Creative director Kelly Wilcox and cinematographer (and Kelly’s husband) Seth Whelden love shooting stock because it reminds them why they got into video in the first place. It also gives them creative control, and they’re using that power for good — to empower young women and break down stereotypes in stock video.
Describe The Stacks’ trademark look/style.
More than anything, it’s real people doing real things. We love to use people we know for talent, and if it’s a group of people, preferably they’re friends or in relationships with one another. The chemistry that comes out of those situations is genuine and it shows.
We use shot lists of course, but we also have fun shooting the moments between actions. Sometimes that’s the best stuff, when the talent has no idea you’re still shooting. We also like to maintain a sense of humor on set, and I think it comes across in our work. The best takes, in our opinion, are the ones that aren’t perfect. We don’t live in a perfect world — why should our content be any different?
How do you stay on top of trends? How much do you shoot to them?
I try to keep up with my teenaged sister and her friends to find out what’s cool and new. Teenagers have a unique perspective, one that’s very valuable to The Stacks, since we focus a lot on that age group.
As far as trends go, we kind of have an unwritten rule that we won’t shoot it if it sounds boring to us. How can anything be great if your heart isn’t in it?
Where do you look for inspiration?
As a creative director, I follow certain people/groups that I consider to be trendsetters on Instagram. I like to follow an eclectic mix of people — from locals to people all over the world — to get a sense of cultural diversity and trends, whether they’re in the fashion industry or outdoor photographers.
How do you determine the themes of your shoots?
A lot of our focus at The Stacks is on kids and teens. As a result, certain themes come up naturally. Curiosity and exploration are common threads of shoots with children, while you can find rebellion, adventure, wanderlust, and love in our shoots with teens. That said, we’re very conscious of the talent we pick, the creative of each shoot, and making sure the content is on-brand.
What do you like about shooting stock?
Stock is fun!
For one, it’s been awesome working alongside and learning from so many talented folks over the last year and a half. My friends Steve Crocker and Aaron Wong of STNDRD were instrumental in getting The Stacks off the ground and helping define our look and style. We definitely wouldn’t be where we are today without their hard work.
I think seeing our clips in use and learning more about our customers is always exciting. Having full creative control over everything we shoot allows us to relax and remember why we got into video in the first place.
Additionally, of everything we’ve shot over the last year and a half, empowering young women has remained at the core. It’s not just about who we’re shooting, but how we’re shooting them — in what light are we painting this picture? Finding new ways to shoot people who have often been stereotyped (and not just young women) or excluded entirely is hugely motivating and a definite driving force for The Stacks. More brands are starting to understand the importance of recognizing and embracing this concept, and we’re excited to be a part of this growing movement through stock.
It’s another reason authentic content is so crucial. When someone uses one of our clips, we want it to represent the people in it in the best possible way. By striving for authenticity, we hope to help break down stereotypes and work toward a shift in the way brands advertise their products and services.
What’s your most memorable/favorite/weirdest shoot?
Our second shoot was definitely weird and memorable. I got the idea for it because I noticed a trend of photographers using chalkboards as backdrops in photo shoots. Sometimes they would have quirky quotes or drawings, and I thought, “Why not use this idea for a stock shoot?”
So, we built a giant portable (ok, semi-portable — it was ridiculously heavy) chalkboard wall and dragged it all around a huge park in our neighborhood. My friend Kalina drew and wrote on it between takes. We hired a bunch of our friends to do different stuff in front of the drawings/quotes. We ended up with everything from children who just erased the drawings with their hands, to people making crazy faces, to our friend Erica using sign language in front of the board. It wasn’t our most successful shoot, but we had a blast with it! I wonder what ever happened to that chalkboard …
As for a favorite, we did a shoot with my sister and her friends the week of my wedding, last June. They grew up with one other, so they’re really close-knit, which makes working with them natural and fun. I wanted to capture teenage rebellion, a theme I love exploring. I think it’s one that most teens can relate to and adults can feel nostalgic about. So we created a storyline: the girls steal the family car and go on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest. Not only was it a blast, I think it turned out quite well.
Side note: If you plan on getting married, you may want to think twice about scheduling a shoot two days beforehand. Although who knows? It could end up being your favorite, too.