Monumental Moments in History: Six Reasons Documentary and Factual Producers Need to Stop Using Stock Footage

Audience participation in documentary and factual show making may have a longer heritage than you think…

Back in the 1950s, French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch advocated what he coined “a shared anthropology”. He believed that giving the subjects of his documentaries a voice in the production would enhance, or more fully reflect, that which he was endeavouring to represent on screen.

Filmmaking and TV production techniques may be significantly different today compared to back in the 50s, but with almost everybody armed with a smartphone, nowadays nothing goes undocumented. Everyone is a participant in a global shared anthropology, capturing moments in time and posting them for all to see.  

Take for example the January 2021 Capitol riots in Washington. User-generated video (UGV) of how the mob overran police to gain entry to the building provided dramatic on-the-scene footage as the event unfolded. This UGV not only provided news organisations with real-time access to the action as it unfolded, but as we approach the first anniversary of this milestone event in democratic history, UGV is now also helping documentary and factual producers reconstruct the event through multiple viewpoints, and perhaps even provides an opportunity to shine a light on under-reported aspects of the story or bring to audiences previously unreported first-hand accounts.

The same can be said of other major events of modern history – the Manchester terror attack, the Hong Kong protests, the death of George Floyd, and so on.  Even the current protests taking place at COP26 will be the stuff of documentaries in 2022.






Buyers want strong visual storytelling, so stop selling them stock footage

A recent MIP Markets report on what TV commissioners and buyers want, revealed that they are actively seeking something very real, very visceral, and very inspiring – shows that deliver a richer and more holistic understanding of events, productions and documentaries that give a voice to those who rarely get heard in mainstream media, and urgent and relevant stories. They want the shows they invest in to be thought-provoking, original, highly topical, and above all they desire strong visual storytelling.

But more often than not, documentary and factual entertainment producers fail to use valuable UGV footage to its full advantage, relying instead on stock footage. Why?  

Stop using stock footage! The meteoric rise of video-first social media platforms demonstrates that audiences are craving a deeper connection and understanding, and more than ever choosing to devour authentic real-person footage of events.  

UGV offers an opportunity for producers to enhance and enrich factual and documentary show-making with authentic content that gives access to diverse characters and meaningful stories, fresh angles on moments in history, once-in-a-lifetime footage that has never been seen before, stories that cannot be recreated or re-enacted, and the chance to juxtapose archive or stock footage with contemporary narratives.

With ever-expanding amounts of UGV being created, now is the time to unlock the potential of a user-generated video strategy.




User-generated video vs. stock footage: six top reasons to make the switch


1. UGC Works Harder than stock footage

Online video will soon account for more than 80% of all consumer internet traffic. Audiences want more of it, so you need to tap into it. With organisations like Newsflare providing a broad and deep archive of UGV, as well as access to a vast network of active contributors delivering fresh content every day, time and budget constraints are no longer valid excuses for returning over and over again to stock footage.   

UGV is available, it's cost effective, you can get it straight into production, and most importantly, it will tell higher-impact, more compelling stories that resonate deeper with audiences. 



2. Produce the stories that shape the world

The world won’t wait for you. Audiences hear the call to play their part in creating the stories they want to see. Old stock footage cannot possibly keep pace with a constantly evolving world narrative.

UGV is fresh content on tap. With vast archives that even the likes of Shutterstock can’t compete with, and crowdsourced content and expert research teams at your disposal, UGV providers offer the opportunity to get more creative, and get the stories of events that have shaped the world into production quickly. A great example of this is the coverage by Sky News of the Sarah Everard vigil. Using entirely UGV, Sky presented an incredible timeline of the story as events unfolded.


3. Always be in the moment

UCV keeps content interesting. It’s infinitely more creative and engaging than stock footage. Where stock footage looks staged and exhausted, UGV is genuine and authentic. UGV tells it like it is by shining a light on the real moments that help create a truly compelling narrative. It also offers the chance to tell a story from a myriad of perspectives, and with a level of genuine human emotion that cannot be created.  


4. Get real

When you’re in constant competition for audience attention, authenticity is critical. Audiences view UGV as more trustworthy, truthful, and authentic than curated content or stock footage. In fact, studies have shown UGV to be the most authentic and influential form of content. So, get real - UGV is not just cats and people falling over, its multifaceted content that offers an unbiased view of the world, created without an agenda.


5. Once in a lifetime storytelling

Whatever your show concept, remember an idea is abstract but stories are concrete. Sure, you can trawl the archives for a nugget that’s been missed or lost footage that gives context to a new idea.  But shining a light on real moments in the now, telling the stories shaping the world through once-in-a-lifetime footage, or being the first to capture a moment in time that simply cannot be recreated offers a far more compelling narrative. Even if you’re retelling a story, juxtapose archive footage with current UGC and you’ll always have a more interesting angle.



6. Create that water cooler moment

Where curated content recites information, UGC empowers conversation. By switching to UGV you could realise as much as 50% more engagement with audiences. Producing creative, authentic stories that capture the imagination is a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive environment. UGV sparks conversation, and networks and broadcasters want their shows to be talked about.


7. The sizzle factor

Pitch in confidence. Unlike footage archives, thanks to the capabilities of AI and algorithm technology, UGV can be tracked and filtered to provide new, timely, unexpected, disruptive, and unique content that will help you nail that pitch and get your documentary or factual entertainment show into production.  


Stop using stock footage, there’s a better way to story tell monumental moments in history  

Just as Jean Rouch made fundamental changes to the production of documentary show making in the 50s, user-generated video and its ability to incorporate many different voices and experiences is profoundly affecting documentary and factual production today.

Audiences, TV buyers and commissioners alike want to feel connected to a story, are seeking ways to actively engage, and are demanding deeper levels of authenticity. This beggars the question – by using stock footage, are you giving your buyers and your audiences what they want?

Life, with all its colour and craziness, sights and sounds, triumphs, and tragedies, is the greatest show on earth. A spectacle that demands to be shared with audiences everywhere, through engaging, captivating, and enthralling user-generated video.

Newsflare’s constantly growing global membership of filmers are out there capturing life as it happens, uploading new clips all day, every day, to our huge, ever-expanding vault. It’s alive with diverse, emotionally powerful content and fresh ideas that will resonate deeply with audiences

If you are seeking to pitch or are currently in production for an event anniversary programme or a documentary show/film about a monumental moment in history, then get in touch with Newsflare.

Let us help you uncover the new, timely, unexpected, disruptive, and unique content that will help you take the lead in documentary and factual TV production in 2022.

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