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  1. These threads that I create are quite silly and I mostly do them to satisfy myself. There is a little part of me that hopes that others who are rekindled in their memories can come forward and contribute more information. There are still many movies, often short in running time, that I would love to see before my final voyage into the hereafter. Although the three companies I profile here don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, some of their best product has managed to survive under the umbrella company that now encompasses them and some of their contemporaries: https://phoenixlearninggroup.com/ I am also taking a detour from the usual topic of “shorts” to chronicle some of the educational 16mm films and VHS product of a major network, the Columbia Broadcasting System. CBS owned two of these companies for a decade and a half. Bailey Films, Film Associates of California and Phoenix Films were among the many educational film companies that flourished during the Golden Age of 16mm, a format that started tentatively in the 1920s with the pioneering Eastman Kodak Teaching Films and Electrical Research Products Inc. (later taken over by Encyclopædia Britannica) as an economic alternative to 35mm. By World War II, the number of these rivaled the other, more theatrical, kind as the smaller cameras and projectors became firmly established for travelogues, documentaries, school and military how-to reels. The demand for school films in particular escalated in the late 1950s after the Soviets launched Sputnik and the Eisenhower administration started pumping more tax dollars into the public schools in order to keep up, much of it trickling down into visual media. The Golden Age crested for roughly three decades until VHS, cable TV and the internet took over. However, even as late as 1996, companies like these were still providing material for schools, libraries and businesses in both video and motion picture film, primarily because the latter benefited from a much sharper image than its murky flop-in-the-machine counterpart. (Not to mention, actual films often outlast tapes and anything digital, as many of us avid DVD collectors discover when our favorite movies unexpectedly stop playing after several years for no explainable reason.) The oldest of the trio discussed on this thread was Bailey Films, beginning as Bailey Film Services with Al Bailey in charge in 1938. Its headquarters were in sunny Hollywood, first located on Cosmo Street and later De Longpre Ave. The earliest films were released both with soundtracks and without since many schools still had silent projectors at that time; thus, surviving films of this period may have rather limited appeal today. However one prominent contributor, travelogue maker Guy D. Haselton, was making good use of color Kodachrome early on with a scenic series on national parks. By the early fifties, Bailey Films' specialty had become the art subject reel, particularly the step-by-step process covering everything from printmaking to puppets. Noteworthy during this period were Wayne Thiebaud's in-depth studies of museum paintings and sculpture. (Wayne turns 99 this year.) Although the company's artistic side only casually embraced the fine art of animation, Bailey was nonetheless a key backer of a young Ray Harryhausen during those formative stop-motion years before and between Mighty Joe Young and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Headquartered over on Santa Monica Blvd, also in the Los Angeles area, was Film Associates of California. Launched in the spring of 1954 by Irwin Braun and Paul Burnford, the latter was already a documentary veteran working with Paul Rotha and John Grierson in England and, later, MGM's short subject department (Crime Does Not Pay, Pete Smith, etc.) before launching his own independent company distributing through Bailey Films and Encyclopædia Britannica in the beginning. As the key director of most Film Associates' titles during that first decade, great care went into selecting subjects that would appeal to the widest range of ages possible. One typical title, Prehistoric Animals Of The Tar Pits: The Story Of Rancho La Brea, may only be available online currently in its black & white version (although color prints also exist) but it hasn't aged much in its educational value after over six decades. Burnford split from Braun by 1963 but would continue distributing some of his independent productions through Film Associates. Three years later, “FA” (as known by the logo displayed on film) was taken over by CBS, the leading TV network that needed an additional 16mm outlet for its many educational TV shows. (They had already been tapping McGraw-Hill and Young America Films during the previous decade and would continue to do so with the former, along with others like Carousel Films.) CBS also soon took over Bailey Films, minus Al who retired, and merged the two as Bailey-Film Associates or “BFA” by early 1969. For a while, Irwin Braun and his wife remained in charge with limited interference from the corporation in power. Renamed BFA Educational Media in 1971, expansion included a new bigger building in Santa Monica proper and newer contributors in charge of in-house production and product sales. Lloyd Otterman succeeded the Brauns after their departure in 1975 and George Holland headed the company past CBS's sale of it to Phoenix Films. Of the many filmmakers working for BFA, three who started pre-CBS were quite prolific in output. Norman Bean handled a wide range of nature subjects in his A First Film and Backyard Science series with a keen eye on how to maintain an average 6 year old's attention span. While he was certainly not the first to feature close-ups of insects and plant growth, his work was among the most watched in schools during the 1970s especially. Not that many present day 50-70 year olds who were kids back then would recognize his and his then wife Marjorie's names today. Wayne Mitchell started in the 1950s as a travelogue maker and made his last film in 2009 at the age of 83 before officially retiring. He displayed a strong interest in those local customs getting lost with all of the new technology and international mass-culture. At one point, he lamented on the increasing number of snow-mobiles invading Eskimo territory during his own life time. Perhaps the most colorful of the bunch was Bernard Wilets, one of those versatile Pisceans who easily fluctuated between topics totally unrelated to each other. His all-inclusive Discovering Music series is a must-see series; one such title, Discovering American Folk Music, manages to get Irish and Scottish ballads from centuries ago, black gospel, raw blues and late sixties psychedelic rock & roll all covered in a mere 21 minutes! He also handled push-button debates like school bus segregation in The Bill Of Rights In Action: De Facto Segregation which may seem a trifle dated now... or not? Even today, racial differences are no small issue. More importantly, he provided some of the most creative talk-fests to invade the classroom since Frank Baxter educated the royal court of the Planet Q in the classic Bell Science specials. One can't help but chuckle over the very premise of Man And The State: Marx And Rockefeller which transports the ghosts of two polarizing figures in history, Karl Marx and John D. Rockefeller, to a futuristic society resembling Logan's Run so that these folks of the future can have some laughs watching them argue it out. After leaving BFA right around the time of its merge with Phoenix Films, Wilets joined Barr Films (covered here: http://forums.tcm.com/topic/114972-a-shortie-checklist-an-assortment-of-culinary-delights/ ) which reissued his earlier titles with only slight modifications in the opening credits and got him to make more of them, including the very eighties retro Grant And Lee On The Civil War, set on a silly game show called “Risk Your Reputation”. As Geoff Alexander covered in Academic Films for The Classroom (McFarland & Co., 2010), Wilets had a very special arrangement with the Screen Actors' Guild and was able to tap many familiar faces from television and the bigger screens provided he forgo screen credits. This is absolutely maddening to us movie geeks who recognize the faces but can't find any listed names. Granted, I am pretty certain that a 10-year old Jason Bateman is displaying his trademark smirk in The Veldt, one of the quirky Ray Bradbury adaptations he produced but didn't direct, despite the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) not including it in Jason's filmography. Phoenix Films was the third party to become part of this growing family, which became Phoenix-BFA Films & Video in 1981 (later the Phoenix Learning Group) after CBS sold its interests. Launched just eight years earlier by Heinz Gelles (formally of McGraw-Hill) and Barbara Bryant (of Films Incorporated) along with Leo Dratfield, Phoenix Films began mostly as a distribution company. Soon that groovy animated bird in its on-screen logo was accompanying personal in-house productions as well. The 1970s was a very rich decade for experimental film making with many controversial stories being tried out that Hollywood and major TV companies would consider taboo even today, such as a story about a dying woman harassed by hospital staff in The Detour and gender-role questioning in William's Doll. Barbara Bryant herself later contributed to some highly innovative adaptations of children books along with Gary Templeton for a sub-company Evergreen Productions. Phoenix handled a higher number of hour to two hour features than BFA, which tended to keep most of its non-TV product under a half hour in length. Among the major titles were Helen Hayes: Portrait Of An American Actress (Nathan Kroll, 1973), Antonia: A Portrait Of A Woman (Judy Collins & Jill Godmilow, 1974), Rivers Of Sand (Robert Gardner, 1974), The Shadow Catcher (T.C. McLuhan, 1974), Grass Roots: Rural Communes In The U.S.A. (Luciano Martinengo and Thomas Wahlberg, 1975), Earth People (James Rich, 1975), Buenos Dias, Compañeras = Women In Cuba (Aviva Slesin, 1975), The Hollow (George T. Nierenberg, 1975), Potters Of Hebron (Robert Haber, 1976), Paul Robeson: The Tallest Tree In Our Forest (Gil Noble, 1977), Twyla Tharp: Making Television Dance (Don Mischer, 1977), One Of Kind (Harry Winer, 1977), Gatemouth Brown And Gate's Express (Carl Colby, 1977), The Jerusalem Peace (Mark Banjamin, 1977), Zerda's Children (Jorge Prelorán, 1978), Kid Thomas And The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Clifton Chenier (Carl Colby, 1978), In Dark Places: Remembering the Holocaust (Gina Blumenfeld, 1978), Deep Hearts (Robert Gardner, 1979), Martha Clarke: Light & Dark (Joyve Chopra, 1980), With God On Our Side (Alexander von Wetter, 1981) and Children Of The Holocaust (Jack Eisner & Roman Kent, 1983). Most longer productions post-BFA merge tended to be direct-to-video projects, such as How Will I Survive? (Kathleen Kelley Reardon & Johanna Demetrakas, 1993), a study on women coping with breast cancer. Both Phoenix and BFA offered a very international menu to the 16mm market and I could easily double the lists below to include the many, many foreign imports that were often dubbed in English and non-narrative films that required no translations. Yet space restraints here and the fact that they were only Phoenix and BFA in U.S. distribution kept my oversize appetite in check. Among a selection worth mentioning: Han Van Gelder's Adventures In Perception (Netherlands, 1969), Ulrich Schweizer's Katutura (Switzerland, 1971), Kostas Chronopoulos, Simon Louvish & Jorge Tsoucarossa's Greece Of Christian Greeks (Greece, 1972), Charles & Martina Huguenot van der Linden's This Tiny World (Netherlands, 1972), A Pretty Kettle Of Fish (France, 1973), Ronald Bijisma's Brainwash (Netherlands, 1973), Michel Lang's Carole, I Love You (France, 1973), Gilbert Dassonville's Abyss (France, 1973), George Sluizer's The Raft (Netherlands, 1973), George R. Sluizer & Bert van Munster's Letters, Three Days Respite and Zeca (Netherlands, all released in the U.S. in 1974), El Páramo de Cumanday (Colombia, Gabriela Samper & Ray Witlin, 1977), Clay Kelton's Mateo and Unlikely Star (Costa Rica, 1979), Said Manafi's Timghriwin: Mass Marriage Of Berbers (Austria, 1986), Fernand Berenguer's A Double Souffle (France, 1986) and Frédéric Fougea's “Lord Of The Animals” series (France, 1989-1996). The National Film Board of Canada, Film Australia and Gakushū Kenkyūsha with Japan's Gakken Films also provided plenty of material between the 1970s and '90s. In terms of animation, Phoenix again had the edge over BFA in backing several U.S. independents such as John Canemaker. Yet a large portion of the cartoons came from overseas, particularly Czechoslovakia's Bratri v triku which was responsible for Zdeněk Miler's durable pantomime character The Little Mole. Later cartoons offered through Phoenix-BFA Films & Video frequently came from Canadian and British television: Perennial Pictures' Mirthworms (1984), Neil Innes Raggy Dolls (broadcast with Yorkshire Television, 1986-1994) and Marina Productions' Little Miss and Mister Men (French-UK co-productions, 1995-1997). In May 1997, the re-organized Phoenix Learning Group Inc. acquired the bulk of Coronet Film's backlog, which I and others spent a long time updating at Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Coronet_Films so that we don't need to exhaust our pretty little heads here. Other acquisitions included some of Centron's catalog (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centron_Corporation ) and roughly half of the Learning Corporation of America (covered here: http://forums.tcm.com/topic/114972-a-shortie-checklist-an-assortment-of-culinary-delights/ , but I added their animated cartoons below since many online are worth investigating). Today all of the new material for schools is made exclusively online or for DVD, so I am cutting off around the year 2003 here with just a few final entries to such long running series as Backyard Science. I should also add that Phoenix-BFA distributed a series by Aames Teleproductions that covered “how to use” lectures on early Microsoft programs of 1991-1994, which I don't get into below like I do a few other select direct-to-video efforts; teaching about computers in the VHS and film format can be quite challenging but Phoenix-BFA was always up for it. As usual, this alphabetic list is not complete, so feel free to private message me with additions. Apart from the three companies mentioned above, I also included King Screen Productions and Kaw Valley Films. The latter often distributed through Coronet, which Phoenix later acquired, while the former released mostly through BFA, although I include the independently distributed and Oscar winning The Redwoods.
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