Main, top & middle: Stock footage used in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.

Bottom: New York scenes used in the opening credits of Sex and the City.
New York is integral to our story. It’s the naked city. We’ve got a very tight budget but we really need to see it as it’s never been seen before.
Just use stock footage.

No way. We’ve got to shoot it ourselves.
That’ll mean a second crew spending all day shooting GVs.

Groupie videos? You’ve really got to keep an eye on those second units.
GVs are generic views, and what’s the point in shooting them? Someone will have already done a great job, and we’ll save time and money using it.

The point is quality. Control. Artistic vision.
Using pre-shot footage is as old as the film industry. If you had a great horse chase you’d use it in your next film.

Steven Spielberg wouldn’t.
He would.

E.T. riding his bicycle across the moon wasn’t library footage.
No, that wasn’t.

The spaceship coming down in Close Encounters? The velociraptors breathing on the kitchen glass in Jurassic Park? The bachelor party in Shaving Ryan’s Privates?
No. No. And definitely no. But that’s the beauty of stock footage. It gives an auteur like Spielberg the time and money to concentrate on shooting the groundbreaking scenes.

So what has Spielberg used?
For the main title sequence in War of the Worlds, he used establishing shots of the world going about its business before Tom Cruise is menaced by some outsized camera equipment.

Who else?
The Spiderman movie needed post-9/11 New York skyline shots after it completed shooting. You know where you are with CSI: New York and CSI: Miami because of the opening establishing shots, and that’s stock footage.

Isn’t this just going to establish that New York always looks the same when you’re using stock establishing shots? Isn’t everything going to start feeling the same?
Sex and the City doesn’t feel like CSI: New York, and both their opening sequences include stock shots. Gary Sinise isn’t going to start discussing his sex life down the morgue. Sarah Jessica Parker may get more forensic about her sex life, but won’t use an ultraviolet light.

But it’s not a creative contribution.
You wouldn’t be the first director to rethink the lighting and angles of what you’re shooting because you’ve fallen in love with a clip you want to use.

I can see their use for documentaries and adverts but I’m still not sure the stock route is for this artist.
It can sure save your bacon when you forget to shoot something. I don't need cover ... I need to remember to remove the lens cap.

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