What IS Scary Cow?


Scary Cow is a film collective located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Open to everyone interested in making movies, Scary Cow’s mission is to build a film community that actively learns to make better films by making films. Scary Cow is run by its members and any revenue Scary Cow receives goes back out to its members in the form of screenings, budgets, and more. We’ve made almost 500 films and have given out well over $300,000 in budgets since we started in 2007.

Scary Cow offers many benefits to its members including:

Screenings for every film we make at the historic Castro Theatre

• Budgets for our best films as determined by all Scary Cow members

• Networking with Bay Area filmmakers

• Build your Reel and resume with the films you make

• Access to our Member and Project Database

• The kick in the pants you need to help you make more films

How does Scary Cow work?

Every four months*, we kick off a new cycle called a Round. Rounds start with a Pitch Meeting in March, July, and November, and end with a screening of member-made films at the Castro Theatre.

At the Pitch Meeting, all members are invited to attend and all members with an idea are invited to pitch. Pitches are for projects at any stage of production and may or may not already have a script. There is no committee that decides whether or not you can pitch. Members decide if and when they’d like to pitch. After all pitches are delivered, everyone is turned loose to mix and mingle with the members/teams that they’re interested in working with. At the end of the meeting, members seeking films to work on leave with a list of projects they’re interested in, and members seeking crew leave with a list of potential members to bring onto their team (and hopefully a shortlist of films they might wanna lend a hand to).

Everyone then spends the following days and weeks following up with each other and assembling crews. Members are granted total freedom in deciding which projects they want to work on and who they want to work with, and it is exceedingly common for members to work on multiple films at once. If you can’t attend the Pitch Meeting, fear not! We record all pitches and upload video to our Member Portal where you can find people, projects, and all kinds of tools and helpful info about Scary Cow.

Over the course of the Round, productions come together at their own pace as identified by the Producer or Project Owner. Some films whip through to completion in mere months while others can take a year or two (or three!).

We offer monthly Mixers at local bars as well as a member-lead Writers Group every other week to help keep you connected with other members. There are occasionally additional classes, screenings, and ancillary events that pop up on our calendar. Alexa, our Administrator, hosts monthly office hours by appointment for members that need some one-on-one guidance.

Towards the end of the Round is our Screening Submission Deadline. Any films that have been completed since the last Screening are processed by Admin according to very simple criteria. Films submitted after the deadline roll over to the next Screening.

Our Screenings are at the historic Castro Theatre! We take over this gorgeous movie house for the whole day screening our films in two programs: Phase 1 are films that are made without Scary Cow funding and Phase 2 are films that have been made in part with a Budget Award from Scary Cow.

Budget Awards are tabulated according to ballots that we hand out to all attendees of the Screening which is open to the public as well as cast & crew so that friends, family, and colleagues can enjoy the fruits of our collective labor. All films compete against films in their own Phase for monetary prizes and usually 30-40% of our films receive a Budget Award – which is incredibly high compared to most film festivals! To keep it fun, we announce a portion of the winners at our After Party in the Castro Mezzanine where attendees can gab, drink and be merry (plus we casually cater with tacos).

Award money is then used on the winning filmmaker’s next (now Phase 2) film made with Scary Cow so we can keep the Collective thriving.

One week later, we start the process allllll over again with another Pitch Meeting kicking off the next Round.

*Starting in 2019, we’re switching it up with TWO Screenings and FOUR Pitch Meetings per year. Pitch Meetings will be held in January, April, July, and October with Screenings in April and October.

What types of film does Scary Cow make? Who owns the films?

Scary Cow films run the gamut from comedy, drama, mystery, noir, horror, sci-fi, western, musical, doc, animation, etc. We’ve showcased music videos, spec commercials, cooking shows, reality pilots, even experimental art films. Our collective structure primarily supports shorts, but we’ve had a few features come through the pipe!

Any film made in Scary Cow remains entirely owned by the filmmaker. In other words, if you make the next Blair Witch Project in Scary Cow, you’ll keep the profits. Please don’t forget to thank us in your acceptance speech!


What are some achievements of Scary Cow and its members?

Our films have been screened at a number of film festivals including the Slamdance, Palm Springs International ShortFest, Sonoma International Film Festival, the Berkeley Digital and Film Festival, the Anaheim International Film Festival, Frameline, Outfest, and more.

Many of current and former members have built a reel from their experiences in Scary Cow that has helped them get into film school (including UCLA) or start their own production company.

One of our members got their start composing music for films in Scary Cow and has since won an Emmy for music they wrote for a documentary on PBS.

Our first feature, a documentary titled Iran Is Not The Problem, has been screened in over 8 countries and is for sale on Amazon.com.


Who should join?

Anyone with a passion for making films! Writers, Producers, Directors, Cinematographers, Editors, Gaffers, Grips, Sound Recordists/Mixers/Designers, Camera Assistants, Production Designers, Art Directors, Script Supervisors, Production Assistants (PAs), and anyone who wants to help out and learn more about filmmaking.

We bring together a diverse mix of filmmakers from all different backgrounds, folks aged 18-70+. All skill and experience levels are welcome, from novice to seasoned pro. All that is required is that you are enthusiastic and curious!


How to join?

While most new members join in the weeks leading up to a Pitch Meeting, productions are coming together all the time! It is not out of the realm of possibility that you could join now and hop on a crew in time to be sitting at the Castro Theatre come November watching a film you worked on!

Once you’ve set up your account with us, we’ll send you all the info you need to get started, plus we’re here to help if you have questions along the way.

If you’re not sure you want to join just yet, sign up for our mailing list so you can receive updates and hear about cool stuff we’re doing.

Part of the biggest benefits of being a member of Scary Cow is being a part of the Scary Cow community. Making films is tough but very rewarding work, and it takes a village. Find your people here!