Having the good luck (his words) of being mentored early in his career by directors Robert Altman (“M.A.S.H.”) and Hal Ashby (“Harold & Maude”), Tom Skerritt developed a deep and abiding respect for the craft of story telling that has propelled him through a five-decade career as an actor, director and producer.
During a one hour+ conversation with members of The Executive Network of Seattle, Skerritt gave an impassioned oratory on the power of storytelling and the critical role it plays in not only the creation of important, lasting works of art, but in the very fabric of society and human interaction.
Lamenting the state of Hollywood’s creative output and paucity of great stories communicated in film, Skerritt says “Storytelling is the very fabric of our society and it’s disappearing.” To counteract this trend, nine years ago Skerritt founded The Film School whose purpose “is to teach young people the craft of screenwriting and great storytelling.”
“The most important element in storytelling is believability which is derived from deep listening and understanding.” Skerritt asserts, “Every moment we live is a gift, every conversation an opportunity for reflection and celebration” and should spark “the audacity of possibilities” for a storyteller.
Relaying his own experiences from his work with director Altman, Skerritt observed Altman to be “a deep listener” who took interest in even the most mundane conversations. During filming for “M.A.S.H”, Altman was getting a cup of coffee from the lunch truck and was saying to Skerritt how he was not happy with a particular scene. Glancing over at the set, the truck driver serving coffee commented under his breath that the dinner scene they were shooting looked like “the last supper” providing Altman with the spark of inspiration that turned a vexing moment of uncertainty into a cinematic milestone.
Skerrit also reflects that great storytelling is inspired by challenges we face– and overcome. “Life is meant to be a challenge.” When asked why he recently took the risk of being cast as a non-dancer in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of “Don Quixote”, Skerritt was unequivocal, “How could I not do it? I never felt comfortable with being ‘safe’.” Cast in the role of Quixote, Skerritt’s risk was rewarded with witnessing beautiful stories unfold every night on stage told by remarkable dancers who “tell stories with their bodies that mere words cannot articulate.”
Skerrit’s emphasis on storytelling certainly resonates for those of us in the image business. When we reflect on photographs that have true staying power and impact, it’s those that tell a clear and compelling story in a single frame that are most memorable. Those that also leave room for us as the viewer to insert our own story resonate with the “audacity of possibilities” and provide long term and sustained value.
The power of storytelling. Believable. Audacious. Just like Skerritt.
So you search a photographer’s website or stock photo gallery and you find an image you think will work for a campaign. Cool! But, before taking the next step to download the image for a comp to show your client or creative team, you want to find out how much it costs to license. Click on the “price calculator” or “$” icon and –shriek! horror! gasp! — you find yourself entering the byzantine world of “rights managed pricing.”
Size of Distribution List? Image size? Digital? Print? (What if I want it for Print AND Digital?) Sum of Circulation multiplied by the number of insertions? (Also, let’s hope you were not forced to login before you are granted the honor of finding out how much said image costs….)
Faced with this bewildering array of unanswerable questions, by now all of your creative juices have just flowed down the drain and you’re wondering whether or not it’s time to check Facebook again.
Too complicated. Unnecessary. And, frankly, irrelevant to how we work today.
We think there is a better way. One that allows you to get pricing for images by answering three simple questions:
1) Is the intended use Commercial or Editorial?
2) Will the image be used in Print Only, Digital Only or Both?
3) And – if a commercial use– what industry does your promotion pertain to? If the image is for an editorial use, will the image appear on the Cover/Home Page or Inside/Secondary Page?
Answering these three questions gives us all the information we need to let us know the value of the image relative to the project you are working on and hence the price you should pay. And, less important to you, but very important to the photographer that created the image, this is all the information they really need to manage the rights of an image.
Simply Creative: And the way you work today, we believe the license should not constrain your creativity. You should have the flexibility to crop, size and display the image as you see fit. Art Buyers and Media Planners should be able to exercise the same creativity in how images are used in campaigns. Cross media promotion IS the way companies promote their businesses today. When was the last time you did print work and the images did not also appear on a website, email or mobile campaign? Who designs a website and then does not use the same image to promote the site with a banner ad or social campaign?
It Was A Very Good Year: Okay, but what about duration and geography? Well, unless your business is running on a Mayan calendar, last time we checked, most businesses are managed to a 365-day annual planning and budget cycle. We think it makes sense therefore to grant permission to use an image with the selected license for a period of one year. If you need more time, go ahead and select an option for 2 or 3 years, but really we don’t think it’s necessary to pay more now unless you are really, really sure this campaign or project will be around that long. At the end of the license term, you’ll get an email that asks if you want to re-new and with one click you can say “yes” or “no”.
Geo-a-go-go: Same thing. Based on your entry point to our website, we assume the geographic distribution is limited to remain within the territory where you are based. If you plan to extend the promotion or project beyond your native territory, you can select an option to distribute in multiple territories or worldwide.
Our goal: We hope that by simplifying rights managed pricing, more photo buyers will choose to “stick with” licensing a rights managed image– rather than avoid the hassle and complexity of traditional rights management calculators. And, by choosing more rights managed images, photographers will be encouraged to invest in creating high quality, distinct images that inspire your creativity for future projects.
To help you get acquainted with the Evolve collection, we put together this short video featuring some of our latest images. Many thanks to all of the photographers whose work is featured here:
Brian Bailey, Martin Barraud, John-Francis Bourke, Paul Edmondson, Sam Edwards, Annika Erickson, ERproductions, Vladimir Godnik, David Henderson, Michael Hipple, Larry Hirshowitz, Rainer Holz, Gary Houlder, Mike Kemp, Jutta Klee, Rudiger Knobloch, Elmar Krenkel, Robert Llwellyn, John Lund, Lawrence Manning, Alex Mares-Manton, Tom Merton, Richard Morrell, Tim Pannell, Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Pinto, Michael Pole, Steve Prezant, Martin Rietze, Kimm Saatvedt, Thomas Schweizer, Solina Images, Andreas Stamm, Streetstock Images, Studio Blond, Scott Stulberg, Twins, Bill Varie, Herb Watson, Peter Wattendorff, William Whitehurst and Alison Wright
Enjoy the show!
For too long we’ve been hearing about the downward spiral of royalties photographers receive from their stock photography agents. By way of example, iStockphoto.com, pays a royalty of 15% to photographers each time an image is sold. Meaning that photographers receive 15 cents on the dollar each time an image is licensed. In spite of pressure from industry groups and much hand-wringing, royalties continue to slide and as a result many talented professionals have abandoned stock as a profitable way to generate income or have quit creating images altogether.
Certainly this problem is exacerbated by the parallel downward spiral of prices for stock images. The proliferation of user generated content and citizen journalists, equipped with powerful, pro-level digital SLRs, whose primary income is not dependent upon image sales, contributes to this effect by generating an over-supply of images that far outstrips demand, further eroding both price and royalties.
These combined factors have created an imbalance in our “Creative Economy.” A Creative Economy exists when commercial artists, who are dedicated to the craft of producing professional images, are fairly compensated for their work so that they have resources they need to produce more exceptional work that in turn feeds the creativity AND economy of those creative professionals (designers, art directors, editors, producers) who utilize their images to generate revenue from campaigns, media and products.
Reciprocal. Fair. Balanced.
We can complain or we can do something about it. So here are ten truths that we have adopted and believe are essential in sustaining a Creative Economy:
1) Share royalties fairly: At least 50% of the revenue generated by a stock license should be shared with the artist or copyright holder.
2) Fees should reflect the relative value of the image: Images with higher production costs – especially those that include talent with signed commercial model releases– should command higher fees. Conversely, those images that have lower production costs – or are duplicative or non-distinct– should be priced lower.
3) Simplify licensing of rights managed images: Buyers need a simple and effective way to license rights managed images.
4) Make it easy for buyers to re-license images: Automated reminders with a one-click option to re-license should be standard.
5) Focus on quality over quantity: Professionals cannot nor should not compete with the oversupply of images found on the web. Focus on producing high quality professional images that anticipate the current and future demands of professional photo buyers.
6) Deliver the highest resolution image file available for every license: Give buyers the flexibility they need to produce campaigns and products that deliver maximum impact and showcase your work in the best possible manner.
7) Diversify: Just as professional buyers will always explore multiple sources to locate images, professional photographers should also look for representation through multiple distributors – both domestic and international- including reps, agents, galleries and yes, even, microstock.
8) Assign image exclusives: To preserve both the real and perceived value of your portfolio, set aside some percentage of your images and place them on an image exclusive basis with an agency.
9) Charge higher fees for your assignment work: When buyers know they can hire you on assignment for less than what it will cost them to license one of your images, we should all go home.
10) Evangelize the creative economy among buyers AND sellers of images: Get involved. Join a professional association, host a webinar, write a blog, tweet this post. Take action to educate and engage. And listen carefully for opportunities.
If we all do our part, the principles of a creative economy should work for everyone.
Now it’s up to us. Evolve or face the consequences.