Filmic Pro No More?
Heaping layoffs by Bending Spoons.
There are a lot of questions about the company Bending Spoons and their future. BS purchased many, mostly free apps, over the years to convert into subscription based apps. Most recently, Evernote became their latest baby.
I am going to share a bit about the news of the layoff just announced. I will focus on Filmic Pro, because this company has been part of the “rat pack” of mobile filmmaking industry pioneers. And I am going to throw myself in there, if you know my history—you know.
I can share my personal observations of Filmic Pro over the years because they launched after the International Mobile Film Festival I founded in the Spring of 2009. I have followed much of their journey, as I’ve followed the industry since the start.
This morning, along the pacific coast time zone, I found the story by Peta Pixel about the layoffs which was written by Jaron Schneider: “Filmic’s Entire Staff Laid Off by Parent Company Bending Spoons.”
The last couple months have been interesting at Filmic Pro.
November 3 this year, Christopher Cohen, Technical Chief Officer at Filmic in Seattle, Washington made an announcement on Meta/Facebook:
I am announcing that my role as Chief Technology Officer at Filmic has come to a close, concluding an eventful near-decade journey. Effective immediately, I'm stepping into a future filled with new challenges and opportunities.
Our collective efforts not only established us as trailblazers in the professional video camera application industry but also played a pivotal role in the democratization of filmmaking. By enabling a diverse array of voices to make their impact on the creative universe, we've ushered in a new era of innovation and expression.
Christopher Cohen, posted on his Meta/Facebook profile November 3, 2023.
Christopher worked very hard with the team and has always been quite devoted to the success of the app and the company. It was a bit shocking when he left last month, but the timing was telling about what may have been the morale.
I noticed their social media posts wither away since Christopher Cohen left.
In October this year, Apple announced the new Apple Log feature in the new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, alongside the USB C that allows filming in Pro Res with an external hard-drive.
The next day, Blackmagic Design announced the Blackmagic Camera app for IOS, and soon after it supported Apple Log with a new update.
But this part of the story begins in September last year. That’s when an alerting update rolled out to existing customers of the app. Many of them were devoted loyalists, to the Filmic Pro app when they first learned of its subscription by clicking to update their existing app. The PR on this rollout did not appear to have foreseen the impact it would have for the mobile filmmaking community. Many saw it as careless.
This is because the app had built its success and fame, through it’s supporters within the mobile filmmaking community around the world who depended on it for tutorials, journalism, video production, and filmmaking.
Filmic was purchased by the Italian based company Bending Spoons and the team was hired on as staff.
When I read the first set of terms from Filmic Pro’s update in the app store it was terribly confusing and I was not the only one confused.
Filmic Pro sponsored prizes at our film festival that included the entire suite of apps. I had to reach out to them for clarification for our awarded filmmakers.
What happens to their festival?
Today, I clicked on their link for FilmicFest on their Instagram and it no longer exists.
On September 13, Filmic Pro announced the online festival on Facebook:
We launched FilmicFest four years ago as a way to inspire a whole new generation of filmmakers to create and share their vision. This year, we want to make an even bigger impact, especially now, with Hollywood in lockdown, there has never been a better opportunity to empower the voices of emerging and established indie filmmakers.Submissions are NOW OPEN via FilmFreeway.
Filmic Pro on Meta/Facebook.
The rules for their festival stated that it was for films shot with the Filmic Pro app, with the same time limits as in previous years, 1 to five minutes. Later they changed the limits at the request of members of the community.
There are many theories, and I am sure those on the inside on the team and at Bending Spoons have their own theories.
I don’t have enough information to theorize except my perspective from my observations.
I met Neill Barham back in February 2013 as we launched the Mobile Film School in San Diego (non-accredited).
We talked on the phone while I sat in my car in San Diego. It was a great chat about our parallel journey in this new industry. It was highly energetic.
Later on, I presented lectures at Grossmont College, which sponsored the venue for IMFF during its first four years, (2012-2015). I was an alumni with a degree from media communications.
Neill offered free download codes for their app which was something like $1.99 or $2.99 at the time. It was a one-time price. I did not ask for them, but it was a very nice gesture.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to Neill a few times. The last time we had a more extensive conversation was in late 2019-20. Neill confirmed his attendance to our film festival in San Diego as we themed a retro 2020 theme, Hindsight 2020.
Filmic Pro was not a sponsor, but Neill and several from the team agreed to come and teach a workshop. Unfortunately, the festival moved to an online event due to the California shutdowns on March 19, 2020. Our festival is scheduled during the last weekend in April each year.
Neill was a bit surprised at my memory of their timeline. I remembered they began to design their app in 2010 when the iPhone 4 was launched by Apple, with the first HD (720) on a phone camera. They soon launched their app in 2011.
I personally have a good relationship with Neill and respect his passion for storytelling and film, on a personal level.
Filmic Pro has always had high demands from the community.
It took years for Filmic Pro to work with Android phone cameras. It was around 2015-16 (going from memory) that they launched the Android version.
The cost of their app as a one-time purchase, last I remember before the Bending Spoons purchase, was $19.99. I could be off and if so, it’s not much.
The demands from customers to keep up.
Every time Apple updated the IOS, Filmic Pro was pressured to update the app. It was the same for Android phones, and that’s on top of implementing requests from users.
They launched their photography app Firstlight around November 20, 2019 as a free app for both IOS and Android. The community and their loyal fans were delighted.
It was around 2018 that I began to see Filmic Pro on social media publicly acknowledge and praise some of the supporters who constantly tagged them with content created with their apps.
They began to embrace the attention from the community publicly at a higher rate than ever before. At least, that’s what I noticed.
During the last year or two, I also noticed Filmic Pro promoting a lot more general film techniques having nothing to do with mobile filmmaking.
But over the last year, especially, I noticed more and more of non mobile specific filmmaking posts. I have no interpretation for why they were doing that more and more often. But personally, I wondered if there was a looser team morale since the purchase by BS.
I also noticed less and less social media activity regarding mobile filmmaking in their socials. Could that be due to the critics?
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When Bending Spoons bought Filmic, there was a huge backlash from the community on social media.
I saw many angry and disappointed members of the community who felt their loyalty to the apps had been disregarded with the decision to sell and make their apps subscription based.
Part of what the community complained about was that they purchased the “lifetime” license and FilmicPro was dishonoring that. They felt cheated. Especially, those who had purchased the license just prior to the announcement.
Many app users only found out when they opened the app and there was an update notice with new terms for a subscription model. Many did not wish to agree to a subscription model and were left confused and upset.
The rollout of the change, which was major for such a tight community, was shocking and heartbreaking for many users. I am not dramatizing this. I am in the middle of this community as global advocate for smartphone filmmaking since 2009.
The mobile filmmaking community is mostly global. It includes novice and experienced creators and filmmakers who have dreamed of making films their entire lives.
When I launched our film festival it had a mission to realize dreams for all humans around the world to make films for the cinema.
Before you can get the ball rolling in any direction, someone has to push it forward. Since my vision of the future of mobile phones and film and video during nine-eleven in 2001, I finally launched the challenge with an in-person film festival in San Diego.
Susy Botello, founder International Mobile Film Festival. The red carpet is in your pocket™
There is hope, all is not lost for mobile filmmaking enthusiasts.
What matters the most right now is that there are many camera apps supporting Apple Log now. Some are the very popular ones like Blackmagic’s, but there is also ProCam 8, which just updated their app with the support of “ProRes LOG video on iPhone 15 Pro!”
Blackmagic Design’s camera app is completely free, and it’s the same for their editing software, DaVinci Resolve.
Filmic Pro’s slogan on their website still stands for the community. Imagine if a story could change the world.
Filmic Pro website.
Consider this my bid for faring the entire team the very best in their future projects and endeavors.
Filmic Pro will always be considered a true pioneer in the industry.
You can never erase the pioneers who paved the road for the rest to follow. Even if those who followed are the largest and most powerful companies like Apple, Blackmagic and more.
There is always a big space in my heart reserved for true pioneers.
I am not affiliated with any app or company I name in this story.
© 2023 Susy Botello. All rights reserved.