Locating and documenting film footage about Nova Scotia and charting the province's film history are daunting tasks. A survey of the secondary literature on the subject reveals that little has been written about the history of cinema in Canada and even less about film-making in Nova Scotia. Moreover, archival film footage about Nova Scotia is not conveniently held in one repository, but is scattered throughout the province and country in government, corporate and private collections.1 In 1984 cinema-owner and film aficionado Gordon Parsons began the process of collecting information about Nova Scotia's film heritage and recording the vital statistics of actual film footage about the province's people, places and events. He compared this activity to "piecing together a life from very small fragments" (MacDonald, p. 21).
Over the course of nearly a decade, Parsons worked on the Nova Scotia Filmography Project in conjunction with the Motion Picture Heritage Fund of Nova Scotia (of which he was a board member) and the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, researching the history of film and compiling an extensive database of film footage. His wide-ranging investigations reflected his vision to do more than present a catalogue of films, but rather to "tell the story" of Nova Scotia films, film-makers, actors, theatres, distribution circuits, censorship, and audiences.
With cinematic irony, a series of unforseen events intervened in the "piecing together" process. In 1991 a fire destroyed the Atlantic Region National Film Board building in Halifax, N.S., and with it most of Parsons' research. This significant loss was followed in June 1993 by the unexpected and premature death of Parsons himself, at the age of 42. These events complicated an already complicated task. As the driving force behind the project, Parsons was the repository of a vast accumulated knowledge, acquired through years of exhaustive research. This synthesized knowledge was lost forever.
Fortunately, the filmography records themselves were not lost, along with a few of Parsons' files and notebooks. Work continued on the preparation of the filmography, Eastern Eye, the principal document retaining the scope and content achieved by Parsons' extensive investigations. The film history component, however, has been scaled down to a brief outline, highlighting organizations, people and events comprising this colourful chapter of Nova Scotia's past, a past which is added to daily by present-day film-makers. A more comprehensive history of cinema and film-making in Nova Scotia is needed, but this project must be left for future researchers to piece together, aided by the substantial filmography which Parsons helped to compile.
Eastern Eye is a bibliography of film, video and selected television production, which evidence suggests was created by, for or about Nova Scotians from 1899 to 1973. Intended as a primary research tool, Eastern Eye, brings together for the first time the broad spectrum of film and video production in Nova Scotia. Through the use of archival description, Nova Scotia's moving images have been made more intellectually available to researchers. This availability, combined with growing use of actual archival footage, makes film and video legitimate tools in the development of a comprehensive historiography of Nova Scotia. It is hoped that this filmography will act as a catalyst for further exploration of the province's film history and inspire the repatriation of its archival film heritage.
1. Pioneer cinema technology also makes the task of finding footage problematic as nitrate and other early film techniques were highly unstable, deteriorating quickly (shrinking, warping, disintegrating, etc.). Film requires large storage facilities and continuous maintenance. As a result, corporate and government film-makers would often simply discard or destroy old film which no longer had any current relevance.