What makes Scary Cow different than other film groups?

We often have folks ask what makes Scary Cow different from other filmmaking groups. Scary Cow tries to blend the best of all of them into something that can really help you achieve your filmmaking goals – whether they be to just get your feet wet to fine tuning your already awesome skills. We’ve had complete novices to industry experts all working together in Scary Cow to make some award winning films.

Still, some people want to know specifics as to how we’re different than just finding a bunch of people on craigslist to make a film, or one of the 24-48 hour film challenges, or even attending film school. That’s what this long winded note will try to help clear up.

Check out some of the main differentiators below:


Scary Cow gives out budgets to our best films. Budget ranges are typically in the $1,000 to $3,000 range and are designed to help you with your next film. Sure, that’s not a lot compared to hollywood budgets – but for small indie filmmakers it definitely helps cover the costs of feeding your crew, hiring a few SAG actors, paying your membership fees, or buying a few props/gizmos you need to make your film. And it’s not some weird panel of judges that chooses which films get funding – the community of Scary Cow members determine it! Your judged based on your film – and if you don’t win, you’ll at least know why and can work to improve on those things on your next film. Because of this model, Scary Cow films increasingly are getting better and better the longer we’ve been around (Going on year 4!). Almost no other film group in the Bay Area actually funds your films. And don’t worry – it’s set up so you are competing folks with your same level of funding so it’s not unbalanced. Scary cow has given out over $100,000 in budgets since 2007.

Film Ownership

This is an important one that some people don’t think about. Who owns the films after you’ve made them? In Scary Cow the filmmaker completely owns the films they make. If you happen to make the next Blair Witch, you get the profits – not Scary Cow. Be sure you have the right to keep your film off websites, have complete control over distribution, and keep the profits if your film makes money, etc.

Creative Control

A lot of film groups tell you what sort of film you want to make, or to use a certain prop, or to use a certain line of dialog. Scary Cow is the opposite – we don’t tell you at all what sort of film you should make. We’ve had dramas, documentaries, sci-fi, music videos, comedies, experimental – you name it. You make what you want to make.


This one is huge. Scary Cow shows your film at some of the best and largest theatres in San Francisco. Not just our “best” films. All of our films. We’ve screened at the Castro Theatre, the Roxie, and the Victoria. These are the biggest and best indie theatres in the city. A lot of film groups will screen select films a small auditorium some where. We consistently have 300-500 people coming to our screenings. There’s nothing like watching your film on the big screen (and the same screen that has film premieres for Hollywood). Scary Cow members consistently tell me this is one of their favorite benefits of making film in Scary Cow. Are all the films at the screening great? Nope. But it’s still a ton of fun and you can vote for the films that should receive funding.

Active Community

Scary Cow has a strong base of active filmmakers working on films. At any given time we’ve got between 150 and 200 filmmakers in Scary Cow. These aren’t just people who joined a yahoo group or who expressed interest…these are card carrying film making members. If they’re not active, they drop out. And because everyone’s active and trying to help you get your film off the ground, everyone has plenty of the latest and greatest equipment. When we first started Scary Cow, we thought we may have to buy equipment – but it turns out our community has amazing equipment and it’s rarely a technical challenge to get a film made. We also have a great range of experience levels – so the most novice feel welcome to help make films – and the most advanced have an eager flock hoping to help them out in any way they can. It just works and has worked since 2007 and over 120 films.


While Scary Cow offers great hands on experience, sometimes it’s good to supplement it with classes. Scary Cow goes out of its way to find industry professionals to teach amazing classes in a wide range of disciplines for its members. And instead of charging $200+ for these classes (which is the case in other organizations) we charge members “at cost” – so classes are typically in the $20-$45 range. We listen to our members about what sorts of classes they’d like to see and we make it happen.


Being a co-op has a ton of advantages. The most important is that ALL of the money coming into Scary Cow goes back out to its members in the form of budgets, screenings, classes, etc. The “owner” of Scary Cow has never taken a dollar from Scary Cow which means your monthly fee is contributing simply to the robustness of the community. This is really critical and a good question to ask when considering other film groups that ask for “fees” or mandatory “donations”. Often these fees go directly into administrators pockets rather than services for its members. Be sure to ask what the fees and donations are going towards.

Another huge benefit of being a co-op is that the members decide everything. If there’s a rule that needs to change, the members can vote to change it. Over our history we’ve had tons of changes and they’re all member driven. This is awesome and exciting – and makes sure that Scary Cow is always what its members want it to be – not what someone thinks it should be.

And tons of other stuff…

There’s always too much to talk about in terms of benefits. Networking with other filmmakers (via events like happy hours, pitch meetings, screenings), partnerships with bay area companies that can help with your films (adolph gasser, zipcar, propville, shelton acting studios, to name only a few of many), open casting calls and actor databases, a content management system to share scripts, schedules, websites, and more, etc. – it’s an exciting place.

If you do decide you want to learn more, I do hope you come to one of our information sessions!

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One Response to "What makes Scary Cow different than other film groups?"
  1. Clay Bell says:

    Look forward to the info session!

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