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PALM LATITUDES

The Biz

March 15, 1992|Lauren Lipton

During lean times, if a producer needs a shot of, say, the Serengeti Plain but lacks the bucks for travel, he can head to Video Tape Library Ltd., a Hollywood firm that rents out stock videotape footage for use in music videos, commercials, sitcoms and corporate productions. Depending on how it will be used, footage costs from $32 (for low-budget projects) to $75 (for national commercials) per second, says Melody St. John, president of the company. "It's a lot more cost-effective to come here than to go shoot the Berlin Wall coming down," she adds.

One typical request came from "The Golden Girls" for an "on-location" episode. "Blanche went back to visit her plantation home, but really they never left the studio," says St. John, who provided footage of a South Carolina mansion. She also supplied a shot of the flaming Hindenburg for the "In Living Color" Super Bowl halftime show.

A former film and video producer, St. John, 40, formed the company in 1984 when she realized that although videotape was fast becoming a medium to be reckoned with, there were no commercial video archives in existence. "Everything was on film, and it had to be transferred to tape," she recalls. Video Tape Library is now the largest private collection of its kind, she says.

Even with about a million shots to choose from, there are some orders the Video Tape Library can't fill. "We got a request for footage of a man being struck by lightning," St. John says. "We also got one once for 'dead animals on the side of the road, but not too gory.' I decided to pass on that one."

One woman, St. John says, called up wanting actual dinosaur footage. "She was so emphatic that by the time I got off the phone, I was actually mad we didn't have it!"

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