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Stock ‘n’ Roll: The Stock Footage Industry, Like Technology, Keeps on Growing

For some, it began as a small photograph collection. For cinematographers,it became a freelance job during downtime. Whatever the history of itsindividual practitioners, the stock footage industry is now a vital part ofbroadcast production, as producers-from advertising through featurefilms-enjoy the labor of other shooters to help shape their own vision.

Larger stock companies containing historical and contemporary footage havereaped a rising profit margin by merging their libraries, while nichehouses, while usually smaller, have also seen an increase in business. Butwhat about the smaller nonexclusive stock footage houses? What will thesemergers mean for their businesses?

Joe Jennings of Jennings Productions, Redondo Beach, is a skydivingcinematographer. “I had been shooting film and video for a while and thengot into skydiving,” he says. “The two came together and the potential forvisuals in the air has really grown.”

Working with another stock footage broker, David Stolts of SportsCinematography Group, Venice, California, Jennings dons a helmet camera andfilms skydiving stunts that are “beyond normal.” One daredevil jump, doneout of shear pleasure, involved four men sitting in an airborne car. Morerecently, a man skysurfing was shot for a Super Bowl XXXII Pepsicommercial. In business for nine years, Jennings says, “I had no intentionof becoming a stock footage broker. I just shot something that peoplethought was cool, and now I do it all the time.”

Joe Lauro, president of Historic Films in East Hampton, New York, says, “Asany business that makes money, more and more companies have gotten startedand in the past eight years it has been spiraling in terms of the varietyof images that are available.” Licensing footage of many different eventsof the 20th century, Lauro says, “Having something special ensures that youhave less competition. The bigger independent companies are being boughtand merged into huge conglomerates, but I feel we are in a good positionbecause we have different archival packages.”

With over 25,000 pre-1940 audio recordings, their most recent projectincludes a Towers Production documentary about the Depression. A majorcontributor to Motown’s 40th anniversary special and A&E’s historicaldocumentaries, Lauro says, “The introduction of all these new stations andshows is what has been really fueling this industry.”

Cinenet’s Jim Jarrard says, “Content is where it is at. If you own thecontent in your library then you are worth something. You become attractiveto people who need what you have.” The Simi Valley company licenseshigh-end beauty shots, along with contemporary footage. Representing over400 cinematographers, Cinenet has been in business for 10 years. “We have aconsortium of artists that have pooled footage together, and that is thebeauty of being a small company. We have directed the attitude of thecompany the way we want it to go.” With a site at:, Jarrardbelieves it is better to create a home page, as opposed to, the network for stock houses. “I don’t want to be on the samesite where my competitors can be found,” he says.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Melody St. John, president of VideoTape Library, Los Angeles, believes it is beneficial for the smaller stockhouses to be bought out by the larger ones. “It does seem as though anyonethat has a camera has been advertising themselves as a stock footage housethese days,” she says. With over 20,000 hours of location, sports,lifestyle, medical, time-lapse, and news video footage from 1898 to thepresent, VTL has been in business since 1984. Footage is licensed for a feeof $320 per 10 seconds of footage (or two shots at five seconds each for$320).

VTL can be found at:, where a rapid keyword searchby subject and description can be done simultaneously. “Our site hasdefinitely benefited us on a daily basis,” says St. John, who reveals hissite gets thousands of hits each month. “It has been up since 1996 and hasalready paid for itself.”

But not every stock company is as pleased with its Web presence. “I don’tfeel that our Web site has panned out to be much of a source for us,” saysStephanie Siebert, president of Film and Video Stock Shots, NorthHollywood. “If someone says, ‘I want things that are warm,’ how do you keythat into your database? It takes a long time to download images, and themarket we are appealing to just doesn’t have the time for that.”

In business since 1989, Stock Shots began with just three hours of surfingfootage and has since built up to contain over 25,000 hours of footage.”The mergers and buy-outs have definitely made it more competitive outthere,” says Siebert, “but there is something to be said for service, and Ijust think the larger houses can’t be bothered as much.”

“The mega-mergers of companies like Energy and Fabulous Footage havegenerated a huge amount of income in advertising dollars,” says KeithMeyers, vice president, Wish You Were Here Film and Video, Glendale,California. “But I think that it has allowed boutique operations that havea niche to get more attention.”

Meyers, a film and travel adventurer, started the company after someone sawhis program and wanted to use a pieceof destination footage. “Our place isfor people who are looking for footage of hard-to-find destinations likePrague or Amsterdam.”

While Wish You Were Here did license footage to feature films such asContact and Deep Impact, the bread and butter of their business, accordingto Meyers, is television movies of the week. “A majority of our footage ison 16mm, and we are bringing in more footage of 35mm in order to make thetransition to 16:9 easier.”

“To prepare for HDTV, our goal is to shoot as much 35mm footage aspossible,” says Jan Ross, president, Energy Film Library, Studio City.Acquired by Getty Communications in July of 1997, Energy licenseseverything from archival to contemporary footage.

Their largest customer base comes from feature films and advertising; theyrecently supplied images of California Redwoods for use in a 15-secondCanon Copiers spot. The 24-year-old company also supplied footage of awater droplet to RSA/USA, New York, for use in Showtime’s new brandingcampaign.

Tony Stone Images, Studio City, supplies stock photography, while FabulousFootage, Toronto, contains over 6,000 hours of film-original material. Thetwo, along with Energy, have also been purchased by Getty Communications.

With her company doubling in size, Paula Lumbard, president, Film Bank,Burbank, says, “I have found the last 18 months to be the best ever. Idon’t find the mergers to be threatening. They have allowed more room inthe marketplace for boutique houses that are service-oriented and aren’t solarge.” Lumbard also attributes business growth to the increase intelevision programming. “It is just one more avenue for the need of images.”

Containing a special effects library, Film Bank’s recent projects haveincluded a Mountain Dew commercial with moving X-ray footage; and anAirTouch Cellular commercial in which lightning footage was licensed. (Thatsame lightning footage is licensed to the X Files opening credits on aweekly basis.) Film Bank also specializes in contemporary materialincluding nature, animals, medical, and news footage. Seventy-five percentof their material is 35mm film-originated, and 90 percent is available onvideo. For further information search their site

In business for six years, Best Shots, Tampa, licenses everything fromdestination footage to beauty shots. A large part of their business comesfrom advertising, with commercials for Budweiser, in which Beachwood treeswere used, and Cadillac.

Footage of protests were used in the recent Kevin Costner film The Postman.”Aside from having our own in-house library, we also have an internationalnetwork we can get footage from,” says Sean McCaskie, office manager. “Whenclients call us asking for footage we don’t have, we will contact otherlibraries to try to help find what clients are looking for. Most librarieswon’t go out of their own four walls, but if a client makes one call to us,we will make the rest of the calls for them.”

Housing airplane mock-up sets, airplane, and destination footage, AirlineFilm and TV Productions, Pacoima, deals with commercial, feature film, andtelevision broadcast clientele. Seinfeld used their airplane set inaddition to destination footage. Other shows like Home Improvement, TheLove Boat, Murder She Wrote, and The Dick Van Dyke Show have also utilizedfootage and sets from Airline Film and TV. “We get a lot of requests forlanding planes with their wheels coming down,” says president ByronSchmidt. “It is the kind of footage that is often needed but that isdifficult to run out and shoot.”

Schmidt started his business from the 19 years of experience he had gainedworking at TWA. As is the case with so many people in this industry, he hadan interest, saw a need, and has established a niche in the increasinglycompetitive stock footage industry.

Stock is more than just video and film. Below is a short listing of somewest coast music libraries worth considering:Air-Edel LLC (310) 914-5000Alan Ett Music Group (818) 955-7010Audio Action (800) 533-1293Audisee (206) 283-4733Backtracks (800) 258-7570Brian Bennett Music (818) 789-9100Creative Sound Desgin (206) 441-7421Creative Support Services (213) 666-7968, 800-468-6874Don Great Music Library (800) 321-6967Earwax Productions (415) 217-4700East-West Communications, Inc. (310) 858-8797ELS Productions 801-265-1552, (800) 927-3472Gefen Systems (818) 884-6294, (818) 884-3108Headspace (415) 696-9414Hollywood Edge (213) 466-6723Hollywood Film Music Library (310) 247-8300Indart Music & Sound Productions (818) 774-1441Invision Interactive (650) 812-7380Killer Tracks (213) 957-4455L2 Sound Effects (310) 587-2100Leonardo Software (310) 319-0440Match Production Music (619) 505-0572Megatrax (818) 503-5240Miramar Images, Inc. (206) 284-4700Music Sales Publishing Group (310) 452-7433Network Music, Inc. (800) 854-2075Non Stop Music Library (801) 531-0060, 800-554-6462OGM Production Music (213) 461-2701Omni Music (213) 461-3211, (800)828-6664Q Up Arts (800) 454-4563Rarefaction (415) 333-7659Saturn Studios (213) 661-0259Sonoton Recoreded Music Libray (310) 397-5499Sopersound Music Library (800) 227-9980Southern Library Of Recorded Music (213) 469-9910The Producers Sound Effects Library (800) 826-3397Who Did That Music Library? (310) 442-1440

Here are some west coast companies that do music composition for film.Air-Edel LLC (310) 914-5000Bug Music (213) 466-4352Chris Walden Music (213) 878-0022Cotton Club Publishing (310) 271-1967Delta Music Licensing (310) 268-1205EFX – The Sound Of Pictures (818) 843-4762Escape Artist Productions (310) 640-1848Highland Music Productions (310) 459-6144Indart Music & Sound Productions (818) 774-1441LA Studios-East (801) 532-3278Megatrax (818) 503-5240Ocean Park Music Group (310) 315-5266Screen Music Studios (818) 753-6040Seattle Music (206) 784-8183Sharp Mountain Music (213) 254-5566Simon James Music (206) 789-1391Skywalker Sound (415) 662-1000Sony Classical (310) 449-2555Zomba Screen Music (310) 246-0777

Here are some west coast companies that license and publish music.Arista Soundtracks (310) 789-3916Bug Music (213) 466-4352Cotton Club Publishing (310) 271-1967Delta Music Licensing (310) 268-1205Dominion Entertainment (612) 559-6800EMI Music Publishing – Film Sound- track Division (310) 289-6423EMI-Capitol Entertainment Properties Special Markets (213) 693-1223Indart Music & Sound Productions (818) 774-1441Music Sales Publishing Group (310) 452-7433Ocean Park Music Group (310) 315-5266Sony Classical (310) 449-2555Sony Music Film &TV Licensing (310) 449-2555Sony/ATV Music Publishing (310) 449-2552Soundtrack Music Associates (310) 724-5600SUB POP (206) 441-8441The Society Of Composers & Lyricists (310) 281-2812The Windham Hill Group (310) 358-4856The Winogradsky Company – Music Services (818) 761-6906Warner Chappell (310) 441-8600Zomba Screen Music (310) 246-0777

For more information about the companies mentioned in this article contactthe following people:Airline Film & TV Productions Byron Schmidt, (818) 899-1151Best Shots Sean McCaskie, (813) 877-2118Cinenet Jim Jarrard, (805) 527-0093Energy Film Library Jan Ross, (818) 508-1444Film Bank Paula Lumbard, (818) 841-9176Film & Video Stock Shots Stephanie Siebert, (818) 760-2098Historic Films Joe Lauro, (800) 249-1940Jennings Productions Joe Jennings, (310) 543-2222Video Tape Library Melody St. John, (213) 656-4330Wish You Were Here Film & Video Keith Meyers, (818) 243-7043