Prepared for Daniel Francis and Encyclopedia of British Columbia — January, 2000.
[Published in 2000 by Harbour Publishing]
By MICHAEL WALSH
[PART 5: FROM TV TO CFDC — 1953-1967]
Television permanently changed the industry's economic and social dynamic. CBUT, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Vancouver station, signed on to the air in December 1953. Its 16mm Film Unit, whose members included Stan Fox, Allan King, Daryl Duke and Ron Kelly, helped shape B.C.’s sense of itself as a creative centre.
CBUT documentaries, such as King's Skidrow (1957), were nationally recognized for their excellence. Cariboo Country, a teleplay first produced in 1958, evolved into a mini-series (1960), then a full series (1963).
By 1962, the CBC was operating six stations in B.C. When the privately-owned CHAN-TV (later BCTV) went on the air in October 1960, its essential competition was border station KVOS. Located in Bellingham, Washington, KVOS had been on the air since June 1953, and Vancouver was its major market.
To serve its commercial clients, KVOS established offices on Burrard Street. Its film unit, set up in 1960 under Jack Gettles and Vic Spooner, became Canawest Film Productions in 1963. By 1965, its Vancouver animation studio was a major sub-contractor for Hollywood’s Hanna-Barbera in the production of television cartoon series. Canawest incorporated as an independent company in 1967.
The broadcasters brought a sense of new opportunity to the market that was reflected in Lew Parry's decision to build a $100,000 studio in North Vancouver for his Parry Film Productions (1956). When Oldrich Vaclavek founded Panorama Productions Ltd. to make feature films (1956), his initiative resulted in the 1961 construction of Panorama Studios (later Hollyburn Film Studios) in West Vancouver.
In 1958, a year after the creation of the federal Canada Council for the Arts, Al Sens set up B.C.’s first animation studio. The theatrical exhibitions mix was enriched by the founding of the Vancouver International Film Festival (1958-1969) and, in 1962, Odeon Theatres' regional office organized the first Varsity Festival of International Films, a two-week-long foreign-film showcase that ran annually until 1982.
Anticipating regular feature production, Local 891 (motion picture production technicians) of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) was chartered in 1962, the year Australian-born novelist James Clavell directed Vancouver's first sound-era feature, The Sweet and the Bitter, for Vaclavek's much-restructured Commonwealth Films.
At the University of B.C., where the CBC's Stan Fox had conducted production workshops, the student film society supported one of their own, Larry Kent, in the making of three low-budget features: The Bitter Ash (1963), Sweet Substitute (1964) and When Tomorrow Dies (1965).
The National Film Board, perhaps recalling that the Vancouver-made Herring Hunt was a 1953 Academy Award nominee, opened its first regional production office in Vancouver (1965).
Founded in 1965, the B.C. Film Industry Association saw renewed hope for B.C. feature filmmaking in the Anglo-Canadian co-production, The Trap (1965); in American director Robert Altman's "discovery" of Vancouver with That Cold Day in the Park (1967); and the CBC's first made-for-TV movie, Waiting for Caroline (1967).
The above is Part 5 of an eight-part restoration of an Encyclopedia of British Columbia entry written by Michael Walsh originally published in 2000. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
B.C. Filmmaking Industry — Part 1 [Introduction]; Part 2 [1897-1928]; Part 3 [1931-1938]; Part 4 [1939-1952]; Part 6 [1968-1977]; Part 7 [1978-2000]; Part 8 [Bibliography];
TIMELINE: 1952-1967These are the significant events in the history of the B.C. film industry. For those who want to know more, Included in square brackets at the end of each item is a reference to my source for the information. The first one — [GR/16] — guides you to page 16 of Greg Ryan’s An Examination of Movies and Television in Vancouver, B.C., written in 1977. All of the works I consulted in the preparation of this history, are listed in this posted Bibliography. Each has a reference code to identify it in the Timeline listings.
◼︎ 1953, June 3 — DuMont network affiliate KVOS-TV goes on the air in Bellingham, Washington. [GR/16]
◼︎ 1953, December 16 — CBUT-TV, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Vancouver television station, goes on the air. [HP/8] Its 16mm Vancouver Film Unit includes Stan Fox, Arla Saare and Jack Long, who make its first television film in 1955. [SP/47]
◼︎ 1954 — David Pomery and Homer Powell open Telesound, a sound recording studio. [SP/45-46]
◼︎ 1954, March 25 — Herring Hunt, an NFB film shot in Vancouver and on Howe Sound, is a 1953 Academy Award nominee in the Short Subject category. [BC-2/11] [IO/743]
◼︎ 1956, December 1 — CBC affiliate CHEK-TV goes on the air in Victoria. [BC-2/21]
◼︎ 1956 — Panorama Productions Ltd. is founded by Czech immigrant Oldrich Vaclavek to make feature films. [BC-2/25]
◼︎ 1956 — Parry Film Productions builds a $100,000 studio in North Vancouver. [SP/43]
◼︎ 1957, January 22 — Skidrow, Allan King's CBC-TV documentary, establishes artistic strength of CBUT film unit. [BC-2/18]
◼︎ 1957, April 8 — CBC affiliate CFCR-TV goes on the air in Kamloops. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1957, September 21 — CBC affiliate CHBC-TV goes on the air in Kelowna. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1957 — Artray Ltd. becomes Artray Film Productions. Its TV commercials and industrial shorts are made by Art Jones, Vic Spooner and Keith Cutler. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1957 — The federal government establishes The Canada Council for the Arts as a crown corporation. [TO/37]
◼︎ 1958, August — The first Vancouver International Film Festival, an internationally sanctioned non-profit, prize-giving film festival is held. [How]
◼︎ 1958 — Al Sens founds Al Sens Animated Films, Vancouver's first animation studio [HP/9]
◼︎ 1959 — Director Ron Kelly’s A Bit of Bark is the first dramatic film from the CBC Vancouver Film Unit [HP/9]
◼︎ 1959 — Artray taken over by Canawest, the Canadian subsidiary of KVOS-TV, the Bellingham border station. [SP/49]
◼︎ 1959, January 15 — Independent broadcaster CJDC-TV goes on the air in Dawson Creek. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1959 — Lew Parry forms North of 53 Television. It produces the pilot episode for a bush pilot adventure series, but the concept fails to sell. [BC-2/14-15]
◼︎ 1960, July 2 — Cariboo Country, written by Paul St. Pierre, is CBC-Vancouver's first major effort at a filmed drama series. It runs for four seasons (1960; 1964-1966). [BC-2/19]
◼︎ 1960 — Bellingham’s KVOS-TV sets up a film unit in Vancouver under Jack Gettles and Vic Spooner to produce commercials for Canadian clients [BC-2/16]
◼︎ 1960, October 31 — Independent CHAN-TV (later BCTV) goes on the air. Art Jones, chairman of the board of founding company Vantel Broadcasting Co. Ltd., quits within six months. [SP/48]
◼︎ 1961, August 20 — CBC affiliate CKPG-TV goes on the air in Prince George. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1961 — The Vancouver local of The Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) union is formed. [HP/9]
◼︎ 1961 — Construction begins on Panorama Studios in West Vancouver. The principals of its operating company, Commonwealth Film Productions Ltd., include Britain's Lord Folkestone and local real estate agent Muriel May. [SP/56-57] The studio opens in 1962. [HP/9]
◼︎ 1962, June — 23-day location shoot begins on director James Clavell’s The Sweet and the Bitter. [BC-2/25] It is B.C.’s first union production. [RW/Oct-Nov 99] Legal problems delay its release until 1967. [HP/9] [BC-2/25]
◼︎ 1962, November 1 — Independent broadcaster CFTK-TV goes on the air in Terrace. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1962 — Local 891 (motion picture production technicians) of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) chartered in Vancouver to take over movie duties from Local 118 [HP/10]
◼︎ 1963 — Jack McCallum buys Parry Films and renames the facility Capilano Motion Picture Centre. [BC-2/15]
◼︎ 1963 — The KVOS film unit becomes Canawest Film Productions, a subsidiary of the TV station. [BC-2/16]
◼︎ 1963 — Larry Kent begins making films at the University of B.C. His releases include The Bitter Ash (1963), Sweet Substitute (a.k.a. Caressed; 1964) and When Tomorrow Dies (1965). [CF/103]
◼︎ 1963 — The NFB produces its first feature films [How/12]
◼︎ 1963 — Art Jones and T. Alan Houghton form Hollyburn Film Studios Ltd., and move into the Panorama Studios building. [SP/59-60] [BC-2/26]
◼︎ 1963-1964 — Canamac Productions film about 34 episodes of The Littlest Hobo series at Lew Parry studios; another 30 are filmed at the Hollyburn Film Studios (formerly Panorama) [SP/52] [BC-2/22]
◼︎ 1965, Oct. 25 — The B.C. Film Industry Association is registered as a non-profit society. [SP/67] Its founders are Lew Parry, IATSE business agent Nip Gowan and Jack Gettles (first president). [HP/10]
◼︎ 1965 — The NFB opens a regional production office in Vancouver [SP/53] under supervisor Peter Jones, who employs local filmmakers. [BC-2/11]
◼︎ 1965 — Director Sidney Hayers’s 1966 feature The Trap is the first feature shot at the Hollyburn Film Studios. [BC-2/26]
◼︎ 1965 — Canawest Studios begins producing animated television cartoons for Hanna-Barbera, contract work that continues into the 1970s. [BC-2/16]
◼︎ 1966 — In a move away from censorship towards classification, B.C. film censor R.W. MacDonald creates the warning caption. [COC/120]
◼︎ 1967 — Canawest is incorporated as an independent production company. [SP/49]
◼︎ 1967 — To preserve the “Englishness” of Gillian Freeman's screenplay, director Robert Altman films his 1969 feature That Cold Day in the Park in Vancouver. [DS]
◼︎ 1968, Feb. — Federal Bill C-204 creates the Canadian Film Development Corporation (after 1984, Telefilm Canada) to "foster and promote the development of a feature film industry.” It opens with a budget of $10 million. [How/13] [TO/40]