Stock Footage Specialist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotStock footage specialists archive and research stock footage. People in this career are responsible for organizing the old film clips to create a stock footage library. They do this by viewing each film clip, categorizing it by subject, and then entering the information in a database so they can quickly find the film clip later.

dotThe research side of a stock footage specialist's career comes in when a client requests a film clip on a particular subject. If a client wants a clip of cows grazing, the stock footage specialist will go to the database, find a listing of all the different shots of cows and compile them together on one videotape. This tape will then be sent to the client, who may be an advertiser, movie producer, television producer, news broadcaster, or maker of documentaries and CD-ROMs.

"Stock footage is used at one time or another by almost everyone who works in the film, television or news industry," says California stock footage specialist Ellen Lamb.

dotMost of the people in this career work for stock footage companies, organizations that specialize in the purchase, archiving and sale of film footage. Some stock footage specialists, like Robert Albota, are employed by news stations, archiving and researching used news footage.

"My role working for [a news station] is slightly unique in that I'm responsible for choosing which film footage becomes stock footage, as well as the regular responsibilities of archiving and retrieving film clips," says Albota.

dotAt stock footage companies, the people who choose which films will be added to the stock footage library are called purchasers or researchers. This is a different job from that of the stock footage specialist.

dotAt news stations, stock footage specialists watch the film clips of each day's news and decide which clips are worthy of saving.

dotRegardless of where they work, stock footage specialists must be able to cope well under pressure.

"This can be a very intense job," says Lamb. "Sometimes a client will put a rush on an order, and you will have to compile every film clip you have on...trench scenes in two hours. That could be over 100 clips!"

dotA good memory is also key for stock footage specialists.

"Say, for example, I am asked for a clip of somebody slipping on a banana peel. Chances are, I won't be able to find this stunt by doing a database search. However, if I remember that one of our Three Stooges movies has a great clip of Curly doing this, then I will be able to find what I need," says New York stock footage specialist Mike Conway.

dotThe stock footage specialist generally works business hours, Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. However, sometimes longer hours and weekend work are necessary if the company is very busy.

dotBecause news never sleeps, people in this field who work for news stations may work longer or more erratic hours.

"Journalists and broadcasters work for the day creating news footage, and then when the day is over, people like me take over and create order of all their information," says Albota.

At a Glance

Organize old film clips to create a stock footage library

  • The stock footage specialist generally works business hours
  • Film and TV production is centered in California and New York
  • A degree from a film school is an ideal beginning toward your career