In October 2016, I signed up on stock footage site Filmsupply as a time-lapse filmmaker. Before joining, I wanted to do some research, but there seemed to be surprisingly little information available about them online. In an attempt to fix that, here’s my experience with the company from the past few months.
Before Filmsupply, I had been selling my work on a few other stock footage sites. Mainly Shutterstock and Pond5. In a year or two on each site, I had made some sales, but income was low and sporadic. I was also signed up on Videoblocks and Adobe Stock for a couple months, but hadn’t managed to get a single sale on either in that time. The main problem with all these sites is the sheer number of sellers and videos. Almost everything gets accepted, so my work is lost among the masses.
Filmsupply, on the other hand, is very selective. They only accept high quality content, having less than 200 filmmakers on the roster. This is beneficial to both creators and buyers. For me it means my work is more likely to be seen and sold, while clients don’t need to go through thousands of subpar videos trying to find what they’re looking for. So I was intrigued and sent in an application with links to my work.
Soon enough I was invited to a Skype chat with Cody Dulock, the Director of Content. We chatted for well over an hour, each interviewing the other. This really underlines the kind of personal touch you get with Filmsupply. They genuinely want to know and support their contributors. And that has continued to be my experience with them since.
One of the main selling points during the conversation was how I wasn’t expected to shoot and upload footage just for the purpose of selling stock. Most of all they wanted me to keep doing the kinds of projects that I love doing anyway, because that’s what makes the work stand out as special and makes it look real.
If you think of the phrase “stock photo”, you'll probably conjure an image of stiff people smiling and posing awkwardly in a business setting, with a neutral background, lit in a way that screams photoshoot. That’s exactly the kind of fakeness Filmsupply isn’t interested in. What they want is real footage from real projects that clients can actually use without signalling “we used stock footage”. Authenticity is key.
Anyway, I received the green light to join the ranks. Since Filmsupply requires an exclusive contract, I would need to stop selling my content on their competitors if I wanted to join. Which meant I had to do some research before deciding to switch. After all the site was relatively new (launched in 2015) and I didn’t want to jump in blindly.
One of the most trust-inducing things for me was that they also ran Musicbed.com - an established music licensing site with an existing customer base and good industry contacts. In my eyes that made Filmsupply much more likely to succeed, compared to some random site cropping out of nowhere. Next I contacted a couple of their existing filmmakers to ask what their experience had been, and heard nothing but positive feedback. Also great.
None of the additional googling I did came up with any red flags either, so I gladly jumped on board and deleted my videos from other stock sites.
There were some differences in uploading my footage compared to other sites. First of all, Filmsupply wants the highest possible quality footage. I shoot time-lapse with a 6k DSLR sensor, but instead of having to downgrade to 4k like elsewhere, I just upload the full resolution video without resizing. All footage is exported in ProRes 422 format at 23.976 fps. There’s a good processing guide with instructions and hints to help you turn your source material into the best possible clips. The transfer itself happens either via browser window, or by simply mailing a hard drive to the main office if there is too much data to upload.
One major difference is that they actually do the keywording for you. On other stock sites, you have to come up with something like 20-30 keywords for each clip, which can be quite tedious work. On Filmsupply I simply upload and let them take care of it, which makes my workflow much easier. However, they recently added a Footage Manager, where I can tweak things if I need to. It’s particularly handy for adding location keywords (which only I know) to help clients find my videos. This new feature has also come useful in a couple cases where I felt the title or keywords didn’t describe my clip accurately.
So far I’ve uploaded my time-lapses in two batches. The first took two weeks to process and the second four weeks. The latter is a little on the slow side, but I’m pretty sure Christmas and New Year had something to do with it.
Customer service has been excellent every time I’ve needed to email about something (general questions, footage issues, website suggestions, tax forms). I’ve been in contact with at least five different staff members, and everyone has been quick, helpful and super friendly with their replies. This is a pretty strong point that says a lot about the company and makes me want to stick with them in the long run.
In the end, of course, the most important thing as a seller is whether or not it brings more income than the alternatives. On that front I’m also very happy so far. I’ve only had my full catalog up for three months so it’s hard to say what the real average will be, but currently I’ve made over five times more in sales per month than the previously mentioned sites combined. Filmsupply's cut is a very reasonable 50% and payment is done monthly via Paypal.
So overall, my experience has been great and there’s nothing to really complain about. Filmsupply is doing everything well and seems to have a strong desire to keep improving in things in the future. I’m thrilled to be on board and looking forward to sharing all the footage from my future travels!
For samples of my work, check out the video below, or visit my Filmsupply profile.