There are a lot of paths one can take when starting off in film and video. From commercial to television to feature films, it’s hard to say which one is the right path for you. Regardless, one skillset every aspiring filmmaker, videographer, or editor needs, is resilience—plus an ever-adapting ability to motivate and fund your passions.

For documentary filmmaker Susan Scott, her love of wildlife brought her into the world of documentary filmmaking. And while she’s been making doc films for over two decades (and winning many awards and recognitions for her work along the way), she has been able to find fun and creative ways to fuel her career—often by working in the realm of stock video.

Looking specifically at Scott’s exclusive work with Pond5, and with a peek into their new artist storefront page and referral program aimed to help filmmakers and artists take more control of their stock brands, we chatted with Scott as she shared her advice for fellow documentarians and stock filmmakers alike.


No Film School: Thanks for chatting with us Susan. Would love to talk about your film experience and how you got into documentary filmmaking.

Susan Scott: Well, I actually got my start in Texas when I went to Baylor University which was a very different experience for me coming from Africa. My background is originally from the UK and I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. I’ve always had an international mindset, and when I went to university in America, I fell in love with film and TV. I wanted to get into wildlife originally but changed my mind when my roommate was setting up in communications and getting a digital film and TV degree.

It all just sounded so amazing and I figured I could make wildlife documentaries. My professors were incredibly supportive and overall I feel like you all in the states tend to take your incredible film history and institutions for granted. There’s just so much history from Texas to Hollywood, California, to the east coast. I thank my lucky stars that I was educated in the film language here in the states.

NFS: That’s awesome. And now you take your film knowledge and spread it around the world working on your various projects. How did you get into documentaries specifically?

Scott: Well, after I went to Baylor I actually went to the east coast and worked for an ACE editor for about six years. I really got into documentaries in a big way and just felt that I wanted to go home and do wildlife documentaries next. It’s important to remember that in the 90s, when I was graduating, and you know cameras were so big, they were hesitant to take girls into the marketplace for shooting documentaries so it kind of took a while to get into the field.

Eventually, I learned my way in with editing, which has given me so much control now as a shooter and a filmmaker because I understand the whole interface of having 20 years of experience helping to inform what I need to do now. I’ve gone back home and I’ve been working with wildlife filmmakers and National Geographic explorers that just really want to go and get fantastic footage.


NFS: What kind of gear are you shooting on these days, by the way?

Scott:I’m really excited because I actually just got a Canon R5. I know the R3 is coming up but I really like the R5 because of the shooting on 8K. It’s been quite a transition obviously though because I’m an indie filmmaker and a documentary filmmaker and all that. And these guys do come with a heavy price point with the body as well as the RF lenses and all the other new technology that you have to grapple with. But I really like looking through the EDF lenses and seeing that cinematic quality.

NFS: We’ve certainly kept a close eye on the R5 here at No Film School and are always excited to hear which cameras filmmakers go with and why. So how did you first get started with the world of stock footage?

Scott: Well, when I first decided to move over from an editor and get into my own indie filmmakers, it was a bit of a shock at first moving from your monthly salary and into the world of indie filmmaking. So I had to sit there and go, "Okay, how do I supplement my income?" I had used Pond5 and all the other footage libraries out there for some time so I decided to submit to some stock houses some of the footage that I was shooting as I was going along.

Long story short, I liked Pond5 the most and eventually decided to go exclusively with them. They just, you know, gave me the most control and were looking for the most interesting shots. You know if you go out in the field for four months to get footage of zebras mating for example, or you go to Kenya to get footage of an ivory burn, you really want to sell it for something more than a couple of bucks. It’s something that’s really unique and Pond5 has been the only place where you can find rare footage like that.

NFS: That’s cool to hear. In regards to Pond5 and their new artist Storefront and the expanded earning capabilities through the referral program, how do you feel like they’ve been to work with as a creative artist?

Scott: The thing I’ve always liked about Pond5 is the fact that we, the artists, have control over our own content. A lot of places just want you to upload your footage and have it just sit there, you know. You really have no control over it. So, to be able to place your footage in an actual area that you can customize and point people to—and even link to from your own websites—is awesome. It’s a really great idea and I’m very excited to try it out more.


NFS: We’re excited to check it out too. So, wrapping up, since this is No Film School, what advice would you give to any aspiring filmmakers or content creators as they start out on their own journeys in film and video?

Scott: I would say that whatever it is that you want to do, you need to jump in with both feet. A lot of people feel that they have to go first with someone of some sort of pedigree or something to get started. And while it helps to go assist an ACE editor, or spend three years being a second assistant camera or something, because it helps you understand the industry, when it comes time to do something you want to do and it's passionately driving you just do it. 

Unfortunately, it’s a cutthroat industry out there and if you wait around for too long to get your dream done you will get left behind. So it doesn’t matter, shoot it on an iPhone or with whatever technology you have available to you! Just don’t be afraid and jump in with both feet.


To wrap things up, Scott has indeed been a great example of how a documentary filmmaker can fuel one's career and passion by working in the realm of stock footage.

By specifically partnering with Pond5 and embracing their artist-focused approach to developing a real community aimed to empower artists, Scott—along with countless others—has found new and exciting ways to push her career to new heights.

Along with a new storefront and expanded earning capabilities for artists through the referral program, Pond5 is also offering a referral sweepstakes—including a chance to win a DJI Air 2S Drone. (You can find out more info on the sweepstakes and sign up here.)