Emily and Elizabeth Dell are a unique sister filmmaking team in Hollywood. Until recently, they depended on thousands of emails, reams of paper, and lots of phone calls to run their production company, Two Camels Films. Working with Insight,
a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, the sisters adopted Microsoft Office 365 for cloud-based collaboration and communications. The solution has helped Two Camel Films to reduce costs and boost efficiency.
Emily and Elizabeth Dell’s production company, called Two Camels Films, grew out of a casual partnership between the sisters when they were studying at the University of California, Berkeley. When Emily received a grant for a short film she was writing,
she turned to Elizabeth to help with project management. They founded Two Camels Films and, several films later, the sisters moved to Los Angeles. “I’m the writer and director and Elizabeth is the producer, but we collaborate on everything and we value each
other’s insight above all else,” says Emily.
Yet the sisters had no instant messaging or web-conferencing tools for real-time communications. “We are high tech when it comes to film cameras, but with business technology, we were definitely behind the times,” admits Elizabeth.
To communicate with the many people that collaborate on each film project, the sisters relied on their mobile phones and Yahoo for email service. “Initially, a handful of people work on administrative tasks, but when we move into production, we can have
80 or 90 cast and crew members moving from location to location and working 12-hour days,” says Emily.
Running business communications through Yahoo wasn’t efficient, however. “I travel frequently to promote our films, and I would have liked to use the flight time to catch up on email, but I couldn’t work offline,” says Elizabeth. “And I wanted to control
who saw the information in the hundreds of emails flying around each day.”
Elizabeth and Emily had no way to share information that everyone needed to know on set. “We ended up printing reams of contracts, call sheets, and documents of all kinds,” says Elizabeth. “While preparing for a film, I can spend two to three hours a day
emailing files around. During filming, crew members spend six to eight hours a day on paper-based administrative tasks.”
As a member of 85 Broads, a global network of working women, Elizabeth heard about Microsoft Office 365 thanks to a joint project with Microsoft called “Your Office, Your Terms,” which educates women on the technologies available to support working remotely.
The Dell sisters decided that Microsoft Office 365 was the right solution for Two Camel Films because it unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft productivity servers into one connected, online solution.
||It was a challenge to coordinate everything that needs to happen during filmmaking. Using Office 365 to communicate anywhere, anytime, and to collaborate on set was truly liberating.
| Emily Dell
Writer and Director, Two Camels Films
Both Elizabeth and Emily were excited about how Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online—and the latest version of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop suite—would match their frenetic, out-of-the-office
work environments. Elizabeth wanted to create impromptu collaborative environments for each film by using Office 365 intranet sites powered by SharePoint Online. The service allows up to 50 people to access each site. Both sisters liked the idea of using Lync
Online for instant messaging and screen sharing.
In November 2011, Elizabeth and Emily worked with Insight, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, to set up Office 365 for Two Camels Films. “I created the twocamelsfilms.com domain and users in the Office 365 console, then migrated over 56,000 emails
from Elizabeth’s Yahoo email account into the Exchange Online environment,” says Randy Felton, Senior Cloud Engineer at Insight. “Next we downloaded and installed the Office Professional Plus 2010 desktop suite onto Elizabeth’s laptop and configured Outlook
with her new Exchange Online profile. At that point, Elizabeth was online with her new Office 365 Exchange mailbox and ready to go.”
Both sisters access their email and shared calendars from their PCs, or from any web browser by using the Outlook Web App, or from their mobile devices, which support Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology. They can access local copies of their Exchange
mailboxes to work offline and sync with the email server the next time that they connect to the Internet.
By using Office 365, Elizabeth and Emily benefit from cloud-based productivity technologies that adapt to their business and their work style. “It was a challenge to coordinate everything that needs to happen during filmmaking,” says Emily. “Using Office
365 to communicate anywhere, anytime, and to collaborate on set was truly liberating. I love how it doesn’t discriminate about what operating system or browser you want to work in.”
Enables Productivity on the Go
Now Elizabeth can work offline and catch up on her emails. “The freedom that comes with Microsoft Outlook is a blessing,” she blogged recently, after using time on a flight to organize her inbox and write email. “With Office 365, I wrote email all through the
flight, and when I landed in Los Angeles, I could send them all!”
Supports Real-Time Communications
To manage their film projects, Elizabeth and Emily need to communicate seamlessly no matter where they are. “We send instant messages all the time to stay on top of the production,” says Emily. “It’s great to be able to connect with Elizabeth across a production
office full of cast members and camera crew without having to yell!”
Elizabeth anticipates that Two Camels Films will save money on the company’s next project: an action movie called Battle that will be shot in New Mexico. “Both Emily and I will be moving between casting and administration offices in Los Angeles and shoots
on location,” she says. “I estimate that we’ll each save two round trips that would have cost us [US]$2,000. Using video conferencing, we can collaborate more closely with our casting group, our editing team, and others.”
Improves Efficiency on Set
Elizabeth plans on setting up an Office 365 collaborative environment for the Battle project. With a central place to store documents, the production team will save hours a day not looking for information—hours that can be spent working. “I like that I can
target who sees what information on the site,” Elizabeth says. “Really, at the end of a 17-hour day, if I know someone can find what they need on the site, and it saves me another phone call, then I’m happy!”
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