Fonds HAR - Les Harris fonds

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Title proper

Les Harris fonds

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Title notes

  • Variations in title: The archives may also be referred to as the Les Harris Aviation Films in order to distinguish this work from the rest of his oeuvre.

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Reference code

CA ON00420 HAR

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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Physical description area

Physical description

339 video cassettes and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1947-01-04 -)

Biographical history

Leslie Philip Harris, known as Les Harris, born 4 January 1947 in England, began his career as a local reporter for BBC Radio Sheffield in 1967 while still attending Sheffield University. He was accepted as a trainee to BBC TV's Film Editing course in London in 1968. He became an Assistant Film Editor and then a Film Editor at BBCTV before leaving the Corporation in 1972. That year he established Leshar Films for his film editing and directing projects, and also Leshar Film Sales Limited, a film distribution (to television) corporation. At this time he also began work on the documentary Chabot Solo part 1: 1914-1918 on early aviator Charles Chabot. Chabot Solo part 1 and its two sequel documentaries, Chabot Solo part 2: 1918-1939 and Chabot Solo part 3: 1939-1975 were released to television world-wide over a short period between 1974 to 1975 with BBCTV being the lead broadcaster. Part 3 was shot mainly in Newfoundland, and all post-production work was done in Canada. Soon thereafter, Harris founded Canamedia Productions Limited to facilitate his future independent work in Canada. When he immigrated to Toronto in 1976 he had a year’s contract to direct and produce the ‘Country Canada’ programme for the CBC’s Agriculture and Resources Department. CTV’s W5 then hired Harris through Canamedia as a Senior Field Producer where he covered stories on a wide-range of subjects and produced hosts Henry Champ, Jim Reed and Helen Hutchinson. During this time, he produced a segment for W5 on the newly certified Canadian amphibious aircraft, the Trident TriGull. Harris left CTV to produce his documentary Escape from Iran: The Inside Story and then the TV movie Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper. Broadcast as a simulcast in Canada and the USA in 1981, Caper was the first ever prime-time Canadian movie production to be commissioned by an American network (CBS TV). Harris fought to get recognition for Pat Taylor, wife of Ambassador Ken Taylor, and Zena Sheardown, wife of Chief Immigration Officer John Sheardown, for their roles in safely hiding the "houseguests" in Tehran – both were finally awarded the Order of Canada. With a few limited exceptions, Harris has worked exclusively on Canamedia projects, winning such awards as the George Foster Peabody Award for his documentary Threads Of Hope, the Banff TV Festival Rocky award; Gold and Silver medals from the International Film and TV Festival of New York; three Geminis; the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association’s Best Production of the Year; and, was nominated for an International Emmy. For example, Harris produced, directed, edited, narrated and wrote the 1989 documentary, By the Seat of their Pants, on Canadian bush pilots, which also won a Gemini among other awards. In order to help finance the film productions, a distribution division of Canamedia Productions was established to license Canadian TV programs to worldwide TV. The production company led by Harris was also one of the three co-founders of the cable children’s television network, YTV. When regulations changed in 1998, the production and distribution activities of Canamedia were divided in order to form two new companies: Canamedia Film Productions Inc. and Canamedia Inc. During this period, Harris produced and directed the documentary Alien Obsession for Canamedia Film Productions Inc. and produced Faces of a Vanishing World for the US Ovation Network. Both the production and distribution company were sold in 2010 to Access Media, now called Distribution Access, but prior to the sale, Harris re-acquired the copyright of all the films he produced through Canamedia over his career. Although officially retired, Harris continues to work as a filmmaker and is currently just finishing filming a documentary in Costa Rica called The Ultimate Challenge: Survival of the Great Green about saving a parrot species called the Great Green Macaw.

Custodial history

Les Harris stored his archives in his offices and home studios until he donated them to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in 2017. Harris re-acquired copyright over the films he produced for Canamedia when the company was sold to Access Media in 2010.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of raw footage, archival footage, sound recordings, masters, final mixes, other intermediate film versions or elements, research materials, publicity materials and digital copies from three main projects: 1) Chabot Solo – 3 films on early aviator and WWI pilot Charles Chabot, covering his early flights on different aircraft and the development of aviation in general right through to the Concorde; 2) By the Seat of their Pants, a 1989 documentary on Canadian bush pilots; and 3) Trident Trigull – raw footage from a documentary on the amphibious airplane developed in Burnaby, British Columbia, produced for CTV’s W5. Research materials gathered by Harris as he wrote the Chabot Solo films or By the Seat of their Pants include textual records, photographs (including negatives and slides), and home movies. The fonds is arranged by project into three series.

Notes area

Physical condition

All material in the fonds was found to be in good condition at the time of donation.

Immediate source of acquisition


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Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

No restrictions on access. Please make an appointment in advance so that we can check the availability of playback equipment.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

As per the donation agreement, Les Harris retains copyright to all his works donated in this fonds. Ingenium and the Museum are licensed to use the material for all purposes consistent with the Museum’s activities (excluding commercial use, such as, for example, merchandising). We will refer any researcher seeking to reuse Harris’s works to him for permission. Harris also collected archival and other material with third-party copyright as part of his research process. These materials will be made available for private, research purposes, but it will be the researcher’s responsibility to find the rights holders and seek permission for any other use.

Finding aids

File/item-level inventory available upon request. The inventory was created by the donor and then updated by the archivist during processing.

Uploaded finding aid

Associated materials

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General note

Appraisal note: Masters of the final films in the Chabot Solo series and By the Seat of their Pants were kept as the final expression of the projects (digital copies were acquired in order to facilitate access). Any raw footage, sound recordings of interviews and textual material that had substantively unique material not captured in the final films was kept. Archival research footage was kept where there was a risk that it had not been transferred to another archival institution (Willy Lazerich home movies, for example). Lexiconed versions, final mixes, broadcast copies, intermediate production elements and archival footage not at risk of disappearance will be assessed again for disposition in 10 years after the donation.

Physical description

Fonds includes:
240 video cassettes (ca. 87 hours, 54 mins) : Betacam
79 audio reels (ca. 35 hours, 10 mins)
51 video cassettes (ca. 25 hours, 43 mins) : U-matic.
37 video cassettes (ca. 64 hours, 20 mins) : VHS
31 film reels (22 hours, 11 mins; 14,603 m) : 16 mm
2 linear metre of textual records
ca. 450 photographs
10 video cassettes (ca. 33 hours, 39 mins) : SP, Betacam
9 video reels (ca. 6 hours, 37 mins) : 1" Type C.
4 cassettes (ca. 4 hours, 6 m) : 8mm.
2 audio cassettes (ca. 1 hour 48 mins) : DAT, 2 track.
1 video cassette (ca. 6 mins) : VHS-C.
1 flying helmet
1 optical disc (ca. 12 mins)

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created by Adele Torrance, 10-2018. French editing by Céline Mongeau, Larocque Linguistic Services, 10-2018.

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