Cinecraft Productions was founded in 1939 by Ray Culley (1904-1983) and Betty (Buehner) Culley (1914-2016) in Cleveland, Ohio. Ray Culley served as president of the company and producer on many Cinecraft films 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 20th century that specialized in motion pictures commonly referred to as non-theatrical, industrial, business and/or sponsored films. While ownership has changed twice since its founding, Cinecraft is still in business and rightfully claims itself the “country's longest-standing corporate film & video production house.”
In this two-part interview, Paul Culley and Bob Haviland discuss their experiences at Cinecraft Production in Cleveland Ohio. Culley, the company's former owner, and Haviland, the former executive producer, discuss the company's start and its founder Ray Culley. (Ray Culley sold the company to his brother Paul in 1970). They discuss Ray Culley's time working in Hollywood and how he returned to Cleveland to found Cinecraft. Included in this part of the interview are recollections of Tri-State Pictures, an industrial film company in Cleveland.
Bob Haviland recounts how he started as an industrial photographer and how he became involved in motion picture film making. His early career included work producing slide films for industrial training and education. The company he worked for bought Tri-State, and that is how he met Ray Culley and eventually starting work at Cinecraft sometime around 1950.
Paul Culley describes his start at Cinecraft working for his brother after returning from serving in the Second World War. Paul worked in the sound department, and he talks about the technical challenges of producing sound for motion picture films with a limited budget on 16mm film stock.
The interview then steers towards specific film projects, including The Spoilers (Supermarket Institute), Milestones of Motoring (Standard Oil of Ohio), The Ohio Story (Ohio Bell Telephone), Long Ships Passing (The Lake Carriers Association), Magnificat (Sisters of the Humility of Mary), and Where's Joe (steel industry). They also talk in detail about working with and producing TV commercials for Papa Barnard, the founder of Vita-Mix.
During discussions about specific jobs, Bob and Paul talk about the technical and logistical challenges of shooting and producing films. They also touch on some business aspects of industrial film productions, including hiring professional actors to appear on film. Among the Hollywood actors mentioned are Merv Griffin, Joe E. Brown, Reed Hadley, and Otto Kruger.
About three-quarters through the interview, Neil McCormick, the then-current Cinecraft co-owner joins the interview. This part of the discussion focuses primarily on the equipment and technical aspects of filmmaking and its evolution during the company's history. Bob Haviland details a job for U.S. Steel that involved using high-speed film to capture a steel cable's breaking. U.S. Steel used the footage to defend a lawsuit against the company.
Throughout the interview, the participants discuss the positive working conditions at Cinecraft and the professionalism among those who worked there. They also emphasize the creativity needed to produce compelling products for their clients.
The interview was conducted at the Cinecraft Studios on Franklin Blvd in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 17, 1999. Jim Haviland - Bob Haviland's grandson - conducted the interview.