Although I’ve been filming and producing video content for more than a decade, I never really gave stock footage much thought. There’s so much of it out there already… Is it what I want to do professionally? Eh. So my journey into the world of stock footage was gradual and organic.
The Origin Story
This is a story I’ve never told publicly before… This whole thing actually started as the result of getting screwed over on a handshake-deal film shoot that I did. I got jerked around on payment for months and then after months of that, the guy wanted me to give him a whole bunch of footage that I had shot on my own years earlier for free. The footage was part of a personal project that I used visuals for in my 2011 demo reel and had absolutely nothing to do with his project. Personally speaking, after someone plays games with not paying you for several months, the desire to give away your own content for free just isn’t there. The guy then started criticizing me and attacking my integrity – claiming that I promised him the content (which I didn’t). I really don’t like having my integrity questioned – especially when I helped the guy out six ways from sunday on his project and then he played games with payment. So what did I do? I loaded his hard drive with every single frame of the footage he wanted for free and shipped it to his editor. I didn’t get a thank you. I didn’t get the shipping reimbursed. Classy, right?
But this is where the stock footage resource was born. The footage he wanted was mine; he didn’t have me shoot it or pay me for the footage. I created the content at least a year or two prior to his project and definitely didn’t grant him exclusive rights to my footage that I paid money out of my own pocket to create. So then I started thinking that if I have extra footage that I’m not using on my hard drives, why not give it away for free for the world to appreciate? And there you have it, the birth of my free 4k stock footage resource.
In January 2013, I uploaded the very first clip of free stock footage to my website and posted a little notice on my Facebook page about it. This continued weekly for several months. After some time passed, I upped the ante to between three to five clips per week. Then I started getting daring and did some weeks with big numbers upwards between ten and twenty clips per week and moved the original clips to a service for hosting the downloads (still linked through my website). I remember how impressed I was when the resource got up to 200 clips. How surreal! Although there would be breaks in the upload periods, I would try to make up the time and fill in the gaps for weeks I missed. By the end of the first year, I had 500 free stock clips online and still had more content to offer the world.
2014 – Things Get Real
Roughly one year after creating my stock footage resource (maybe a little less), I was contacting by a company to create some exclusive stock footage content. I would get paid for this. A novel idea. I never really thought of the stock footage as more than a good thing to do for the film and arts community – and maybe a nice way to get some publicity as a result. So after a few e-mail exchanges, a conference call or two, and a short contract, I created a few batches of custom stock content. In hindsight, I had no idea what the value of my content was in that arena and they got one of the best deals ever; lesson learned there. A handful of months later, I was contacted by Shutterstock – one of the largest stock footage companies out there – about signing to be a content contributor. This too would generate a small amount of income (eventually) and I would get a percentage of the sales of my clips. Cool!
Meanwhile, I continued everything with the free stock footage resource on my website. I created an official release form to issue to people that were using my footage for commercial projects and put a form up on my website for people to fill out. I started processing each form by hand and creating each approved license agreement in Microsoft Word. This was a tedious task. The need to get some sort of automated approval system (one-click approvals on my end) was clearly needed. I contacted a programmer to put that approval system into place but he only did 3/4 of the job and never finished it. He wanted to get paid the full amount prior to completion and I explained that I was ready to pay for the service but I couldn’t pay in full until the job was complete. Easy enough. He never finished the job and I continued to issue each approval form by hand. Depending on what my shoot schedule was like, sometimes the wait was anywhere from a few weeks to a month. That approval system was really needed.
The Big Clients
Much to my surprise and great enjoyment, I started receiving licence agreement requests from some pretty big companies. Universal Studios, Disney, Nokia, etc. Big television networks and shows. Real movies. To this day it seems surreal and ridiculous (in a good way, of course). Mind you, this is all without any sort of promotion. Random Google searches for “4K stock footage” listed my website in the top five of the first page of results – right up there with the biggest companies in stock footage. At this point, it became clear that I should start taking this stuff somewhat seriously. Stock footage will probably never be my “career” – but I think it’s definitely something that will be incorporated into my life legitimately in some form or another. Over the summer I made another attempt to have a different programmer create an approval system for me – this one never even got started after we reached an agreement. He got a down payment and I got sent back to square one – ripped off and empty handed; time to find someone else…
What’s next? After I somehow manage to get a programmer that will actually do the job I would like to pay them to do, I will officially launch and promote my stock footage resource as something real. Approvals will be able to processed within 24 hours and I should be able to handle some real volume. I also have my sights on some other fun stuff including ProRes and original RED files for people that need even better quality than my website’s mp4 files.
Want to see the other cool projects and companies using my footage? Check it out here. http://mitchmartinez.com/stock-usage/
So here we are; pretty much up to date. Happy New Year! Let’s film something awesome!