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Story Selling: Why Gear Isn’t Your Most Important Asset


A couple of years ago, I participated on a panel at SXSW on the topic of independent filmmaking. The first question asked by the moderator was what I thought of the new camera technologies. I replied by saying that I wasn’t in the business of selling 4K televisions. In other words, I’ve heard less about ideas and stories from filmmakers over the years and more about what 4K camera they were thinking of purchasing.

Cameras Don’t make Stories

There’s no doubt that the advances in camera technologies for filmmakers are amazing, but they’re still just tools, and your skills with these technologies are there to support your idea. I’m old enough to remember the day when producing a film gave you few options — you chose either a 16 or 35mm camera, based on your budget.

Panavision Camera / Movie Making (1983) by austvarchive

For the last decade, at least to me, it seems that filmmakers are purchasing the technology before a single idea is committed to paper. Coming up with a good story idea is the hardest part of your production.

Director Directing Actors On Set by fStopImagesGmbH

Shooting on Spec

Creating stock is a passive revenue stream for contributors who have gigs outside the stock marketplace. I often collaborate with this group to create a spec that showcases their skills to new clients and potential new markets. It’s a way for directors to add another flavor to their reel.

If a director is locked into endlessly shooting car commercials but has the desire to shoot comedy, then I’ll assist in fleshing out a story that has scenes that can also work for stock. In that way, they’re investing in their careers, parlaying the content into assets, and most importantly, getting paid back on their investment.

The Spec Spots channel on vimeo is a great place to showcase your spec or commercial contest work. This video is a “day in the life” shoot I created with Kaspar Films in London. By simply applying motion graphics to the scenes, we were able to create a spec to target the smartphone market. Kaspar Films then also submitted the clips to Pond5.

Advantages of Selling a Story in Stock

Our agency clients are constantly requesting not only different angles of the same scene, but also the same actors and continuity between scenes that tell a story. Why settle for one clip to be licensed when you have the potential of selling a cluster of shots from the same shoot?

Girl Attaches Storyboards to the Board by Cameraman_Kiev

Take a Step Back

Before you make a purchase of the latest technology, remember the most important piece of equipment you will ever possess is a good script or story. If you have a good story, then it’s good enough to be shot on an iPhone.

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Top image: Script Notes by orproductions

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