The cat falling off the toilet bowl…
The movie trailer for the latest drama starring Kate Winslet re-edited to big fun music to make it seem ridiculous…
YouTube offers a lot of great stuff… and a lot of shit… obviously. But what does YouTube mean for stock footage purposes? Can indie projects like “Fit to Print” just pluck any clips off YouTube to include in the documentary?
Probably not. At least not without having to settle a huge lawsuit.
We’ve compiled a long-running list of stock footage to be used for “Fit to Print” by working with footage houses where you pay a service fee for an archivist who finds what you’re looking for. We’ve built up a well-stocked library of footage dating back to early newsreel stuff, to more current footage capturing the newspaper industry’s gigantic transition. Some of the clips we are featuring are coming from YouTube.
Part of the frustration in doing a project like this… right now, in the digital age we live in — is the fact that so much of everything is on YouTube. This is great in so many ways, but for anyone who makes films or researches stock footage video clips as part of their work, it can be a little confusing. For the most part, amateur stock footage clips are donated to us through the guarantee of crediting the original producer. Usually, if there is a video that has been shot by a non-professional and it’s up on YouTube, and it seems to be a vital part of “Fit to Print”, we can just contact the original host. YouTube can be perfect for tracking down the of video content because of the link appearing by the original host just below the screen.
Most of the time when you’re trying to find the name of the original producer of a 1982 clip of Al Neuharth from USA Today, or a newspaper riot from the mid 90’s, it can be a bit trickier.
We’ve had to recruit practically everyone, including our extend friends and family, to help track down owners of certain clips appearing on YouTube. In most cases, what appears on YouTube will also be pro-rated by stock footage houses according to length appearing on the site and how old the particular clip is. The latest clips from most major media outlets like Bloomberg will cost filmmakers like us nothing to use (if they also appear on YouTube that is). In hunting down a specific broadcast clip on newspaper stocks, I contacted a representative at Bloomberg who mentioned, “if our stuff is on YouTube, it’s free to use as long as you credit us”.
That seems fair enough.
I can’t say that about other major networks though, who still want to charge filmmakers an enormous amount to use stock footage. An associate at Fox News mentioned that, “YouTube doesn’t matter, we still charge per clip”.
If anything YouTube has proven the absurdity of what some stock footage houses and major networks charge independent producers for their clips. I don’t have a problem at all with paying for content. I rely on it in fact. But the truth of the matter is, some clips should be free. A television news broadcast from Peter Jennings or your favorite long-mustached local anchorman should be available for anyone to use. After all, it appeared on public television to people who weren’t even paying for it to begin with. You can argue whether CNN or HBO should fit in this category seeing as how you need an original subscription to see their stuff to begin with. But charging $900 for a 30 second clip of a whether man in Cleveland (as I found out was a running joke at ImageSource – one of our go-to archives) – come on! This kind of stuff continues to be a struggle for indie filmmakers. It’s time for that to change.
The best has been hunting down footage on the Tribune Company and newspaper enemy Sam Zell. In a now infamous 2007 YouTube clip of Zell telling a journalist to “F**k off” at an Orlando Sentinel newspaper conference – the owner of the video told us to simply use it. Another videographer of a 20 second clip of a “Zell Hell” flag being flown over a Tribune building mentioned over the phone, “Sam Zell?! F**k that guy! Use the clip.”