Directors each have their signature shots, or do they? Creative trademarks like Wes Anderson’s symmetry, Alfred Hitchcock’s zoom-but-not-zoom, and Quentin Tarantino’s trunk shots might be central to their success — but so are the thousands of “normal” frames surrounding these shots: connective tissue often obtained from second units, stock archives, and even other films.
Unfortunately, “normal” has become a dirty word for many creative professionals, especially among new enthusiasts. Nobody wants normal lenses, normal camera bodies, or normal subjects, and there’s rampant misconception that you can’t create your best work without medium-format sensors, ultra-wide apertures, and exotic locales (and/or swimsuit models).
The result is an unrealistic ideal — and one that ignores the very craft of storytelling, which relies upon far more than just money shots.
Seventy-five year later, "Citizen Kane" (1941) is still one of the highest rated and most influential films ever produced, all this in spite of its antiquated production values and hand-me-down footage. Director Orson Welles even “upcycled” an old "King Kong" scene for his beach background (if you look closely, and you’ll notice those aren’t seagulls in the background, but pterodactyls).
Similarly, Spielberg “raided” aerial footage from "Lost Horizon" (1973) and establishing shots from "The Hindenburg" (1975) for use in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), and the film remained not just decidedly Spielberg — but enough so to take home four Oscars (amid eight nominations) and become one of the highest grossing films of all time.
All this to say, “I bet you can’t tell the difference” between the iconic footage of Hollywood’s cult films and everyday stock footage, compared below.
How many stock clips did you guess correctly?
That it’s even a challenge to distinguish between "Drive" (2011), which was lauded for its visual aesthetics, and consumer stock footage proves that “the film look” can, indeed, be achieved without the backing of studios.
In the alleged words of Jean-Luc Godard, “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”
The equipment you own (or can borrow) and your own backyard are perfectly good starting points.
Footage courtesy of VideoBlocks, the first stock library to offer an unlimited subscription model and 100 percent commission to filmmakers.