Software audience. This will get your film a fairly decent audience, as documentaries of this type go, but we can't make any promises. You will probably want to cut a trailer as well which we will use to promote the film on our websites.

What's in the documentary?

You're the filmmaker. But here are some of the things you might want to film:

  • The project kick-off meeting and progress meetings
  • Interviews with the developers and the interns
  • Candid interviews with interns about their experience, before, during, and after the project
  • Installing new servers at our data center
  • We have a very photogenic, architect-designed loft office in the New York City fashion district
  • Other summer activities that our interns do (moving into summer housing, night on the town, New York touristy activities like visits to museums and the Circle Line which we will organize for the interns)
  • Fog Creek founder Joel Spolsky will be giving a speech to a large group of developers at a conference in Washington DC

The goal is to tell the story of a the summer internship and the new product development simultaneously, in the form of a fairly level-headed documentary. We're not making a reality TV program, and the participants' personal lives are their own.

What's the Schedule?

Filming will begin no later than May 15th. The interns will be moving in around May 29th. The development project will be finished by August 15th.

I'm Interested! Sign Me Up!

The only way to apply if you're interested is by sending a hard copy resume/CV, cover letter, and DVD portfolio of your work to Fog Creek Software as soon as possible:

Fog Creek Software
Project Aardvark
535 8th Ave., 18th Floor North
New York, NY 10018

Nothing you send us can be returned, and we cannot accept applications sent via email or any other method other than plain old mail. The application deadline is April 15th, 2005, which is really soon, so get on it!

Any Questions?

Email questions to Joel Spolsky, spolsky [at] fogcreek [dot] com.


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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, which lets you organize anything, together, FogBugz, enlightened issue tracking software for bug tracking, and Kiln, which provides distributed version control and code reviews. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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