Cinecraft, Inc. films1923-1980s
Cinecraft, Inc. is a corporate film and video production house. The company was founded in 1939 by Ray Culley (1904-1983) and Betty Culley (1914-2016) in Cleveland, Ohio. Ray Culley served as president of the company until his retirement in 1970. During his tenure, Cinecraft specialized in commercial productions for business, industry, trade organizations, and, in some cases, government agencies and social service organizations. Cinecraft was one among hundreds of production houses in the U.S. during the middle decades of the twentieth century that specialized in a motion pictures commonly referred to as non-theatrical, industrial, commercial, business and/or sponsored films. The collection consists of films produced or acquired by Cinecraft, Inc., scripts prepared for film productions, and administrative documents related to the daily functions of the company. The collection is divided into three series: Films; Scripts and project documentation; and Administrative records. The materials date from 1923 to the 1980s.
- Cinecraft, Inc (Organization)
800 Linear Feet
72 reels : sd., col. ; 16mm. 59 reels : sd., b&w ; 16mm. 17 reels : si., b&w ; 16mm. 46 reels : si., col. ; 16mm. 18 reels : col.; 16mm internegative. 39 reels : b&w ; 16mm internegative. 56 reels : sd. ; 16mm Optical track. 2 reels : sd. ; 16mm Magnetic track. 992 scripts. 945 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 2309 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 789 transparencies : color ; 4 x 5 in. 130 letters. 16 proposals. 154 packing slips. 38 packing lists. 1158 invoices. 34 brochures. Approximately 4635 items.
Cinecraft, Inc. is a corporate film and video production house. The company was founded in 1939 by Ray Culley (1904-1983) and Betty Culley (1914-2016) in Cleveland, Ohio. Ray Culley served as president of the company until his retirement in 1970. During his tenure, Cinecraft specialized in commercial productions for business, industry, trade organizations, and, in some cases, government agencies and social service organizations. In addition to producing industrial films and television commercials, Cinecraft made slide films for clients and audio only programs for radio. In some cases, they managed the sales of film prints for clients and, on a small scale, sold stock footage.
Cinecraft's founder, Ray Culley, started career in film as an actor in Hollywood with bit parts in movies before moving behind the camera as a production manager and assistant director mainly for Allied Pictures, Liberty Pictures, and Republic Films. Culley's transition to industrial/sponsored filmmaking came in 1937 when he was hired as assistant director on a General Electric film titled, "From Now On" produced by Tri-State Productions in Cleveland. This work influenced him to move back to Ohio where he was hired as the director on another commercial film, "The World's Largest Electrical Workshop" for the General Electric Lighting Division in Cleveland.
Company co-founder Betty (Buehner) Culley was born in 1914 in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1923. She was employed as a film editor with Tri-State Productions in Cleveland, Ohio when she met Ray. She later worked as an editor for a film lab in New York where she gained experience working with 16mm sound film, a relatively new format at the time.
Cinecraft started its production studio in 1939 in a rental space in the Card Building in Downtown Cleveland. The early years of Cinecraft brought work from many local businesses and national businesses with satellite offices and/or operations in Ohio. After less than ten years of operation, Cinecraft moved its operation to the Cleveland Chamber of Industries Building at 2515 Franklin Ave in Cleveland. They renovated the building's atrium into a soundstage which allowed them to design and build custom sets for a variety of productions. Cinecraft continues to operate out of the same facility purchased by Ray Culley in 1947.
In 1970, Ray Culley sold the business to his younger brother Paul Culley (1924-2016) and his wife Christine (Hofstetter) Culley (1921-2016), who ran the business until 1985 when they sold it to its current owners Neil McCormick and Maria Keckan. Cinecraft began to transition from film to video in the 1970s, finalizing their work on film in the early 1980s. In the 1990s they began to transition to digital technology.
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of films produced or acquired by Cinecraft, Inc., scripts prepared for film productions, and administrative documents related to the daily functions of the company. The collection is divided into three series: Films; Scripts and project documentation; and Administrative records. The materials date from 1923 to the 1980s.
The Films series contains hundreds of 16mm and 35mm films, either produced or acquired by Cinecraft, Inc., dating from 1923 to 1982. The majority of the films were produced between 1950 and 1980. They are primarily sponsored works that promote businesses, advertise individual products, and advocate for industrial organizations. Industries represented include steel, railroad, oil, telecommunications, electric power, and food and beverage. Also included in the series are educational films on topics concerning politics, economics, and history, training films for sales personnel and railroad yard employees, public service announcements, and political campaign advertisements.
Many of the features in the Films series were not produced by Cinecraft but were acquired from other production companies for research purposes or were provided by Cinecraft’s clients. Several were produced by General Pictures Corporation, a studio purchased by Cinecraft in the early 1970s. Films that were not produced by Cinecraft have the production company listed in the item-level scope and content note.
The Films series is arranged alphabetically by sponsoring client, and projects created by the same client are arranged chronologically. The processing of this series is ongoing, and the finding aid will be updated regularly as more films are added.
The Scripts and project documentation series is comprised of scripts, proposals, correspondence, photographs, and other documentation related to commercial film productions by Cinecraft, Inc. from 1939 to 1981 with a majority of the content from 1942 to 1959. The dates provided in this series are the recording dates of each film production.
Film scripts comprise the majority of the series’ content, however, many project files also contain handwritten notes, contracts, packing lists, and brochures. A small number of files contain various documentation for projects that were never completed, such as proposals, scene outlines, and plot synopses. The projects primarily function to advertise products for companies local to the Greater Cleveland, Ohio metropolitan area. Many scripts are also written for clients beyond Cleveland, Ohio, including Pennzoil Company, Seiberling Rubber Company, and the General Electric Company. The Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the Ohio Bell Telephone Company, and Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO) are among the most represented clients in the collection.
Each Cinecraft project has a title, a client, an advertising agency, and a project code. Project codes are identifiers used by Cinecraft to denote the type of production and the order it was produced. Project codes are written in the form X-###. The letter prefix indicates the type of production (for example, “K” corresponds to television commercial films), and the production number indicates the order it was produced. The content is filed by project and the series is arranged alphabetically by client name. Projects created for the same client are arranged chronologically.
The series includes financial, inventorial, and contractual documentation from 1940 to 1963 for the Cinecraft, Inc. company in Cleveland, Ohio. Invoices for hired models, musicians, and actors comprise a majority of the content, but the series also includes payroll spreadsheets, bank deposit statements, and company inventories. Additionally, included are pages from Cinecraft’s project log, called a “Black Book,” which breaks down the company’s supply costs by project. The series is arranged into five subseries each chronological.
Existence and Location of Copies
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Language of Materials
- Cinecraft, Inc (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Cinecraft, Inc. films
- Annabel Pinkney and Ona Coughlan
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description:
- The acquisition and processing of this collection were made possible by the generous support of the Culley family.