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Search: Production Documents

Newsreel production documents help us to understand how a newsreel story was made: from the initial idea, through filming to the released cut. They reveal how much of what the cameraman shot actually ended up in the story, what elements were censored in wartime and changes made to the commentary in production.

These are the types of documents you'll find online, together with a brief definition and downloadable example.


Assignment Sheets

Occasionally the news editor would give the cameraman a detailed description of what to film. They indicate how pre-planned the news could be, but they are comparatively rare among British newsreels.  

dope sheet example

Dope Sheets

Every cameraman had to fill out a form, or dope sheet, recording everything that he had filmed, usually describing it shot by shot. They would often add their own comments, revealing the day to day difficulties of filming the news and views on what they were shooting. In this sense they are eye witnesses of history.  

Shot Lists

These are shot-by-shot descriptions of the individual news story, with footage lengths for each shot, produced by the Editorial Department.  

Commentary Scripts

The commentator's script, often with hand-written additions and deletions. Commentaries are vital in the assessment of how each newsreel company interpreted its material. This in turn will help us decide the degree to which they informed or moulded opinion, obscured or misled or propagandised.  

Souvenir Programmes and Ephemera

Cameramen would often pick up an assortment of publications to provide supporting information to the news story: newspaper clippings, sports programmes, exhibition programmes, promotional leaflets are just a few examples. These might inform how the cameraman filmed the story and would later help the editorial department identify names and places. A selection of specially cleared souvenir programmes can be found through the Souvenir Programme Map.


Issue Sheets (not published online)

Most of the metadata in the News on Screen database has been inputted from issue sheets, which recorded the details of each bi-weekly newsreel release. They listed the release date, overall issue number and each story title, often with a short synopsis. Some newsreel companies also included individual library numbers for stories, their length in feet of 35mm film, and the names of the cameramen.