Fonds PR3736 - Tom Radford fonds

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Tom Radford fonds

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  • Multiple media

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PAA PR3736

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • [193-?], 1969-2014 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

3.28 m of textual records and other materials.
Includes 424 photographs. – 172 videocassettes [131 hrs., 20 min.]. – 57 optical discs.

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Tom Radford is an Edmonton-based film director, writer, and producer who was born in Edmonton on 12 March 1946. He is the grandson of Arthur Balmer Watt, the editor of the Edmonton Journal when the newspaper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for its opposition to the Social Credit government’s Accurate News and Information Act in 1938, and journalist/writer Gertrude Balmer Watt.

Over the course of his career, Radford has made dozens of documentaries with specific focus on Canada’s indigenous peoples, the settlement of the Canadian west, the environment, progressive politics, and science.

Radford was a student of Canadian history at the University of Alberta when he began making films. He stopped his graduate studies to focus on his film career, founding Film Frontiers, Ltd. in 1970 to produce documentaries for the Metropolitan Edmonton Educational Authority. In 1971, Radford co-founded Filmwest Associates, Ltd. with fellow filmmakers Anne Wheeler and Robert Reese, which was the first independent documentary production company in the prairie provinces.

In 1980, Radford left Filmwest Associates to found the Northwest Studio of the National Film Board of Canada in Edmonton. He acted as Executive Producer of the Northwest Studio and oversaw production of the early films of several filmmakers who would go on to successful careers, including Anne Wheeler, Gil Cardinal, and Barbara Evans. Radford also served as National Director of the National Screen Institute and its regional training program Dramalab.

Radford left his position at the Northwest Studio in 1985 to co-found Great North Communications with Andy Thomson. For the next 15 years, Great North was a major producer of documentaries and Radford was active in every stage of film production. In 1990, Radford co-founded Great Plains Productions with Gil Cardinal and several other partners. Great Plains Productions was a film production company devoted to developing an Aboriginal film industry and making films from a specifically Aboriginal perspective.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Radford continued to direct and produce documentary films with a wide assortment of partners including White Pine Pictures, History Television, and the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). In 2008, Radford co-founded Clearwater Documentary with anthropologist Niobe Thompson. Clearwater Documentary has produced several award-winning documentaries and has partnered with broadcasters around the world, including NHK (Japan), PBS (United States), and Al Jezeera.

Over the course of his career, Radford has been the recipient of several awards including the Billington Award for lifetime contribution to the Alberta film industry, the Alberta Award of Excellence, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Gemini Award for Best Science and Adventure Documentary for Clearwater Documentary’s <i>Codebreakers</i>. Tom Radford is also an eight-time winner of Best Director at the Alberta Film Awards.

In addition to his film career, Radford has also had his photography exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada and has authored three books, including <i>Alberta, A Celebration</i>.

Custodial history

Tom Radford maintained the records as an independent filmmaker or as a director of a production company and donated the records to the Provincial Archives in 2014.

Scope and content

This material consists of textual and audiovisual records created over the course of Radford’s career, including material created under the Filmwest Associates, Great North Productions, Great Plains Productions, White Pine Pictures, and Clearwater Documentary labels.

    The material includes records related to completed projects such as Inuit Odyssey, Tar Sands, A Scattering of Seeds, The Power of Dreams, The End of Evolution, Ernest Brown: Pioneer Photographer (including audio reels of interviews with early Edmonton photographer Gladys Reeves), Hockey Night in Harlem, Ma Vlast, The Honour of the Crown, Arctic Dreamer, Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies, The Great Divide, Road of Bones, Alberta Bound, Codebreakers, Roughing It: A Golfer’s Guide to the Universe, and Tipping Point.  These records include job files, production stills, scripts, camera tapes, and some masters.  There are also numerous records related to incomplete projects, unsolicited script submissions, and administrative records from Great North Communications, Clearwater Documentary, and Great Plains Productions.

Notes area

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Immediate source of acquisition


The fonds is arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Clearwater Documentary
Series 2: Great North Productions
Series 3: Great Plains Productions
Series 4: Freelance Projects
Series 5: Personal Records

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Restrictions on access

Audiovisual records must be duplicated prior to access.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Permission for use required. Subject to the Copyright Act.

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File lists are available.

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Provincial Archives of Alberta

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