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Early Days

In 1970, I started Cinema Sixteen (CSI) as a business after having shot several films as a hobbyist. Those early films were mostly focused on steam train excursion trips. They were popular at the time as plenty of locomotive engineers brought up on steam were still available. All of those early films were shot with a 16mm Bolex camera and a very primitive audio tape recorder. We rode the trains and the locomotive and interviewed celebrity passengers like Pierre Burton and Colonel Harland Sanders.

Not one of those old railroad films was ever completed or shown to an audience!

In 1969 we documented the last trip of a steam powered lake freighter called Manitoba. The film had sound effects and music only but it hit an emotional chord with the folks of the Ontario Steam and Antique Preservers Association. They were so impressed that they commissioned CSI to make a film about their annual fall event in Milton, Ontario known as Steam Era.

Our first commercial film still remains in a can on a bottom shelf in our studio. Surely, nobody has seen it in forty years!

Following that were more films for our parent company (Thomson-Gordon Group), one for the City of Hamilton and another one for the city of Burlington.

We produced Electrohome as a corporate film for a company that is only a memory in the minds of people over 60. But when we shot it, there were over 3000 people employed by this Kitchener, Ontario family business. That film had a beautiful original music score by Jazz pianist, Brian Browne, and had a single word of dialogue. A production worker turned to the camera and said “Hi!”. Today, the film, like the company is lost in history and no copy has ever been found.

A topic near and dear to my heart was family business and the multitude of reasons so many never get past the first or second generation. Conflict  was a film commissioned by the Canadian Association of Family Business to show a typical dysfunctional family business situation. It is the only film where we used professional actors and it’s still being sold by CAFÉ in DVD form.

Bulldog was a commercial film produced for the Bulldog Belt Lacer Company of Canada in the 1970's. Its purpose was to show how incredibly strong the product was that could provide a removable link between two ends of a conveyor belt. We featured a huge tow truck pulling a school bus loaded with cheering kids out of a ditch. No cable, Just a belt joined by Bulldog! The film did its job.  We were never arrested, but likely broke several laws!

Tilt was the story of a group of university students who annually gathered on the banks of a Northern Ontario river for a journey by canoe several kilometres downstream. With cases of beer as ballast the trip became increasingly wild. It was in 1979 when public nudity was still somewhat frowned on, not to mention destroying perfectly good canoes by riding them down cliffs of sand to the water’s edge! In our naivety, we hoped to sell the film to Molson’s Brewery, and while they admitted it was internally appreciated, we were politely advised that there were laws against showing drinking and having a good time.

Canusa was produced for the City of Hamilton. It was about an annual series of games held one year in Flint, Michigan and the next in Hamilton, Ontario.

The Eyes of Memory was written and directed by world famous Burlington author, John Lawrence Reynolds. Recently re-mastered and available on DVD, this 1973 production was produced for the City of Burlington to commemorate their centennial.

Alas, the pressure of also running a manufacturing business resulted in the shuttering of the film business in 1980 and it was not to be re-awakened until 2004, remarkably featuring the same producer, cameraman and director.

Sandy Thomson