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Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Film Production. | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Film Production.


Historical Note:

On July 1, 1960, the Film Production Unit became an independent office led by Frank Paine, spinning off of the Audio-Visual Aids and Photographic Service, and reporting to the office of Academic Affairs.  Its purpose was to produce educational, motivational, and research films for use on both campuses (Carbondale and Edwardsville) in classrooms, general showings, laboratories, and on television.  Many of its staff taught classes through the Department of Cinema and Photography, and hired many student workers from that department to aid in its productions.

In its 14 year history, the Film Production Unit produced dozens of films.  These were both black and white, and in color, live-action and animated productions.  Many of the films served specific needs of the university, such as a twelve minute animated feature No But I Saw the Movie created in 1961 to encourage the use of the university libraries.  Other films documented events on campus, such as football games or the 1965 and 1967 NCAA Gymnastics National Championships which took place at the SIU Arena.  Others filmed local or regional events, such as the late 1960s early 1970s Vietnam War protests in Carbondale and other Midwestern campuses.  Some films were produced for non-university educational purposes, such as police training videos from 1971-1974 in collaboration with The Illinois State Police and the Motorola Company.  Thirteen of the films received thirty-five awards from regional, national and international film festivals and institutions.

Budget pressure in the spring of 1973 led to discussion about closing the Film Production Unit.  Numerous concerned individuals sent letters to university administrators in support of the Film Production Unit.  Some came from staff, such as football coach Dick Towers, and faculty in the Department of Zoology.  Other letters came from organizations such as the American Film Institute, the American Women in Radio and Television, and the Illinois State Police.  In response, the Unit proposed a restructuring, moving from Academic Affairs to reporting to the Vice President of Development and Service.  President David Derge entertained the plan, but resigned from office under pressure from the Board of Trustees before making a decision.

On December 13, 1973, Interim President Hiram Lesar informed the Film Production Unit they would be dissolved effective June 30, 1974.  Soon after, the university filled a class-action lawsuit against the Film Production Unit employees to ensure it would maintain copyright of all films produced by the Unit, and to settle tenured contracts.  The case was settled outside of court, and all the staff left the university, with exception of Frank Paine who remained a professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography.  Film Production Unit property was distributed between the Department of Cinema and Photography and the university Archives.

Sources:

General Correspondence - Production Survival, 1974, Film Production Unit records, Special Collections Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Annual and Bi-Annual Report on Film Production, 1960-1973, Film Production Unit records, Special Collections Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Discussion on Termination of Film Production, 1973, Film Production Unit records, Special Collections Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Note Author: Benjamin Bradley





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