In the following article, guest filmmaker Jerry Kokich explains the advantages of using stock footage.
There was a post on a Facebook filmmaking page about shooting a sunset. This guy was asking for technical suggestions as to how to deal with the changing light, camera and color balance. There were all these lengthy answers about elaborate f and T stops, shutter speeds, angles to the setting sun, lens flare, you name it. I said this:
“Use stock footage.”
To my utter astonishment, I got no reply, no acknowledgement of my suggestion, and the complex solutions kept coming from these so-called filmmakers. There are many advantages of using stock footage…
But before I go there, keep in mind that if there’s a specific character you need to be walking through or off into that sunset, okay, you MIGHT need to actually film it, but there was none of that in the initial post. This guy just wanted to shoot a sunset.
My answer was the best, hands down, end of story, period, but these idiots, who call themselves filmmakers, didn’t even acknowledge the existence of stock footage.
The following video example comes from StockFootage.com
Anyone who comes across a situation that could use stock footage and doesn’t use it, is a fool. Worse, he’s a time and money waster. Think of it: You could A) set up all your elaborate toys, take time rehearsing focus pulls or whatever, shoot the sunset, which will not wait for you, screw it up and have to wait until the next day to try again, or B) Download cheap, or even free, footage in the comfort of your own home and be done with it. One person. No crew. No camera. No waste. DONE WITH IT.
The Advantages Of Using Stock Footage
Like I said above, if you’ve got a specific character who has to be in your shot, stock footage MIGHT not work, but Scott Rhodes, the creator of “The Adventures of Superseven” uses stock footage all the time, and once I was watching a rough cut of an episode, thinking, I don’t remember shooting that. It was a scene of my character running through a cave. We had shot part of the scene, but I watched myself run up a rocky slope, a shot I didn’t recall, then realized it was stock footage! From a public domain movie! Of my character!!
For low-budget filmmakers, stock footage can be one of the most flexible and cheapest tools. The great Irwin Allen had a show called “The Time Tunnel”. The two heroes were bouncing around time, past and future, and Allen was a genius at using footage from movies in the episodes. Why reshoot the sinking of the Titanic when there’s existing footage you can use?
I hate it when people reinvent the wheel. What you need, is out there. Hell, Woody Allen (maybe there’s something in the name…) took a completed film, redubbed it and came up with the hilarious “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”
Sunsets, sinking ships, establishing shots, explosions, cavalry charges, you name it, someone else has shot it. If you have no budget, but your script calls for a flyover of a city, what are you gonna do?
Make an Indiegogo pitch video to raise money to rent a helicopter? People have done it, I’m sure, and some moron probably gave them money (wasted) and they went and rented a chopper (wasted), blah, blah… blah. This is why Hollywood movies cost so much.
People. Are. Stupid.
Back in the studio system, stock footage was used like props. If your film needed a set of office furniture, you didn’t tell your carpenters, “Build me a desk”, you asked the prop guys to go get one from the warehouse. If you were doing a western, and needed an Indian attack, you went to the film library and got an Indian attack. The sitcom, “F Troop”, used stock footage for all their Indian attacks. They didn’t have the budget or the time to shoot their own. That was also safer, because no stuntman has EVER been injured from the use of stock footage.
Now, of course you can’t just steal footage.
There are fair use laws for parodies and fan films that aren’t out to make money, music and cuts from films and TV shows are all over YouTube. There are public domain movies and free stock footage sites – and that stuff is up for grabs. Then there are sites that will sell you footage for really cheap prices that you can use for anything. That’s fine, but using a chase scene from “The Dark Knight” for your feature that you’re trying to sell is simply not kosher. Make sure you have the right to use the footage or don’t try to make money off it.
So, stop putting complicated crap in your way, learn how to utilize stock footage, and save yourself money, time and headaches.