Usually when Kenn Rabin is looking for archival footage, it’s for a documentary, like PBS’ “Eyes on the Prize.” Features usually want just a few seconds, when a character watches an old TV show.
For “Good Night, and Good Luck,” though, he had to find and clear a slew of classic CBS footage — not just Edward R. Murrow’s broadcasts, but shows that appear on monitors in the background.
“The biggest obstacle I ran into was cost,” says Rabin. “The film had a $7.5 million budget and that’s low when you’re talking about that much archival.”
Since there was only one source for most of the material, “The only negotiating power we had was we knew we were going to use a heck of a lot of it.”
In the end, he got a price break by negotiating rights for 21 minutes of footage.
Along the way, he had to get permission from Murrow’s estate as well as from Alcoa Aluminum for some commercials.
But the Kent cigarettes commercial appears without permission; since tobacco commercials are now banned, the tobacco companies can’t license them. “We had to use it under the doctrine of fair use. We had to say we’re presenting it as a historical document of the time.”