World Wide Pictures: A Film Industry Casebook

James Carr set up World Wide Pictures to produce public information films for the government's Central Office of Information during World War II. Film historian Kevin Brownlow began his career there and remembers Carr as a charismatic, intelligent and decent man who in different circumstances could have been a leader of the film industry. As it happened, the company he founded has became the longest running independent producers of documentaries in Britain. The Boom Britain season saw a panel of experts chaired by Patrick Russell, BFI Senior Curator (Non-Fiction), assemble at BFI Southbank to discuss its history. Along with Kevin Brownlow, he was also joined by Ray Townsend, the current chair of WWP, and film historian James Piers-Taylor.

World Wide Pictures operated in an environment where films that would previously have been 'sponsored' were becoming commercial films and the dawn of sales targets threatened directors' integrity. The conditions had until then been ripe for filmmakers to fund themselves through big corporations whilst retaining some freedom. Townsend remembers a stilted transition from the idea of a 'sponsor' to the new reality of working for 'clients'. Brownlow and Townsend both testify that in that rapidly changing landscape, WWP were constantly reinvesting, developing projects, embracing change and experimenting with new technologies. Where other companies operated more cautiously, their intrepid ways meant they became experts in new media while their peers were struggling to catch up.


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