Booth, Alfred Edmund, 1892-1977

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Booth, Alfred Edmund, 1892-1977

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Alfred Edmund Booth was an enterprising man who tried several careers before he became a filmmaker. He emigrated from England to British Columbia in 1912 and got his first job surveying for a fruit irrigation company in Kamloops. Shortly after that he worked for several logging operations on the coast. In 1915 he moved to Vancouver where he was employed as head mechanic for a brewery company, a job that he stayed at for over three years. During this time he married Grace Ellen Greer, began a family, and settled in Vancouver. Because of Booth's experience in the automobile business he was asked to organize chapters of the Vancouver Club, forerunner of the B.C. Automobile Association. He was successful and, in the process, learned about road conditions and services for motorists. This knowledge, combined with his enthusiasm for B.C.'s outdoors, led him, in 1928, to found the "B.C. Sportsman Club". The purpose of the club was to promote the development of facilities for fishermen, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. To publicize B.C.'s outdoors Booth photographed wildlife and scenery and this led, by happenstance, to motion pictures. In 1929 he entered a contest sponsored by a Minneapolis sports magazine that offered a motion picture camera for the best outdoor photograph. He sent in some photographs and won the prize, a German made 16mm Agfa Ansco camera. From then until the 1950s, when he retired, taking motion pictures and exhibiting them was his main occupation. Booth initially shot film as a hobby, for example, bringing the camera along on his travels to capture scenery and resorts. By the mid 30s he recognized the commercial possibilities of motion picture film. In particular, he thought motion pictures would be a good way to promote British Columbia as a place for tourism, recreation, settlement and investment. Coming from England he was impressed by the natural resources and undeveloped state of his adopted land and identified a need to publicize this potential. In about 1937 Booth formed a company, Travel Films, and set about to market his films. He sought financial support from businessmen and government and was successful in 1939 and 1940 in getting contracts from the British Columbia government. The contracts payed him to take his films on the road and exhibit them across B.C., the prairie provinces and parts of the United States. The government also acquired copies of Booth's films for its promotional library. Booth also shot films for sponsors. This may have been his biggest source of income, but no records survive to show how much. Known sponsors include the Anglican Church's Columbia Coast Mission which contracted him to film its medical and religious services for isolated coastal communities. Other sponsors were, reportedly, the B.C. Tree Fruit Board, Pacific Petroleum of Alberta, Frasea Farms, B.C. Natural Gas, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Canadian Pacific Airlines and the Canadian government. Mining concerns and companies associated with the 1955-56 Ripple Rock project may also have supported some filming. Of the completed sponsored films, only those of Columbia Coast Mission are known with certainty to have survived. Along with the surviving out-takes of other productions, they provide the only confirmation of this kind of filming work. Booth's last known filming was about 1957. After 1957 Booth attempted to get some of his films exhibited, but not with much success. Undoubtedly the availability of films about British Columbia with sound tracks had long undercut his filmmaking. During his retirement he moved to Lillooett for several years, then returned to the coast and lived in a retirement manor until his death in 1977. Both in Lillooet and at the retirement manor he tape recorded reminiscences of his life in British Columbia. The reminiscences reveal his fascination with the history and geography of British Columbia, but they give little detailed explanation of his film work. When he moved to Lillooet his films were taken and cared for by various family members. By then the films were in a very fragmented state, and they were stored unused except for perhaps a few ad hoc family viewings.

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11732

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DDUFFY 2010-10-12

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Sources

Not in Central Name Authority Files. Booth film accession documentation, F1994:02.

Maintenance notes

Created by: Dennis Duffy.
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