Wildscreen Exchange: Free Media for Environmental Non-Profits

Wildscreen is launching a new endeavor, called the Wildscreen Exchange, to put the powerful tools of visual communications into the hands of the conservationists working to protect the planet. Filmmakers for Conservation got an inside look at how the Wildscreen Exchange will work, talking with Wildscreen Exchange Manager Lucie Muir:

FFC: As Sir David explains, the Wildscreen Exchange is a media database to empower conservation organizations to win hearts and minds in the war against climate change, poaching, wildlife trafficking, natural resource exploitation – and hopefully ourselves as well. How did Wildscreen begin this initiative?

Lucie Muir, Wildscreen Exchange Manager:
Wildscreen Exchange is a natural evolution for Wildscreen. For over 32 years, we have been gathering together and celebrating the world’s very best natural history filmmakers and photographers through our Festivals. Then we created Arkive, taking this amazing content online and making it freely available to all to explore our amazing natural world. Arkive is now our biggest public outreach initiative and attracts over 1 million unique users a month, which is amazing.

However as a conservation organisation, we felt there was more we could do for conservation and we wanted try and amplify the impact that our unique access to the world’s best species imagery can have on saving our natural world. Working together, the Wildscreen board and team came up with the concept of Exchange, positioning Wildscreen as an honest broker between our media donors and the conservation community. We then worked closely with a range of conservation organisations from around the world to establish the need. We then approached and consulted with a wide-range of content providers including broadcasters, production companies, picture libraries, independent filmmakers and photographers, passionate amateurs as well as our huge network of scientists and conservationists to determine if the concept worked for them. The whole community has been extremely supportive and generous. People are in the industry because they love our natural world and they want everyone to be as inspired by it as they are. With Exchange, we have the opportunity to massively amplify the impact that their imagery can have by putting it in the hands of the people working on the very frontline, the world’s conservation organisations.

FFC: So, environmental advocacy groups, conservation non-profits, and energy NGOs can use whatever photos and footage to promote their work? What are the requirements use the media? What’s to stop for-profit companies from using this footage in commercials?

LM: The Exchange will be targeted at international, national and local non-profit, non-governmental organisations, whose missions are centred on conservation of the natural world. Not-for-profit conservation and environmental organisations will be required to register and become members of the Wildscreen Exchange and agree to the user terms before they can use the content. Wildscreen Exchange content can only be used for non-commercial purposes, which is clearly stipulated within the user agreement. We have worked closely with the film and photo industries as well as other stakeholders in order to create industry-aligned standard user and donor agreements. After meeting Wildscreen’s safeguards and agreeing to the Wildscreen Exchange user agreement, approved organisations will pay Wildscreen a small membership fee in order to use the platform. Membership fees will be tailored according to an organisation’s annual income, making it affordable to all yet sustainable for Wildscreen to run.

Within Exchange there will be two tiers of content – free and premium (paid-for) content. We want to try and source as much free content as possible as conservation organisations have very limited budgets, however we do recognise that sometimes conservation organisations will require the very best imagery and that for many professional filmmakers and photographers, this is their livelihoods and therefore they would need to charge a fee for their content. We have therefore been working with commercial nature picture agencies to establish guidelines and rates for paid-for-content. As with membership, image rates will be tiered dependent upon a conservation organisation’s annual income so as to make it affordable for all and so to not undercut current sales for agencies and professionals.

If at any point a conservation organisation did want to use an image for commercial purposes, Wildscreen would forward the request onto the individual media donor, as we currently do for requests we receive for content in Arkive.

FFC: Are contributors paid, credited, receive tax exemptions? What is the incentive for contributors other than a moral obligation to participate in conservation causes?

LM: As mentioned above, contributors can choose to charge conservation organisations to use their content via the premium content tier. Within Exchange itself, copyright and credit details are displayed next to each image/clip and attached within the metadata as you would find with any commercial library. In addition, as part of the user agreement to which all member conservation organisations adhere to, any image used must credit the contributor.

As with all Wildscreen initiatives, Wildscreen Exchange will also act as a shop window for the content and the contributors who kindly share their images with Exchange. Exchange will be visible and searchable to all and therefore if anyone other than a conservation organisation finds an image or clip and would like to use it they can see the contributor/copyright holder. Arkive is the third highest referrer for one of the world’s leading nature picture agencies and therefore we hope that Wildscreen Exchange will follow suit. We are also planning on working with conservation organisations to commission specific content around particular themes or campaigns and we would look to work with our contributors, via a sort of match-making service, to connect the two groups together. We have in fact in the past few days just commissioned our first campaign film where we have matched a Wildscreen Exchange donor and Wildscreen Film Festival nominee with a conservation organisation in order to make them a film to promote their work. Watch this space!

We are also planning on working with conservation organisations to commission specific content around particular themes or campaigns and we would look to work with our contributors, via a sort of match-making service, to connect the two groups together.


FFC: What if a contributor objects to the way their footage/photos are used?

LM: We have worked very closely with the industry to make sure that our user terms are clear and in line with current industry standards. We therefore hope that by agreeing to the terms when becoming a member and each time they use an image from Exchange, that they will honour the agreement and rights of the donor. Wildscreen will also be screening new members and continually monitoring how the content is used. Within the system, we are able to put restrictions on who and where content is used. For example if there was the case where a contributor only wanted certain organisations to be able to use their imagery or organisations within a particular location, that is possible. The user agreement also specifies that if a user wants to use the images for anything outside the scope of the agreement, they must get approval from the library or the original donor.

FFC: How is the database managed? Will it include edited video sequences or will it focus on individual clips, and how will the beneficiaries be able to sort through the database?

LM: We have created the Wildscreen Exchange platform using an industry-wide used software platform. Therefore the system is really functional and user friendly, with good metadata and an easy search. In terms of content we have primarily been focussing on securing and processing photo content, but we have a good amount of footage on its way. The footage will be presented as individual clips. We will be listening, evaluating and monitoring at all stages to make sure users can find what they want easily and that we are providing the content that they need.

FFC: The Wildscreen Exchange inarguably meets a crucial demand to strengthen conservation agencies’ ability to connect with local communities, policy-makers, and broad audiences to promote their missions. While the digital age has facilitated an abundance of natural history content, providing for cameras that record limitlessly and the internet has connected story tellers all over the world with empathetic audiences, many producers report there’s diminishing funding for natural history programming. Now the Exchange might also reduce demand for NGOs and non-profits to contract filmmakers/photographers, as they would have a pool of high-quality content to tell their stories. Did the Exchange take the industry into account, and how will it affect one-off contracts for independent producers? Does Wildscreen have any figures for the non-profit sector’s role in the natural history industry as a consumer?

LM: We have been very considered in make sure that we consult the industry at all stages of development of Exchange. We want to support and promote the industry and make sure, working together that we can do our best for conservation.

From our research we found that in the future there will be a much greater appetite for commissions and video content within the conservation sector.

Through our research with the industry and conservation organisations of all shapes and sizes throughout the development process, we found that it was only really the larger conservation organisations who commission content, let alone purchase it. From our research we found that in the future there will be a much greater appetite for commissions and video content within the conservation sector. Large organisations are commissioning at the moment and there are many successful and well established relationships that Wildscreen of course would in no way want to impact. Wildscreen does and is increasingly getting approached by surprisingly large conservation organisations asking for recommendations on where to source archive footage, filmmakers, photographers and even post production services. We want to be able to connect the two sectors effectively. Small to medium conservation organisations which have much fewer resources and much smaller budgets are more of a focus for us, as they too have an increasing appetite for using imagery more within their communications but quite often do not have the internal resource or expertise in order to commission content or source expertise. We feel that due to the community Wildscreen has established over the past 32 years, we are in good position to help connect the two.

As mentioned we do have plans to commission specific content and will always look to support the industry associated with Wildscreen by making connections and using the amazing pool of talent that exists within the Wildscreen community. We have in fact just raised funds and commissioned our first mini film on behalf of a conservation organisation and are using an independent, Wildscreen 2014-nominated filmmaker from within the Bristol network.

We would of course support one-off contracts for independent producers working with conservation organisations – quite often archive footage is required for such projects and therefore hopefully we can assist these organisations and their producers in locating footage efficiently.

We did try and seek estimates on the non-profit sector’s role in the natural history industry but as the sector is so small, we were unable to get good estimates, particularly within the film industry. We found a lot of filmmakers generously do voluntary work between productions to support conservation organisations. In terms of photography, from our research non-profit conservation organisations only account for a very small percentage of sales, with only a large conservation organisations being regular purchasers of content. Individual filmmakers and photographers in particular, get requests all the time from conservation organisations to use their content but due to time and resource and quite often only able to help a few. If Wildscreen is able to essentially do the leg work in terms of fulfilment, however, the majority of filmmakers and photographers are more than happy to help multiple organisations.

FFC: What’s been the reaction among the larger broadcasters, and have they indicated their interest to participate in the exchange?

LM: The big broadcasters have been and are very supportive of Wildscreen and are a core part of the natural history industry. We have had detailed conversations with a whole spectrum of the film and photographic industries, including large broadcasters. The BBC for example supports the ambition of Exchange and is actively exploring to what it extent it can take part in it. Exchange is not just about independent producers, it’s for a whole spectrum of contributors.

FFC: How has Wildscreen coordinated with the non-profit sector to promote, implement, and exemplify how the Exchange can improve their visual communication strategies? Will their be an educational component to promote audience targeting, distribution and impact?

LM: We have been working with the non-profit conservation sector at all stages of development and will of course continue to do so. We have had a beta trial running since the summer to see how a spectrum of organisations use the platform so we can refine and innovate and will of course be doing this up until launch in May this year and for ever after! We now have good knowledge of where organisations are at in terms of using imagery and how they intend to use it in the future.

Through the Wildscreen Exchange, enews, and wider Wildscreen online and social platforms we will be sharing good case studies, not only helping to promote the conservation organisations and contributors but to share good practice from within and outside the industry to help. We will be commissioning content around particular conservation organisations and issues in order to show how imagery can help tell a conservation story and make campaigns much more effective in terms of awareness and engagement. In the longer term, we have plans to build an online community with practical guides, help and advice and access to expertise in order to support conservation organisations even more – we don’t just want to provide imagery we want to support and empower them to get the best out of it.

And of course everything Exchange will be supported by all our other initiatives, providing a platform for Exchange and conservation commnucations at our festivals and of course via Arkive to make sure the content is being seen by as many people as possible.

FFC: How can producers best participate in the Exchange?

LM: Get in touch with us! Let us know if you want to be involved and how – whether you want to share content, are interested in the commissioning aspect or want to work with conservation organisations. You can also keep up to date with all we are doing via the Wildscreen Exchange enews.

Wildscreen contact: exchange.info@wildscreen.org.uk


The Wildscreen Exchange will launch in May of 2015

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One Comment

  1. Prof. Syed Zafar Abbas.

    I want to be the member of Wildscreen Exchange, Please do me this favor

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