Saving the World from Boredom, One Video at A Time
Culprit Creative is known for their witty viral videos and commercials for international brands like Starbucks, Reese’s Puffs, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Smirnoff. Their mission is to “save the world from boredom” by producing engaging, surprising, and humorous video content.
In addition to their thriving client roster, they’ve built a thriving Adobe Stock portfolio under Cinestock. The director and co-founder of Culprit Creative, Dylan Trussell, shares how the agency was founded and how they embrace both client work and stock clips.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I got my start making a video for a class in college — instead of an essay my teacher let me make a video on gang culture in the U.S. So I spent three days making a mockumentary about a fraternity turned violent gang, and filled the video with enough sex, drugs, and violence to rival “American History X” (and yes, someone got curb-stomped in it) and turned it in. The entire class roared in laughter and gave me a standing ovation, but my teacher was mortified. I got an A- and enrolled in the film program the next day, learning on super 8mm.
How did Culprit Creative get started, and what kind of work do you do?
We set out to make TV and movies, but we knew no one was going to give us millions of dollars to direct a spot in a writer’s room without any credits, so we decided to start with marketing and making commercials. We reached out to the coolest brands we could personally get a hold of, and started doing work for free. Once we had a project go viral, we used it as a calling card, and sent the resulting press as a case study to bring in more work and start charging properly.
Why did you decide to get into stock footage?
I met some people that did stock footage at a party and were raving about it, so I put up 60 clips to see what happened and forgot about it. A year later I got an email saying there was $600 deposited in my account. In a single month? From what? That’s when I realized the potential. I decided to 10x my library to 10x my return. It didn’t work exactly that way mathematically, but now if my company has a slow month we don’t stress.
How do you balance client work and stock? Are you able to shoot stock while you’re on a project, or do you carve out time specifically to shoot stock footage?
Sometimes we’re able to shoot stock on a project, which is great. Mostly we just shoot cool slow-motion stuff for fun and pick the best clips for stock.
What’s the advantage of having both client projects and a stock portfolio?
Having client projects and a stock portfolio lets us focus on bigger jobs that take longer to pay, and to complete while the stock covers smaller expenses without having to worry.
Did you run into any challenges while you were building up your stock portfolio?
We ran into issues with people on our team not doing keywords thoroughly enough, that was a headache that took time to fix.
Which of your stock footage has been the most popular? Why do you think Stock buyers like that particular clip?
I have a clip of a guy laughing when he is really stoned on marijuana that sells really well, that’s my favorite. A lot of our slow-motion footage sells well also, especially the kind that VFX artists like to use, like sparks and smoke elements, but it’s also pretty saturated now.
Do you have any advice for budding video creators who are trying to build a successful production company or a successful stock portfolio?
Lighting is everything. It doesn’t matter what camera you shoot on, it doesn’t matter what lens you use — if your lighting isn’t next level, it will look cheap or run-of-the-mill. Once you get your lighting down, then you can care about all that other stuff. And before you even think about lighting, make sure your video has a good story. What emotion do you want people to feel? Great, now make the lighting capture that emotion too. Sound and music is half the battle. For stock, make future-proof clips for stock footage that have people, but not their faces.