Industrial Films are films made by a company or sponsor for the specific purpose of showcasing a product or service. They are not works of cinematic art or entertainment in and of themselves. The films are designed to satisfy a specific informational need and pragmatic purpose of the sponsor for a limited time. Many of these films are also considered orphan works, since they lack copyright owners or active custodians to guarantee their long-term preservation. Here we will take a closer look at this niche propaganda medium (which rarely gets attention in most writings about films) to better understand “films that work”.
Industrial film has its roots in the European “documentary” films of the mid-1920’s and early 1930s. In 1926 the term is first coined by John Grierson; the founder of the British documentary movement. He used the word while writing a review of Robert Flaherty’s film, ”Moana”. The term is derived from “documentaire”, a French word to describe travelogues. Grierson goes on to champion the idea that documentaries should be much more than travel films. He believes that they that have the potential for social and economic good, to help eliminate poverty, oppression and war. The documentary film is officially born.
Documentaries begin to evolve and mature. We next see this film type used in a much darker way, during World War II. A young film producer, Leni Riefenstahl was given a free hand to produce Nazi propaganda films for the German war machine. One of the most notorious of these political documentaries, “Triumph of the Will” (German: Triumph des Willens), was her work. It is often sighted as the archetype for this kind of film.
After the war, in 1948, “See Britain by Train” was produced by the British Transportation Commission under Edgar Anstey – a founding father of the British documentary movement. Anstey’s group of film makers became one of the largest industrial film units in Britain. The Industrial film industry beings to mature, realizing its full potential.
Like most modern technology, invented for and found useful by large organizations, the automobile industry saw need of and good use for this type of visual media tool. Vehicle manufactures quickly discovered the benefits of churning out films. Sales people could see and better understand the technology of cars and know the intricacies of the latest production year offerings. Mechanics and tech staff needing to learn the repair of new models could now actually watch processes happen, instead of reading it only from a manual. Car company employees, as well as dealership staff, could watch and hear industry leaders present the latest trends, news and industry information.
Auto Film Central has made it our mission to collect these “time capsules” of information and documentation on our favorite vehicles. You can find long lost sale promo material destined for yesteryear’s show rooms, uncolored visual presentations of “new” model year product offerings and features by all the manufacturers. You’ll even come across an occasional “technical” bulletin on the “latest” engineering achievements and milestones of the auto industry!