Schools Training

A Brief History of Canadian Film

15 JAN 2013
Career Path : Audio Engineering

The first public screening of a film was in 1896, over two centuries ago. The film was less than a minute in length and the equipment and movie were American. However, within a year, eager film makers were ready to make a Canadian film, setting off to make a moving picture record of the prairies.


The very first Canadian filmmaker was James Freer, a reporter turned farmer who settled in Manitoba.  Much of his work documented the arrival of equally cutting edge railway trains. These were so successful he was given two international tours, once at the behest of a railway company and once under the federal government.


At this time films were silent, and shot in black and white. No one had thought to combine them with records carrying a sound track, and both film and audio depended on self-taught amateurs. There was no such thing as an audio production school and the closest thing to modern film production programs was a photography apprenticeship.


Canadian films were mostly created to be educational or for promotional purposes, such as recruitment for the Boer War. It wasn’t until a decade into the next century that Canada started to get real production companies. Across the border, Canada was starting to be featured as a setting for full productions, complete with noble Mountie heroes, but the first Canadian produced work of fiction told the story of the expulsion of the Acadians. Companies sprung up in the major cities and a small trickle of Canadian drama films began to appear.


But by 1923, the boom would turn to bust and production slowed to a trickle as the country’s southern neighbour produced a higher and higher volume. Canadian film did not manage to keep up with the advent of sound, and thus despite major investment attempts in 1927, production was mostly limited to quota quickies, films made in compliance with Commonwealth regulation that allotted 25% space to Commonwealth creations. But film and sound technology marched on elsewhere. It finally became possible to study in an audio production school. A national film board helped a bit, and today the institution is often how graduates of film schools in Canada get their first professional experience.


By the end of the twentieth century, film production programs sprouted up all over, in trade schools and universities. A local film industry got somewhat of a toehold in the 1960s and in a typical Canadian fashion, often attempts to make films in both the country’s official languages. Production levels, however, remained proportionate to the geographically vast nation’s smaller audience. Canada frequently produces hits, both silly and serious that are popular with the general English speaking population of the planet, but the industry is heavily subsidized including with quotas in television.



Visit Trebas Institute for more information on film schools in Canada.