This is the uncut interview I made in March 2017 for Archive Valley blog. If you want to see what was published, please click here.

Now a lot of things have changed, starting from the scanner I use, which is far more powerful, and the restoration software, which is not AVIsynth anymore, but Davinci Studio and Neat Video plug in.

Hi Daniele! You started as a video maker in 1996 and your experimental work has been acclaimed in many film festivals. Where does your passion for cinema and moving images come from?

When I was 12 years old, I dreamt of becoming a basketball player, like Michael Jordan. A few years after I realized that my dream could not come true, I started finding another way to be rich and famous, as all the teenagers in the world wanted, even in those years.

Many of my school friends played in a rock band, but my voice was not so good and I didn't want to spend my time in learning how to play guitar. That's why I went to work during the summer of 1995, and in September of that year I had the money to buy my first VHS-C camera to become a film director.

Daniele Carrer in 1998

What made you switch from the world of cinema to the world of archives?

How did you transform the activity of collecting archive material turn into a business?

I've always loved contemporary history, and one of my first jobs in the video production industry, back in 1997, was for a little studio not too far from where I live in Northeastern Italy, where I transferred 8 mm films using home made systems.

During that period, I started trying to be a professional filmmaker. I spent ten years on that dream, but in 2007 I turned thirty, and I realized that I had to grow up. That's why I had to find a more profitable way to work with moving images, so I became a stock footage producer.

In 2013, competition on microstock industry was already too big to make money easily, so I had to find a niche. Historical films was that niche, so, actually, my film archive started as a business.

You've built an amazing collection of amateur footage from all over the world (some of your awesome footage appears in our landing page).

How do you perceive this collection in the long run?

In 2013, I was trying to find a way to sell my contemporary stock footage in a different place than microstock agencies.

So I went on Ebay and I simply wrote “stock footage” on the search box. There were a lot of low cost collections on DVDs, so I started thinking that Ebay was not the right place to make money. But there was also an 8 mm collection of dozens of historical films. If the owner hadn’t included the phrase “stock footage” on that auction, my life probably would be very different today. It was like a light that appeared in front of me.

Soon I bought an High Definition scanner, I learnt how to restore films, and I started selling them as part of my stock footage collection in microstock agencies. Then I published my website and started selling home movies directly.

Today I've got 700 reels. I'm quite sure in five years I will have ten times more. I've got many online projects, but I hope someday home movies will be my only business.

As the realm of amateur footage is a very specific niche, how do you differ from other archive providers dedicated to amateur/home-movie footage?

Do you work with any of them or meet at any particular festivals?

At the end of 2015, I published a website in Italy where I started selling video lessons about how to make money with microstock. Until that moment, I had never studied marketing, so I had to learn everything about how to sell my courses, and I spent months waking up early in the morning to listen to podcasts or to read books.

Today I'm a marketer. I think archive providers are good in films but not good in marketing. At the moment, they can't hire great marketers because their projects are not big enough to do it.

They are making a lot of mistakes: If I go on their websites, I can watch a lot of great historical footage, but I can't understand what I have to do to buy it. I know what buyers needs are; that's why this week I'm launching a new version of my website, absolutely buyer friendly.

Your collection is made of a great variety of formats. From restoring to digitizing, what artisanal processes are involved in your work?

The quality of my collection starts before buying. On Ebay you can't watch the footage. You can see some frames and sometimes not, but there are techniques to understand whether you're buying a treasure or trash. I learnt that technique while buying 700 films, so it's difficult for a newbie to be as good as I am today.

I digitize my films frame by frame with a Moviestuff scanner at 1280x720, which is the best resolution you can have with 8 mm films. Then I restore them with AVIsynth, which is an open source software that works with scripts. It's very difficult to use, but in my opinion, it's the software that gives the best results.

Then I store the image sequences and the exported final video on my Cloud to protect them from ageing and to link them to buyers when they pay.

Your share your collection on YouTube and have almost a half-million views! How does such a platform help you promote your collection?

Apart from YouTube, what do you do to get visibility for your collection?

My YouTube channel is growing fast. I get 2 thousand views every day and a 2:07 average view duration, with 100 new subscribers every month.

YouTube analytics for channel

YouTube analytics for channel

Most potential buyers who contact me first watch my footage there. YouTube has 1 billion unique monthly visitors and is the second most used search engine after Google.

I think I don't need to waste my time on Facebook, Adwords, PR or anything else. If you want to make business with online videos today, you just need three things to generate visibility:

  1. a YouTube channel,
  2. a website,
  3. (sometimes) an email list.

The use of found footage seems to be in vogue today.

Who are some of your clients? Can you tell us about a TV/Film project that you have particularly enjoyed collaborating on?

Sometimes I got an email saying a production needs some footage of mine. I give them a quote, they send me money and I send the video. It's like buying on Amazon. But sometimes it happens that there are many mails between me and the producer or even the director.

One of the first productions I worked with was an independent documentary about the crazy story of a man who won a sailing race around the world in 1974, called the “Weekend Sailor”. We talked for months, and I even searched for footage that I didn't have, finding great stuff about South Africa, Acapulco and Rio de Janeiro in the 1970s.

I felt like I was involved in the production, and when the documentary won prizes at festivals around the world, I felt like a small part of them was mine.

Festivals like Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna have become increasingly visible in recent years.

To conclude, could you say something about the flourishing archive scene in Italy?

Since YouTube, I'm not sure small festivals can be the most powerful tool to spread film culture. As you said before, I've received thousands of views every month with a self financed project.

How many people watch a festival? How much does a festival cost?

With the budget of a festival, I can save 5000 films from the garbage.

So where should you put your money?

In Italy there are few projects financed by public funds. The problem is that they don't publish those films online. Films have to live, and they don't live until they are just stored in a dark room. There's something I can't understand about Italian 8 mm films.

Do you know where I find the best home movies created in my country?

In Austria and Germany. I really don't know where old 8 mm films shot by Italian filmmakers go, but I'm quite sure a lot of them go to the garbage. I really feel as if I'm saving an important part of our history.

Until 1975, we had just two television channels in Italy, and they were strictly controlled by the government, even if we were a democracy. All television archives are made of footage that come from years where censorship was very strict.

The only real life you can watch of that period is the one shot on home movies, and I've already saved 700 of them, hoping to save 100 times more in the future.