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Canadian Film Encyclopedia

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On the Spot

(Sur le vif)

Year: 1953
Language: English and French
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 15 min Production Company: National Film Board of Canada

The On the Spot series marked the National Film Board’s first venture into television production, and also constituted the first tentative steps toward direct cinema. Originally developed by producer Bernard Devlin as a weekly series of fifteen-minute films in English, it expanded in 1954 to include thirty-minute films and a parallel French series, Sur le vif, also produced by Devlin.

Adhering to the Board’s mandate to “interpret Canada to Canadians and the world,” the films typically focused on different aspects of Canadian society and culture, from Auto Production (1954) to Backstage at Parliament (1955), Chinese Canadians (1954) and Laurentian Skiing (1954). Though their content is superficial reportage, the films represent the first steps toward a more intimate, unscripted documentary style. The production technique involved use of the single-system Auricon to record image and synchronized sound on location.

By: Peter Morris