Not too long ago a particular image on Twitter caught my eye, and you can probably see why…
— Dissolve (@dissolve) August 19, 2014
This was a still from a showreel that’s featured on the Dissolve website, and all of this footage was and is available for projects. Dissolve provides high-quality footage for professional use, but it’s a two-way street. Video editors, filmmakers, and producers use the stock footage available at Dissolve, but those same editors and filmmakers can and do make their content available for use. Dissolve is obviously not the only stock footage resource out there, but their approach is an innovative one that is very much creator-centered.
George P. Georgeadis, Product Manager at Dissolve, talked to us about his day job, but we wanted to focus on his career as a filmmaker, and how he’s able to utilize stock footage in his projects. We also dig into some specifics around artistic expression versus commercial reality, what sort of hardware and software he uses and how using and utilizing stock footage can change the way you put together and even monetize a project.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us about your career. Has filmmaking always been a passion of yours?
George P. Georgeadis: Indeed, film has been a passion for a long time. From my earliest memories, I recall loving the magic of movies. Like many filmmakers, I simply fell in love with their ability to transport me to other worlds. Watching movies was my favorite thing to do as a kid and still is to this day. Of course, it didn’t remain just a pastime for long.
I was born in Canada but moved to Athens, Greece, at the age of 2 and lived there till I was 17. I remember dabbling with stop-motion animation when I was 8, bringing my favorite toys to life — albeit the results weren’t exactly Oscar worthy. Soon after, I cast my friends in a horror film, where they each died at the hands of a serial killer, played by none other than my mom. Obviously, I’ve had very encouraging, supportive — and patient — parents. This is even more impressive when you know that most other parents in Greece at the time wanted their kids to become doctors or lawyers — creativity was often frowned upon.
Making “movies” back then was interesting because I had no editing/post tools and had to shoot the films scene by scene, without the ability to edit. I had to get each shot right with only one take. The funniest part was how my cousin Kostas (a.k.a. the music guy) used to hold a small boombox next to the camera, playing the film’s “soundtrack” (usually soundtracks from our favorite movies at the time, like Aliens and Jurassic Park) so we could capture it live.
Needless to say, those films aren’t any good, but they’re an amazing reminder of how innocent we were and how the future seemed so full of incredible potential. They kept the flame of my dream alive. What I try to remember is that despite the limitations we had, we didn’t care — we still went for it. For a child, there is always a way, and I truly try to adopt this mindset now as an adult.
Before I started at Dissolve, I ran two video production companies, one on the commercial side of things and the other on the creative wedding cinematography side. They kept me busy for many years, until Dissolve was formed in 2013. Between the two companies, I loved how varied the stories I got to tell were, from challenging corporate stories to extremely personal wedding and pre-wedding films. It gave me an opportunity to meet incredible people and practice my people skills, which are critical in this industry.
Now at Dissolve, I have the pleasure of working with one of the best teams around. As the product manager, I get to work closely with hundreds of talented filmmakers and stock producers from around the world. It keeps me inspired and motivated every day to see so much talent out there.
I always find it really interesting to see how you can be creative and put some of yourself into commercial projects. Is that something you experienced with your work on the Analog Coffee Film and/or the Lisette Xavier music video?
This is such a great subject. I’ve seen people come at it from different schools of thought. Some criticize their favorite creative idols when they embark on projects “too commercial” in nature or when they feel they’re “selling out.” But at some point, we all have come to this crossroads where we need to use our talents to feed the family and pay the bills. For some reason, we think this path has to be a painful one. I guess because it doesn’t resonate with our creative aspirations or who we want to be or what we want to leave behind as our legacy.
I see this as a wonderful challenge. Anytime I’m faced with a project (and the more challenging a project the better), I tend to take a step back and look at that project for the opportunities it will provide and how I can treat it like a “dream” project anyway.
If you have a passion for telling stories, you’ll find that every project has an amazing story in it. Some stories are obvious and some just need a bit more digging to find.
Let’s talk about hardware. You mentioned that you work with a RED Epic, c100, 5D Mark iii and other DSLRs. What’s been your biggest takeaway from shooting with all of these different cameras?
DSLRs are still my go-to cameras for most projects, especially stock footage, but I’ve been fortunate to have access to such great equipment as the RED Epic through Dissolve’s contributor equipment program, where we loan our cupboard full of equipment to local contributors for their personal or commercial projects (in exchange for some footage, of course).
My biggest takeaway working with the RED has been to … well … slow down. Part of my experience comes from live events such as weddings, where I had to capture moments that couldn’t be reenacted if I didn’t shoot them right the first time. Working with the RED Epic has been a whole new experience. It isn’t as friendly for a run-and-gun approach (although I still try), but it’s perfect when you can slow down and plan your shoots, lighting, lens use — and, the best part, make it all fit perfectly to the story you want to tell.
Typically, are you able to choose the camera you want to use on a project, or is that something that’s already been decided? How much of a factor is this decision around a project?
Every project can be accomplished in many different ways. It depends heavily on your style, timing, planning and the stage you’re at in your career, but sometimes it’s just pure luck. You could plan to have a shoot accomplished a certain way, but two days before, you’re introduced to someone who can bring something unique to the shoot. Or you suddenly gain access to equipment you’ve always wanted to play with. It can happen the other way around too, when you’re counting on having access to certain equipment and something falls through or breaks and you must think on your feet on how to get the shot.
I’m a fan of planning equipment based on the final look I want. Emotion and story can come across differently depending on your equipment, especially lenses. And for every rule, there is always a time to break it. So while I believe that each project is different and planning what to use to get the results you want can go a long way, it depends on the filmmaker/cinematographer and how he or she prefers to work.
What kind of opportunities has your position at Dissolve opened up for you?
Working at Dissolve has been fantastic, not only because I work with incredibly talented people from all over the world, but also because it’s opened a huge door for me as a filmmaker — to stock footage and its amazing community of shooters.
As a film guy, I had a naive concept of what stock footage was: I thought it was a low-quality form of video that wasn’t shot well, was badly acted, looked too “stocky” and had no real professional usage possibilities. I definitely wouldn’t have used it in my own projects. Boy, was I wrong. With Dissolve, we’re creating a stock footage company that’s attracting some of the freshest filmmakers and best footage around. We’re also building a place that filmmakers and stock producers can feel proud to call home, a place they can use as an extension of their portfolio.
Now I look forward to the opportunity to share my experiences with the filmmakers I work with. I get to mentor hundreds of talented filmmakers to make the most of their footage collection, in turn generating a passive income that keeps them doing what they do best.
So, I guess to sum up, working at Dissolve has allowed me to be myself, do what i love and get rewarded for it, while mentoring and sharing with my community how to make the most of our craft.
What sort of benefits and potential are filmmakers and producers missing out on when they aren’t considering how stock footage can impact their project?
I think we can all finally agree that stock footage has surpassed expectations. It’s shot by professionals for professionals, with high-end equipment and cinematic techniques that can match the quality of any project, whether it’s a small business explainer video or a major Hollywood feature film. Professionally shot footage can help filmmakers of all calibers and projects of all budgets.
Stock footage is great to fill gaps in your stories or to make your film or video appear global without blowing budget on travel. It just increases possibilities for story and scope. You could even use stock footage to create an entire video. Dissolve does it all the time.
However, I think filmmakers and producers aren’t only missing out on incorporating stock footage in their workflows, but also on having their own stock footage collection. My goal is to let cinematographers and filmmakers understand the benefits of having stock footage collections of their own.
Have you gone back to old projects to see what might be usable as stock footage? If so, how much material do you usually find?
I have hard drives upon hard drives stacked away in a closet! It’s funny how, because of our artistic nature, we don’t always like looking at our old work, but when I looked back, I was surprised at how much useful stock footage I’d been sitting on.
Granted, you need to ensure you have the proper model releases if you want to sell footage, especially if it features people. Luckily, I’ve had wonderful clients who all support my stock footage side, so, even years later, I was able to confirm they were okay with my selling footage from our projects together. Nowadays, I make sure I have this conversation in advance, and it’s also something I include in my contract and model release forms. I recommend everyone in the industry do this.
It can be a lot of work to go back and look through old footage, but Dissolve has a special service for exclusive contributors. All those hard drives collecting dust? Contributors can send them to us, and we run them through what we call a “white glove process,” basically turning raw footage into saleable stock clips and dusty hard drives into successful stock collections. We’ve had some filmmakers become successful stock producers almost overnight. Our contributors love the service.
Does the fact that you know you’re going to make some of the footage you shoot on a project available as stock footage on Dissolve change your approach when shooting
That’s a great question because many of us spend a lot of time and money preparing for shoots, and the truth is, there’s always downtime between takes. I now use this to my advantage and shoot extra takes I can use as stock. Yes, there’s some additional planning involved if you want to capture specific shots for your stock collection, but it’s totally worth it.
Thinking about stock when you work on any project works exceptionally well when you shoot in a different city or country and can make the most of a place and/or rental equipment or staff. If an upcoming shoot could provide an opportunity for a few more shots for your stock collection, and your relationship and agreements with your clients allow, then I say seize the moment.
If someone wants to make their footage available on Dissolve, how would they go about that? Is it a difficult process?
Not at all. You can apply via our contributors website. If you’re accepted, usually within hours you have access to our contributor upload site and can begin building a footage collection. Contributors at Dissolve, especially the filmmakers getting into stock for the first time, can expect a one-on-one approach from us.
My mandate is to make each of my contributors successful, while they continue to be inspired to do what they love and bring their dream projects to life.
The “one for the meal, one for the reel” mentality is something almost every creative struggles with. How do you strike a balance between creative passion and commercial reality?
I strongly believe that building a stock collection and a relationship with a company like Dissolve can help make these two realities possible, and comfortable. What I mean is, as a filmmaker’s success as a stock producer grows, so will that passive income. This allows him or her to worry less about the “meal” projects and focus their efforts on the dream projects that got them passionate about this art in the first place.
Special offer for Pro Video Coalition readers: Get Dissolve’s Better T-shirt free (just pay $5 for shipping to the US or Canada). Visit http://dissolve.com/bettertee. Offer expires March 31, 2015.