Daniele Carrer inteviewed by Josephine Grupp for her master's thesis on August, 2020.

Do you work alone on this project?

Yes, I’m alone.

There are two ways to create a digital business:

  1. Thinking big, and start searching for capital even before starting.
  2. Launching your small project with your own savings, working in your spare time and weekends, being profitable in a few months, but waiting years before becoming a company that can be sold for good money.

I chose the second option because I’m not the kind of guy who loves asking for money from investors and loves asking for a bank loan even less.

I saw that you charge a flat fee, regardless of the length of the film. I've never seen this before. What inspired you to do this? I also noticed that you were about to raise the fee, what is the reason for it?

I’ve been inspired by stock footage agencies like:

They charge a flat rate, regardless of whether the segment bought by the customer is 4 seconds or 60.

This way it’s simpler to handle your products and the customer has a better user experience.

I’m raising the fee because I’ve worked for years to create a brand that is now well known among documentary and TV professionals, thanks to the fact that I’ve worked hard to always give:

  • great quality,
  • customer service.

So it’s time to raise my prices and stop being considered low cost because my product is of high value.

You work with what is commonly known as orphan films, have you ever had a beneficiary contact you?

Not all my collection is made of orphan films. If I find the filmmaker or their heirs, I always try to make a deal and sign a contract with which they sell me the copyright. But it’s a complicated matter because 99% of the filmmakers who shot super 8 and 8 mm films died and their heirs are not usually just one person, and to become the copyright owner you need each of their signatures.

However, there are legal ways to avoid problems (learn more), starting with the fair use doctrine.

I cut all the personal parts, so it’s impossible for someone to recognise the footage and claim it. And from an ethical point of view, I’m glad to save a part of history that, without me, would be lost forever.

My YouTube channel had 1.5 million views last month:

Analytics of a YouTube Channel with 1.5 million views per month

With such a great audience, you find people contact you just because they have nothing else to do. The funny thing is that the only person who claimed to be the filmmaker did it with a film that was made by the father of a man I met personally and lived not too far from me in Italy and, of course, signed a contract to give me the right to use the footage.

So I investigated that comment and I discovered that the man who made it lived on another continent and probably commented just because he enjoyed giving other people problems.

Do you think you will ever start including private shootings?

I would like to, but it’s complicated. As I explained previously:

  1. it is complicated from a legal point of view,
  2. it’s not fair, because those moments belong only to the filmmaker and their family, at least those parts shot inside their house.

On myoldfilm.com, which is my website where people can subscribe to watch my YouTube films without watermark and advertising, I have a few personal films, but the number of people who access the service is as small as those who can buy the reels on eBay.

Can I have an idea of the average number of sales in a year?

I have:

  • hundreds of sales on Pond5 and Shutterstock where I sell segments of footage, usually from 5 to 15 seconds,
  • dozens of sales on footageforpro.com, where I sell the videos I have on YouTube without the watermark and whose duration is from 1 to 40 minutes.

How did you get the idea of myoldfilm.com? Is this service targeted for professionals or for the people who follow you on YouTube without working in the industry?

The strategy to sell my footage to TV and documentary productions was to find customers with the second most important search engine in the world: YouTube.

To do that, I worked hard to grow my channel, as the bigger it was, the more potential customers I could find.

Finally, I reached an average audience of 400 thousand views per month with peaks of 2 million. 99.9999% of those people are actually not interested in buying my product, so after being aware that I reached so many people, I knew I had the most precious asset thing for a business: people's attention.

Myoldfilm.com was my attempt to give those people something they may be interested in buying: a product where they could watch my videos, but without the advertising and the watermark they found on YouTube.

Do you make the choice of monetizing your videos on YouTube?

Yes I did, but not because I think the money YouTube pays is crucial, even for a small business like mine (my RPM is around $1):

Analytics of YouTube showing RPM and CPM

but because it's clear that YouTube sends you more traffic if they can make money with your videos.

What is your biggest clientele (news outlet, film production, YouTube creation, etc?)

There are a lot of documentaries on:

  • Netflix,
  • Prime Video

that use videos from my collection. 90% of my customers are documentary directors, or archivists working for them.

Sometimes they have a 5 million dollar production, and sometimes they are film students who have to create a video for their graduation.

Today, more than so than when I bought my scanner seven years ago and started creating my collection, historical documentaries are a great trend, and when you tell the story of someone and you need footage to do it, there aren’t many great archives to find the content you need. Mine is not a great collection compared to some others, but it’s one of the few that you can watch online.

Further, regular archive footage is made from professional shootings, usually created by crews of at least 10 people. In those situations people who were in front of the camera didn’t live their normal life, they acted.

My collection is made up of home movies instead. They were shot by non-professional filmmakers who held a small camera in their hand, so they caught how real life actually was.

In some ways, they’re like YouTube today, but 80 to 30 years ago. That’s why I love my job!

When you sell to big productions, do they contact you directly or buy your footage from stock photos agencies such as Pond5 ?

Footageforpro.com is still a home-made project, even if it has a lot of potential. I have far more sales of my footage on Pond5 and Shutterstock. These agencies have been in the business since the early 2000s and spend millions every year for advertising; I can't compete with them.

An awful effect of selling in agencies is that those buyers who choose your footage or images don't talk with you, as agencies handle the sale; you're just a nickname that buyers don't even quote in the closing titles of their documentary.

Selling directly on my website is more time-consuming, even if you automate the sales process like I did, but it involves the chance to talk with the director (or the producer or the archivist), who will likely ask me to work together again the next time they release a video.

I also noticed while checking your Pond5 account that you offer more modern stock footage. Do you buy those images or direct them yourself ?

They are the heritage of my first years as a contributor. I started producing stock footage in 2007. In those years, producing was a beautiful activity I did in my spare time. I worked in a department store where I sold digital cameras and computers, and on the four holidays weeks I had every year, I used to travel Europe with low cost flights and create stock footage.

Daniele Carrer in Prague with his camera while shooting stock fimage

Those were the golden years of microstock, when you could earn thousands of euros with a simple 10 second video of Paris.

So my first years of productions were all focused on contemporary footage of European Capitals. Then competition rose and that strategy stopped paying. So I started focusing on historical footage, but of course I didn't delete my contemporary videos from agencies, as they still sell today, at least a little.