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Educational Films

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EDUCATIONAL FILMS The United States.—Three main types of educational films are now recognized : the "instructional," made solely to present information pertinent to the school curriculum ; the "documen tary," which interpret social situations so as to create attitudes as well as to convey information ; and the "industrial," which depict industrial or commercial processes while advertising a business or product. There are others, made for the theatre, which may pos sess definite instructional value; examples are the newsreel, cer tain short subjects, and feature pictures such as The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Tale of Two Cities.

The educational film has had an interesting evolution. Among the first educational motion picture productions was the Passion Play, a religious and historical drama filmed in 1898. The news weekly came on the screens of the United States in 191o, when Pathe Freres of Paris circulated a weekly issue of their Pathe Journal. One of the first scientific pictures was exhibited about 1902 by Charles Urban of London. Other products of European laboratories shown in enlargement, with slow or arrested motion, included subjects such as the growth of plants, the emergence of the butterfly from the chrysalis, and other processes. These pic tures, used as "fillers" in theatrical programs composed of dramas, comedies, serials, and news weeklies, soon drew attention to the value of this new medium of expression as a teaching aid in school. The animated drawings invented by J. R. Bray in I91I, provided a new means of indicating places on a map and of showing processes that could not be photographed. Stimulated by this interest, the motion picture division of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., Selig, Essanay, Universal, and other companies invested heavily in educational pictures. Charles Urban, George Kleine, Pathe, and Gaumont, imported French, British, and Italian films. In 1912 the General Film Company distributed pictures made by the most important American producers, and in the educational department of this company was assembled a large collection of educational films.

Some seven companies were organized to produce and distribute educational films for schools, churches, clubs, public institutions, and industrial organizations. Over-production, print costs, and

national distribution of an expensive and "perishable" commodity to an unorganized market led to the failure of these organizations. A few companies continued to devote some effort to the selling of these films.

In 1923, the advent of the i6mm. motion picture projector, more convenient for school use, gradually brought new impetus to the educational film. About this time the Yale University Press began producing the Chronicles of America Photoplays, a series of pic tures showing important episodes in American history. The East man Kodak Company in 1926 launched an extensive program of film production for school use. Experiments by Wood and Free man, and by Knowlton and Tilton proved the value of the instruc tional film.

But the school's enthusiasm for the film diminished after a while. The supply of good films was limited, and the cost of securing films and equipment was a drawback. With little or no effort to train teachers to utilize the new device effectively, there came to be less and less demand. Except in a comparatively few school systems, the motion picture lost much of its appeal.

Then came the sound film. Its success in the theatrical field, together with its obvious advantages for instruction, inspired early efforts to produce sound films for education. In 1929, Electrical Research Products, Inc., a subsidiary of the Western Electric Company, produced a sound film to demonstrate the possibilities of the sound film medium for education. The pictures which fol lowed—Our Government at Work, one on the Bronxville, N.Y., schools, some on teacher-training, and some on plant life—met with acclaim, and soon the educational department of this com pany was undertaking a comprehensive film production program. The University Film Foundation, sponsored by the Harvard Corporation, produced several films dealing with physical geog raphy. The Fox Film Corporation made a group of films on physical geography and animal life. At this time, many of the sound films produced for school use were simply silent pictures with a recorded commentary or description.

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