Back Page – Peering out from the vaults, Film Bank founder Paula Lumbard gets philosophical about footage: A whole new throng of boutique offerings and the fortification of long-standing

companies prove it's good to be in the stock business these days......
June 1, 1998

companies prove it’s good to be in the stock business these days…

In my world, there’s no such thing as weird.

I’ve kept a straight face when one director needed a romantic liaison between two antelope. When someone else needed ambiguously grainy images of Bigfoot striding through the trees, I didn’t bat an eyelash. When a producer needed a monster waving its arms in the air, it was just another enjoyable day at the office. Same with the supernova. The X-rays. The crop circles. Even the aliens.

Like all of the best careers, stock footage wasn’t the profession I had envisioned for myself as a child. Back then, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I had always replied ‘an artist.’ I never said ‘a famous artist,’ because the famous part was, of course, implied. Later, in the midst of a successful career in special effects, I felt that particular goal had been accomplished.

But finding stock images for special effects soon became a challenge, especially when it began to dawn on me that the images I was seeking simply didn’t exist. I was intrigued. I decided to get into the stock business myself, starting out with special-effects stock, so that no one else would have to do the kind of searching I had once done. I soon learned, however, that spaceships alone do not a stock library make, so I quickly branched out into offering footage in almost every conceivable area of life: work, technology, science, news, entertainment and nature.

Today’s society has become a visual one, a world accustomed to stories told in pictures. Name the image, no matter how strange, and someone probably needs it. We’ve provided clients with car chases, stupid pet tricks, celestial objects, waterfalls, earthquakes, oceans, deserts, whales, tigers, sasquatches and children. We’ve also licensed footage showing the actual formation of those mysterious crop circles, poltergeist disturbances and an alien landing, which bears a striking resemblance to a glowing hubcap. We certainly run the whole right-brain/left-brain gamut, from alien reenactments to the small, treasured ordinary family moments.

It is a challenge, sometimes, to explain to others what we do – even to those in the entertainment business. But I’ve been captured by the stock world and I’ve never looked back. Stock footage is insidiously fascinating. If dreams are the unconscious representations of a human being’s desires and fears, so in turn are the images of stock footage the dreams of our times.

Stock footage has allowed me to gain a big-picture representation of our culture, and a perspective on our society, that I can’t imagine obtaining anywhere else. Stock footage, after all, shows us the images of humanity at its best and worst – from heroes to villains, from daring rescues to heartbreaking disasters, from the greatest triumphs to the worst of crimes.

I’m lucky, I get to provide the images that become, on a larger scale, a portrait of the world we live in. They show us who we are, who we were, and who we’re becoming.

And I still get to work for myself.

Paula Lumbard, founder of Film Bank, the Los Angeles-based stock-footage house, likes being her own boss

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.