Working as an agency producer at the likes of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Analisa Goodin was focused on enabling the most creative work possible for agencies and their clients. But she began to see a gap in the two ways that content could be created.
First and foremost, there’s live-action productions shot on location or in a studio or wherever that may take you. And then there’s stock footage, which can be licenced from a select number of companies. Stock footage has been an option for commercials producers for decades. It offers a safe, convenient option to source the footage that you need. You go to one place, search a library, have peace of mind that everything is licensable, the price is in front of you and the terms are negotiated, and away you go.
“But it [stock footage] is a very fixed, safe space,” says Analisa. “I really think about the world of creative production as a very dynamic space. The creative process requires whatever is required at any given moment. There are no limits to what people might want to create. Safety and creativity are not always the right combination. Creatives don’t always want safety - more often than not they want the opposite.”
That’s why Analisa launched Catch&Release, a first-of-its-kind technology platform that enables creatives, production companies and marketers to curate and license visual photos and videos from anywhere on the internet.
“Stock has become stigmatised as being slightly generic and inauthentic and, as folks in our industry call it, ‘stocky’,” Analisa adds. “When I grew up in the commercial production industry there was stock and there was the internet - there was nothing in between. I was highly biased to finding great content that met the creative brief and didn’t really have a very nuanced understanding of the licencing process. That’s problematic - you can’t just find something on the internet and put it in front of a client without knowing if you can use it or not! So you went to stock for convenience and the internet for creativity. But how do you get the convenience you get from stock and apply it to the much much larger set of options on the web? That was the opportunity.”
Catch&Release launched in 2014 but has evolved hugely since then into the platform it is today. What’s more, the technology that powers the platform has been developed in-house over the course of its evolution. Analisa likes to think of Catch&Release as “the most dynamic marketplace that’s ever existed”, and after being privy to a full demonstration of it in action, we are hard-pressed to argue. “It does not rely only on people who have decided to opt in to offer up their content for licensing,” she adds. “It’s a tool at the front end that creatives use like Pinterest. As they’re finding and curating content from all over the web, they’re bookmarking and saving and sharing it through Catch&Release. ”
You might not be a content creator that has opted into something like this but if you’re a creative, and you see something you love on Instagram you can use Catch&Release to capture it and initiate clearance on it later. Analisa likes to refer to the content being sourced via Catch&Release as “found footage” as a nod to its method of discovery. And while found footage can be used in the same way as stock footage, the differences between the two are vast. While both are pre-shot, found footage hasn’t necessarily been shot by someone with the intent of licensing it. It’s been shot by a professional who’s taking a weekend off and trying out a new piece of camera equipment, or a director who is between gigs, or a woman in Iowa with two kids who’s shooting amazing imagery but may not identify as a professional filmmaker. “It’s being shot by billions of people with billions of different points of view, which then infinitely expands what they’re shooting because they’re not shooting it for commercial purposes. Maybe you didn’t wake up thinking, ‘when am I going to sell my content?’ but because you’ve uploaded it to the internet, you’re essentially saying you’re open to it being seen. And if you can be seen, how can you be discovered and then transact? Found, to me, has more a quality of discovery than just search. Search is very literal and almost one-dimensional- you search and get results. But the process of finding and discovering is much more creative, fluid and spontaneous.”
But, in the words of Analisa, the licencing needs sorting out. You obviously can’t go willy nilly sourcing footage from people on the web and using it without their permission. And that’s why Catch&Release exists. Here is probably a good place to outline exactly how the platform works.
Once a creative or producer or director or editor have sourced a series of video and images from across the web, Catch&Release’s ‘Licensability Assessment’ comes into play that automatically propagates the likelihood the asset can be licenced. Teams can also collaborate and provide creative feedback using likes, dislikes, and comments. When you’ve decided on a piece of content, you can request clearance in one click. On the backend, predictive AI determines which elements of a piece of footage needs licencing: copyright, talent, property, and other necessary rights that your business affairs team cares about; Catch&Release conducts the clearances, and your team will get real-time status updates, so you know exactly where each asset is in the process at any given time. The final step is the licencing under uniform terms and conditions, including indemnification against rightsholder claims. Renewals can also be managed in a dedicated dashboard.
Catch&Release offers the creativity available across the entire internet but with the safety and ease of a library of stock footage. “Safety is about compliance,” says Analisa. “There are different stakeholders that care about that at different stages of a project. We’ve built really elegant tools for people like creatives and producers, who are more focused on defining what the look and feel is going to be, setting the aesthetic expectations, etc. Then, once it goes through the pipeline and it’s getting close to air, legal teams can use a different set of our tools to manage licenses and transactions. The backend really is reverse engineering the safety and compliance that you would get from stock footage and applying it to a Vimeo video that was just posted this morning - or whatever it might be that creatives have found.”
Catch&Release’s offering is even more noteworthy right now given the lack of opportunities to go on set and shoot in many countries around the world. When the global impact of Covid-19 became more apparent earlier in the year, brands and agencies were quick to launch responsive creative in a matter of days, which was remarkable given the restraints in place and general unknown of the future. Analisa believes that speed to market will continue to be an important factor moving forward but ad creators and producers need to be wary of stock fatigue, which is something that became apparent during that initial wave of Covid response spots. It didn’t take long for people to pick up on the similarity of imagery among those ads.
“For the commercial production industry, what’s available on stock sites is a subset of their total,” says Analisa. “So, your standard stock library probably has about 15% of its library that’s really viable for creatives in this industry. If you think about the time that Covid hit, everybody across the world was digging into the same bins - that’s pretty astounding. That right there establishes and validates a need for going much, much broader.”
What’s more, Analisa sees found footage as its own creative medium, one that requires time to learn how to use it. “We’re building tools to make that learning curve very shallow and accessible. When you think about what it means to work with found footage vs shooting from scratch, at first people can feel a loss of control of the vision they had in their head. Really opening yourself to the spontaneity of what’s out there can have amazing impacts on a script. There are some really beautiful surprises that come but it does take a little bit of letting go up front.”
An example of that was Facebook’s Covid response spot, which Droga5 launched at the end of March. The agency utilised Catch&Release to bring that to life, and the ad notably struck a chord among the LBB team for being unique at the time. “Droga5 was a leader in the Covid response space with the spot they did for Facebook,” says Analisa. “They creatively changed what was possible to do with sourced and found footage. Now we have other people that are using our tools to continue to evolve the medium again for this next wave, and it’s really exciting to see those boundaries pushed. It is a medium. You can tell any kind of story using the internet. Catch&Release is an output tool - if the input is brilliant the output is brilliant.”
Looking to the future, Analisa knows that the industry will eventually go back to shooting on a broader scale than it’s currently able to. “They want to and they have to, there’s no one way to do this,” she says. “But the industry needs as many tools in its toolbelt as possible. I think one of the everlasting changes to this has been the realisation of found footage as a medium and that if you have the right tools and you can command and control this medium, you can do amazing things very, very quickly.”
With regards to her business, she’s keen to keep evolving through technology, to further help our industry to do the work that it wants to do in better and more streamline ways.
“We want to build a platform that exceeds customer expectations of what’s possible,” Analisa says. “We have customers who are really pushing the boundaries of the kinds of stories that can be told using found footage and we are closely collaborating with them on that because we are heavily invested in seeing this medium maximised, to allow for stories to evolve as culture evolves. It’s amazing to see some of the ideas that commercial directors and amazing film studios are having in terms of how to tell stories in this way.
“And we really want to be the tool that enables all of that.”