Cinenet

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Observing Jim Jarrard as he collects footage for Cinenet is like watching grass grow - literally. The co-founder of the Simi Valley, Calif.-based stock boutique has spent hours behind the camera capturing breathtaking scenes of budding blooms and sprouting vegetables that make up a hefty portion of the shop's library. Best known for its exquisite time-lapse footage, Cinenet has provided scenes of rolling clouds for Spy Kids II; the striking white bloom with petals unfurling in the opening sequence of Magnolia; germinating seeds in the original X-Files main titles; as well as various scenes for commercial projects, for agencies like McCann-Erickson, J. Walter Thompson and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Cinenet's time-lapse library includes Jarrard's footage, along with the work of the late Ken Middleham, who shot the magnolia that appeared in the titles of the eponymous film, as well as what is purported to be the only known 35mm footage of grapes growing on the vine. The latter currently appears in one of the ongoing attractions at Disney's new California Adventure theme park. But Mother Nature is only one of the shop's specialties. Its collection spans a broad range that includes the film of surf cinematographer Alexis Usher - who happens to be Kinka's brother, and whose footage recently appeared in a Japanese Pepsi spot. Cinenet also has a smattering of unusual archival materials, including an absurd naked-men-on-donkeys race. Shot by documentarian/author Kevin Duffy, it could easily be mistaken for lost footage from Cliff Freeman's Fox Sports campaign. Ironically, Jarrard notes that the footage recently piqued some interest from Fox Sports for one of its shows. There's also a supply of more serious fare, like September 11-related footage from New York freelance cinematographer Lenny Mulhern.

Jarrard, 44, who graduated with a film degree from UC/Santa Cruz, is a veteran of the stock business. He started as a shooter/manager at stock house Energy Films and founded L.A.-based Dreamlight Productions prior to opening Cinenet, with partner Robert Thompson, in 1988. Cinenet's current library houses a modest 500 hours of film, so it's a wonder how it's endured 15 years, considering the glut of consolidation in the market. "It's definitely more stressful now because it's so competitive and it's a lot harder to make a living," Jarrard admits. "A lot of people who had been around a long time have sold out or have gotten rolled up in Getty. It's kind of strange to still be around." Moreover, Jarrard has started to sense competition cropping up from the effects shops. "No stock footage is nearly as expensive as creating something from scratch," he insists. "It's anywhere from $500 to $2000 for stock footage licenses, but that doesn't go anywhere with CGI."

Jarrard says one of his survival tactics is to keep things personal, with both his clients and his shooters. He quickly tailors reels fit to each client's needs, and if his library comes up short, Jarrard is known to more than occasionally go out and shoot things on his own, as he did recently for a Sprint campaign out of JWT. One of Cinenet's most compelling homegrown projects arose when the Discovery Channel couldn't find any film on leaf-cutter ants for a documentary that was, inconveniently, about leaf-cutter ants. So Jarrard and Middleham decided to create and shoot an ant colony in Middleham's basement, providing the necessary scenes and even leading to Discovery specials profiling both cinematographers. After Middleham's death last year, at age 74, Cinenet retained management of his library and Jarrard has since taken over the time-lapse torch from his noted mentor.

As he did with Middleham, Jarrard maintains close ties with all his DPs, which is in itself another key strategy. His shop exclusively represents only about 20 cinematographers - a meager sum by big-stock standards. "At Dreamlight we had over 200 cinematographers and it just got way out of control," he explains. "We started losing that intimacy with the customer and the supplier and we found that people's footage was not being fairly represented. Footage was being forgotten about, there was a lot of replication in the library. So we elected to be a consortium of artists and give everybody their own little niche in the library." Such a policy guarantees satisfaction on the supply end of the chain. "They know I'm a shooter too, and I can tell them which jobs are iffy - where the client is known not to pay or if it's not enough money to warrant risking the master. I'll turn down a job, I'll protect their negative as if it's my own - whereas at a corporate entity, maybe you're more likely to encounter a commissioned person who wants to get the sale at all costs and not worry so much about the film elements. We don't do that. We're picky when we pull negative."

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