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 to be a Basket player, like Mychael Jordan. Few years after I realized that my dream could not come true, so I started findind 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 summertime 1995 and in September of that year I had the money to buy my first VHS-c camera to become a film director.
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 love contemporary history and one of my first job 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 transfered 8 mm films using home made systems.
In that period I started trying to be a professional filmaker. I spent 10 years on that dream, but in 2007 I turned my 30s and I realized that I had to grow up, that's why I had to find a most profitable way to work with moving images, so I became a stock fotoage 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! Thanks!) How do you conceive of 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 didn't mention the word “stock footage” on that auction probably my life would me very different today. It was like a light that appeared in front of me.
Soon I bought an HD 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 start selling home movies directly.
Today I've got 700 reels. I'm quite sure in 5 years those reels can be 10 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 pubblished a website in Italy where I started selling video lessons about how to make money with microstock. Until that moment I 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 and 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: sometimes 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 spend my money 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 frame and sometimes neither them, but there are tecniques to understand if you're buying a treasure or if you're buying a trash. I learnt that tecnique while buying 700 films, so it's difficult for a newbie to be as good as I am today.
I digitalize 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 save them forever from ageing, and to link them to buyers when they pay.