Making a movie? Or a TV commercial? Does it need the added zip of, say, sweeping aerial combat footage, like something out of “Top Gun”? Or a nice Christmasy New York street scene, like something out of “Falling in Love”?
No problem. You can buy the footage, from “Top Gun,””Falling in Love” or any other film made by Paramount Pictures over the last seven decades.
And it’s not even that expensive. For $ 450, which is $ 45 a foot at Par’s 10 -foot minimum, you get 6 2/3 seconds of outtakes from whatever Par pic suits your production needs.
And 6 2/3 seconds can be a lot of screen time if what you need is desert outtakes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” establishing aerial shots of Washington , D.C., from “Naked Gun 2 1/2,” Aussie outback outtakes from “‘Crocodile’ Dundee” or car racing scenes from “Days of Thunder.”
According to sources around the industry and Paramount’s stock footage library’s Pat Harris, buying leftovers from someone else’s film is a common, if little-discussed, practice.
And it isn’t just Japanese commercial filmmakers, Canadian industrial filmmakers or hyper-low-budget filmmakers who use the service.
Per Paramount sources, Francis Coppola purchased from Par’s library enough film to depict Dracula’s stormy nighttime English Channel crossing. The generic ocean voyage footage is actually outtakes from Par’s miniseries “Shogun.”
“That happened on ‘Flight of the Intruder,’ ” recalls director John Milius. “The excess footage was sold to ‘Hot Shots!’ They didn’t have to shoot all the great carrier footage. You can say, ‘We went out and suffered to shoot that stuff. In some cases crews could have suffered and gone through loss of life, even, to get that stuff.’ But the studio owns it and they’re trying to get their money back. They have to keep paying for these things. Frankly, I think that’s fine.
“A couple of shots or some second-unit pieces is not what a movie is,” Milius continues. “It’s the compilation of the pieces that matters, not any one single piece. The pieces, out of context, are no more effective than a bunch of sentences out of context.”
All of the majors maintain library collections of outtakes. All, in one way or another, make their outtakes available to filmmakers.
But Par is the only studio aggressively advertising and hawking its leftovers to, Harris says, good results.
But she won’t say who the customers are: “It’s kind of a courtesy we extend. We don’t divulge that kind of information.”
The most frequent request, Harris says, is for cityscapes, shots to establish San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles or Washington. The most common order is for the 10-foot minimum.
The money from that is used to defray the cost of protecting the physical integrity of the outtakes, which require the same careful vault maintenance of temperature and humidity that final cuts do.
But not everything that’s left over is available. No principal actors and no recognizable faces may appear, nor may certain stunts or anything that exists in the final cuts of the movies.
“You can’t buy a shot of Tom Cruise kissing somebody, or anything like that,” according to a Par source.
And you can’t buy anything at all from certain films. The DeMille and Welles estates have some control over everything Cecil B. and Orson shot for Par.
And no outtakes at all are available from the “Star Trek” or “Godfather” pics–not even to Coppola. There is always the possibility that there will be additional installments of either series, says Harris.
But from some other pics, especially the higher-budgeted ones, plenty is available.
Says a Par source: “We got a lot out of ‘Top Gun.’ There are thousands and thousands of feet of airplanes swooping down onto aircraft carriers, and dogfight stuff. There was a hell of a lot of footage there that we didn’t even use.”