BW 4/64 Correspondence between MOI and Council RE Film Destribution 1941-2

Sept 1941
  • British Council (BC) & the Ministry of Information (MOI) to consult each other regarding distribution of films
  • BC rejects suggestion that their work is "propaganda", or, at least, "political propaganda". The term "propaganda is considered to be too vague.
  • MOI seems to think that there is "considerable overlap" between BC films and MOI films made for home - although BC states only "Royal Road" seems to be the case.
  • It appears - although no definitive information is included - that the BC film "Royal Road" was released in the USA theatrically the same time as another MOI film with a similar theme, which seems to have caused some controversy. As a result, the MOI suggest taking over control of distributing BC films, to which the BC Film Department respond unhappily.
  • A.J.S White quotes "I wish people would leave us alone to get on with the job!"
  • Suggest that if a submitted film script is suitable for both then perhaps they could collaborate.

October 1941
  • Greater coordination for theatrical distribution, especially in Dominions & USA is agreed.
  • Suggest a single distribution channel for both departments in US

November 1941
  • BC concern that single channel distribution would put council films in same bracket as MOI films, ie political & wartime propaganda which is "not our business".
  • BC do not advocate "high pressure salesmanship" in having their films distributed, preferring distributors to take them on their own merits.
  • Reckon 12-14 a year out of 35 would be suited to USA distribution
  • No film as yet submitted to theatrical distribution in USA due to council holding them up to await MOI arrangements for their own films.

December 1941
  • Letter stating that BC films on Clyde, on English Inns, on Western Isle & on Kew should be stopped from being despatched abroad, as they are counteractive to war effort - perpetuate Goebbel's statements that Britain is frivolous & selling at outmoded way of living.
  • Suggests films like these could actively persuade neutral countries to take the Germans' side! Quote: "The films will make most audiences say "Thesepeople do not deserve to win the war". (See photos below for full letter)

  • Council insist tht MOI are looking from wrong perspective, and that they too have made similar films. It seems the term "propaganda" is something the BC doesnt want applied to their films!
  • Suggest that the embargo that restricts council from mentioning war makes films unrealistic and too idyllic. Asks for embargo to be lifted.
  • Conflict between wanting to show customs and habits of Britian whilst reflecting wartime.
  • Mr Kearney (head of film) suggests that MOI deal with war propaganda, and BC with Social & Cultural aspects, which are inevitably going to include war, as that is what is going on at home - but more cooperation between the departments.
  • Very careful not to show pre-war traditional England

Jan 1942
  • Agreement that film departments should be more closely co-ordinated.
  • Films were evaluated - Dartmouth, English Gardens, The Pacific
Suitable for foreign territories - Dartmouth & English Gardens
Unsuitable - The Pacific
Suitable for home territories - all three.

Feb 1942
  • Dartmouth, Gardens of England & A1 at Lloyds requested for uk distribution.
  • The Council's purpose and reason for existence, it is suggested, are misunderstood by the MOI.
  • MOI claim the embargo is not there is a misunderstanding on the Council's behalf
  • Arguments & a lot of back-and-forthing over whether or not MOI should oversee distribution of Council films overseas in order that no two similar subjects are put out at same time - or subjects that may contradict some propaganda message the MoI wants to put out.
  • Council not happy with MOi control over distribution and push for more equal pre-co-op
  • This is agreed and pushes forward.