The prevalence of stock footage may have stemmed from its low cost, but they are not just used for commercial purposes.
In the 1920s, Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov assembled stock footage fragments together, as an experiment to illustrate the importance of editing in the creation of meaning in film. Known as the “Kuleshov effect”, the short film repeatedly intercut the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mozzhukhin with other stock footage, and created the misconception that Mozzhukhin had different expressions each time.
This concept of creating new meaning from assembling stock footage was further explored in “found footage films”. A sub-genre of experimental cinema that integrates previously shot film into new productions, one of the earliest “found footage films” was created by American artist Joseph Cornell. The film Rose Hobart was assembled partly from footage of East of Borneo and was titled after its leading actress.
Today, the use of stock footage is practiced more rampantly by the everyday man. The advent of video sharing websites, and cheap, layman-friendly editing softwares have spawned millions of home-made videos using recycled footage, most commonly in the forms of fanvids and mockumentary videos.