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Film Entries

What types of films do we include in the CESIF?

We are interested in gathering information about educational, sponsored, and industrial films produced by private Canadian organizations and intended for some form of public viewing. Our project is about films that remain neglected and undocumented, but made up the most active area of filmmaking in Canada. We are not researching the history of the various Canadian governmental film agencies, which have been more thoroughly documented, but the films included do cover the many governmental productions subcontracted to private organizations. Home movies produced for exhibition in the domestic sphere are not covered by the project, but amateur educational, sponsored, and industrial films are.

With the sort of films we are working on, genres or labels are often determined not so much by the films themselves as by their exhibition contexts (which could be multiple and varied for the same film). For instance, the distinction between an educational film and a documentary film is largely dependent on exhibition context. Documentary films that appear to have been used to a significant extent in educational contexts will consequently be covered by the project.

What’s the difference between promotional and sponsored films?

"Promotional films" and "sponsored films" are ill-defined categories. Sponsored films generally aim to indirectly benefit their sponsor by improving its image (i.e., by showing that it cares about culture, progress, society, etc.). A film showing and promoting an organization's products and activities would be more appropriately labeled a "promotional" film.

Do we cover films from a certain period only?

We do not have a cut-off date, but as we are only working on titles shot on film, few post-1990 titles will be found in the database. Production of educational, industrial and sponsored films largely shifted to video in the 1980s.

Does the project cover prints of Canadian films in foreign institutions?

Our policy up is to concentrate on prints that are, or used to be, available in Canadian institutions and collections. Interesting cases pertaining to prints in foreign institutions or collections will be noted in the “Comments” section of the database.

Do we include titles produced on video?

The production format is the key piece of data permitting us to determine if a title should be included in the database, as we only include titles shot on film (with the exception of kinescopes – see below). This means that most of the films covered by our project will have been produced roughly between the turn of the twentieth century and the 1980s.

Such films, however, circulated after transfer to different formats, including video, and these are included in our listings. Entries note the format on which a title is held, including video.

There is a possibility that a title was originally produced as a TV program. The main way to archive and distribute television between the 1940s and 1960s was to kinescope it, which involved producing a film by pointing a 16mm camera at a TV monitor. Many TV productions consequently circulated on 16mm film. Therefore, if a title has been shot on video or been broadcast on television, but later circulated on film, it will be included in the database.

Do we include theatrical films (i.e., films produced for 35mm exhibition in commercial film theatres)?

Theatrical films are generally not covered by this project. However, there are some exceptions in terms of theatrically released films. Associated Screen News’ Canadian Cameo series, for instance, is part of the CESIF database because most of the series’ films were extensively distributed in 16mm and exhibited in non-theatrical venues after their theatrical runs.

Do we include fiction films?

Many educational, sponsored and industrial films have a fictional narrative component and will consequently be included in the database as a matter of course. We also add fiction films more geared toward art or entertainment if something suggests they also functioned – or were used – as educational, industrial or sponsored films. The Loon's Necklace, for instance, is a narrative art film that happens to have been sponsored (by Imperial Oil) and extensively exhibited in schools.

Do we include scientific expedition films?

Educational films were much more tightly formatted than expedition films. The latter are typically more like records or raw data; they are more “document” than “documentary” or “educational,” and are less oriented toward public exhibition. So unless there is an indication that an expedition film was sponsored, or that it could have been used as an educational film, we do not include it.


Which producers’ works are we interested in?

Private producers based in Canada. We do not include films produced by governmental agencies (such as the National Film Board of Canada or the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau) unless we can establish that a particular title had been subcontracted by the governmental agency to a private producer. Titles produced by private producers at the request of a governmental agency will consequently be included. The CESIF captures a film as long as a private company was involved at one point during the production process.

It is worth noting that many governmental agencies involved in film production in Canada frequently subcontracted work to private producers or individuals. The Ontario Motion Picture Bureau, le Service de ciné-photographie de la province de Québec, and even the National Film Board of Canada routinely did it.

Historical Note: The Exhibits and Publicity Bureau (EPB) was the first incarnation of the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau. It was a governmental agency, which means that we do not include the films it produced in this database.  As B.E. Norrish was the head of the federal government's EPB before he left for Associated Screen News at the turn of the 1920s, films he produced prior to the creation of ASN are consequently governmental productions, and are not included.

If a film might have been produced by a foreign producer, but its topic is Canadian, do we include it?


Film Information

What information on the film do we include in the database?

We include production credits, holding institutions, description of subject matter, subject headings, and bibliographical material.

What are our main sources of information?

Library and Archive Canada, Cinémathèque québécoise, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), the British Film Institute (BFI) and its filmography, institutional catalogs, and the National Film Board online database are among the main sources of information. Libraries and archives of various educational institutions have also been extensively mined.

Do we include analysis of the titles in the entries?

This filmography began as an information-gathering enterprise. The next step is to start publishing short analytical entries in the “Commentary” section. The filmography will also hopefully facilitate the production of more in-depth analytical work.

Do we include information pertaining to copyright?

No, we do not copy this sort of information pertaining to copyright in our database. It can be useful, but partial information may be misleading. It is preferable to consult the original sources containing the up-to-date copyright information. Library and Archive Canada's online database often contain such information.

Are there different entries for films produced in different languages?

No. A title usually has one entry, where the different versions are listed. The title of the translated version is included in the “alternate title” section, and both languages are listed in the “languages” sections. Production personnel for both versions (if different) is included on the file. For example, if the English and French versions used two different narrators, we add the two names in the “narrator” section.

If a film has different production versions, how do we include it? For instance, the film Ornamental Swimming has four versions produced in 1936: English (silent), French (with sound), American (with American sound), and Alternative English (with sound).

If the length of all these versions is the same and none appears to be a different edit, we cover these various versions on a single file, and write a short comment explaining to our readers that multiple silent and sound versions were produced. If there are major discrepancies in a film’s various versions, we create separate entries for each version. For example, there are two versions of Sucre d'érable et coopération, each with different scenes and edits (the second version being an update of the first).

Holding Institutions

If a film is listed in an institution’s catalog, does it mean that the institution owns a copy of it?

Not necessarily. It means they owned a copy at the time that the catalog was published. Since we want to know how widely distributed the films we're cataloging were, we will add the institution’s name to the "Holding Institutions" zone. However, we will also add the catalogue’s title and publishing date to clarify the time at which the film was held.

What’s the difference between holding institution and distributor?

For this project, a holding institution is an archive or an educational institution holding one (or several) prints of the film. Research for this project has mainly concentrated on public institutions, colleges, and universities though hospitals and other similar institutions might also conceivably treated as holding institutions.

One way to distinguish distributors from holding institutions is that the latter tend to have strong ties to a locality (Concordia University is a Montreal institution serving a student population assumed to be living in the city), whereas a distributor is an organization that tends to serve a larger territory/population (though it might be based in one locality).

Production Specifications

This section covers some basic questions pertaining to films’ production specifications. For more detailed and comprehensive information, refer to the document “A Primer on Film Technology, Film Formats, and Archival Holdings.”

How can we tell whether a film is silent or has sound?

There are indications that help determine whether a film is silent or has sound. For example, if some of the elements held by an institution are identified as MAG TRK (magnetic soundtrack) and OPT TRK (optical sound track) it means that the film had sound. COMP also identifies composite elements combining the image and sound tracks.

If a film exists in 35mm and 16mm, does it mean that the original is 35mm?

It depends. Some films were captured on 16mm because cameras were lighter and film stock cheaper, but intended to be primarily exhibited in 35mm. 16mm reduction prints of 35mm films were also routinely produced. So there are no hard and fast rules. What we can do is to look at the nature of the 16mm and 35mm elements held by the archives. In what format does the original production material seems to be?

What does 'out-takes' mean?

Material shot during production but left out of the finished film. Library and Archives Canada holds out-takes for several titles has them.

What’s a newsreel?

Newsreels were films of one reel (about ten minutes) generally released weekly and covering about 5-10 recent events. Associated Screen News frequently produced Canadian segments to be inserted in the foreign newsreels imported in the country.

When a film is tinted, does it mean that it is B&W or color?

Black and white.

When two very different length of film reel are stated (for example: 2x 28mm of 101ft and 4x 28mm of 1990 ft) how do we know which one to report?

Generally speaking, many things can happen with descriptions of archival holdings:

  • an entry may cover more than one print and give the cumulative length;
  • it could cover just one reel/part of a multi-reel title;
  • it could be A and B rolls. The cumulative length of A and B rolls is twice that of release prints.  

If we cannot ascertain a film's length, we do not include this information in the film’s entry.