This week’s Lowdown focuses on communication tools for filmmakers:

Communication, as we all know, is key to establishing, maintaining and getting the most from our connections and relationships. And it’s important to remember that “getting the most” doesn’t just mean “getting what you want” – all relationships in life should be a two-way street. As soon as we forget that, we’re in trouble.

SKYPE

The biggest and most obvious communication tool for filmmakers is Skype. It’s free, it’s easy-to-use and it offers three main methods of connecting with someone: text-based instant messaging, voice-only internet phone calls and, more famously, video calls.

There is nothing better than meeting with someone face-to-face; relationships will always be stronger and more cemented simply by being or having been in someone’s company. Failing that, however, video calls are by far the best way. You can not only hear the person’s voice, but you get to see their facial expressions, too. When you’re part of a global community of filmmakers, being able to connect with people on the other side of the world and work with them in close-quarters, Skype video calling is simply the best solution.

Voice calls are second best, but Skype still allows you to have a conversation, to hear the other person and to enjoy proper two-way communication. And, of course, it’s still free, which means you’re saving significant amounts on your phone bill.

Lastly comes instant messaging. IM can be a great tool for chatting things through quickly with someone or floating ideas while you’re doing other things, too. It’s a productive communication tool for conversations that don’t require 100% attention the whole way through – you can dip in and out with pauses between responses. The main issue with IM is that it’s far too easy to be lazy and use it when you should really pick up the phone and talk to someone.

WHATSAPP

Alongside Skype, which is often seen as the catch-all free communication tool, is the fantastic WhatsApp Messenger. WhatsApp is both brilliant and significant because it’s one of the first cross-platforms communications apps that lets you connect with friends and contacts using instant messaging from your mobile device.

It works on iPhone, Blackberry and Android smartphones and uses the same internet connections and technology that gives you your email to keep you in touch without any charge beyond your usual monthly phone service.

The biggest barrier to this right now is the fact that both sides have to have the app installed on their device, so the more we can encourage each other and our friends and connections to download the app and sign up, the more free communication we’re going to get from it.

WRAP UP

Communication tools are like all the other tools I talk about on here: they’re great if you use them correctly and for the right purpose. While all manner of free communication tools are a huge boon to us as filmmakers and content producers, they can only be as good – and as productive – as we allow them to be.

So next time you find yourself typing out an email, stop and think if you’d be better connect with the recipient in a chat. Next time you try to connect with someone in a chat, think about whether you’d be better off calling them on Skype. And the next time you connect on Skype, think about whether what you have to say would be better done using video so they can see you’re not angry, pissed off or disappointed.

Good communication is the cornerstone of good business and at the end of the day, good business is what we’re all trying to achieve.

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