James Freer: Personal Life, Career, History (Biography)

James Freer was a Canadian producer and movie director. He was an outgoing, sociable man, gifted public speaker. He is said to have pioneered the use of the new medium to upgrade the Canadian prairies.

Early Life

Freer was born on January 4, 1855, in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England UK, to parents Mary Wells Simmons and Reverend John Freer. He grew up with seven brothers and two sisters. Initially, he worked in different areas of Southern England being a newspaperman.

As he didn’t get good pay, he wanted to work in various place. Later he found opportunities in Western Canada. So left his job at the South Devon Advertiser and Torquay Times. He moved with his family and settled on a farm in Brandon Hills. There, they usually grew wheat and oats.

In 1897, Freer bought a camera and an Edison film projector. With this, he started recording activities around his farm and released it, which made him 1st Canadian to film movies in this country. He made short films which lasted for two minutes with only in-camera editing. He shot videos of every local and everyday activity.

Freer loved to indulge things of farms and trains, so he made films relevant to it such as Typical stacking scene; Six binders at work in the 100-acre wheat field;  Harnessing the virgin prairie; Cyclone thresher at work;  and Harvesting scene where we can see the trains moving.

One of his movie, Premier Greenway stoking grain cast provincial politician Thomas Greenway. He filmed Winnipeg fire boys on the warpath in the different country. Movies Arrival of C.P.R. and Pacific and Atlantic mail trains express at Winnipeg seems to show that from the outset he had more than just a reporter’s chronicling in mind. He returned to his birthplace to produce more of the short films. He produced magic-lantern slides titled “Ten years in Manitoba.” For six months, he stayed in his hometown and did a lot of studies, visited his old haunts and London and Reading.

Freer also had made some movies out of it.From his prior experience, he detailed his first-hand experience “the value of agricultural pursuits in Canada.”

He told the people about the opportunities which are available to the individual who did not have any previous experience in those areas. He came back from the tour with footage which was shot in England and from some part of his journeys to and from that country. Freed used it as a supplement of his shows in Manitoba. In the show, he provided views of his old country devoting to the homesick residents of the province.

The short movies which he released were Canadian contingent at the Jubilee and Changing guards at St. James’s Palace as exhibited at Windsor Castle. Freed’s 1st movie tour was a successful one, so in 1902 he went on the second tour of Freer’s films. His second trip was sponsored by Canadian Minister of the Interior, Sir Clifford Sifton.

He was eager to know more of the immigration people to the Canadian west mainly those from English speaking countries. Hence, his second trip was not as successful as his first one because of his recruiting device. People had heard that he had downplayed Manitoba’s mosquito problem and cold winters. He also made movies of those local ceremonies, organizations likely Winnipeg Fire Boys on the Warpath and the Canadian Continental Jubilee.

His popular short movie was The Changing Guards at St. James Palace. Soon after, he went on his third tour. After winding up his third one, he continued to make more films, but he was exhausted of farming.

Around 1910, he relocated to Elkhorn, Man. He left his lands in the hands of his senior son Joseph then moved with his wife to Winnipeg. In 1916, after shifting to the new place he went on the fourth trip to England. He wanted to try out something different so, in this one, he used no movies or still images, he worked as an agricultural reporter and joined Sifton’s Manitoba Free Press Winnipeg.

His recognition and familiar talking with the people and places of Western Manitoba made him a valuable gem to the paper. With those skills of the reporter, this had served him well in his film’s productions. He died in 1933.

Personal Information:

Freed didn’t have any affairs. He was married to Emily Jenkins in Luton, Bedfordshire in February 1878. They were happy together and had about eight children – Spencer, Oswald, Fred, Joseph and Mrs. H.F. Drake, John, and Leonard.

Net worth: N/A


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