Archive Producer

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What does an archive producer do?

Many productions use footage in their programmes that they haven’t filmed themselves; whether it’s a festive rundown of the nation’s favourite adverts, a hard-hitting documentary that needs more than just talking heads, or a history feature that requires very specific or rare footage. An archive producer is responsible for sourcing the appropriate footage and getting permission to use it.

The archive producer is often bought in early on a production as knowing what archive footage is available helps the producer structure the programme and plan the interviews, and the archive producer is also called upon in post-production to find footage to complete the film.

The briefs that archive producers work to can vary vastly in scope. They might be finding appropriate footage for a clip show or going through an outtake reel. On other occasions, they may be trawling through archives looking for specific features to support a factual programme. These can include news footage, viral videos, commercials, overseas programmes, film and music clips, published text; anything to illustrate a point.

Once the archive producer has found the material the production needs, they are responsible for getting permission to use it. This might mean negotiating the rates and terms to acquire clearance (permission) for its use in the programme. It’s important to get the correct permissions as otherwise the programme makers can be sued.

More often than not, archive producers are freelancers who can expect to work with anyone, from the big broadcasters to small independent production companies.

What’s an archive producer good at?

  • Researching: find appropriate and entertaining material on even the most obscure topics, have a good editorial nose for what will or won’t work
  • Creativity: take a different approach, know where to look when a brief seems unachievable, come up with novel ideas of footage and materials that could be used to illustrate a point
  • Tenacity: find that one perfect piece of footage, sometimes it can be like finding a needle in a haystack
  • Legal knowledge: understand copyright and clearance procedures to ensure productions are not sued
  • Negotiating: get the best price for the best clips and other material

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