- 1930 - 2013 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
7 lin. cm textual records
4 reels, 16mm, original print, b&w (1277 ft.)
1 reel 16 mm, print outtakes, b&w (427 ft.)
1 reel 16 mm, reversal film, b&w (115 ft.)
2 reel film compilation, b&w (1451 f t.)
4 reels 16 mm, reversal film, colour (1731 ft.)
4 video recordings
4 digital Betacam cassettes (123 mins.)
5 audio recordings
3 rolls ¼ in. open reel (ca. 30 mins.)
48 glass negatives (b&w)
67 35 mm negatives (60 colour, 7 b&w negatives)
6 35 mm panoramic negatives
25 prints (22 colour, 3 b&w)
2 contact sheets (colour)
Books (3 titles)
Name of creator
Fritz Spiess is best known for his work as a cinematographer and television commercial director. Born into a family of photographers in Germany in 1925, Spiess received his own box camera at the age of 6. He apprenticed for his father, Karl, prior to WWII and later studied with renowned photographer Tita Binz in Heidelberg. After earning a Master’s in Photography from the Munich Photo School in 1949, Spiess ran his own studio specializing in portrait and industrial photography. He and his wife, Gunild, emigrated to Canada in 1951, and went on to have two daughters and one son.
The family settled in Toronto, and Spiess began working for Panda Photography. His photos appeared in such major publications as Life and Mayfair, but in 1956 he was given an opportunity to shoot a film about children with cerebral palsy; his work garnered positive attention, and he was offered a job as a cameraman. During his long career, Spiess worked with five production companies: S.W. Caldwell Ltd. (1954 – 1958); Robert Lawrence Productions Ltd. (1958 – 1967); TDF Film Productions Ltd. (1967 – 1976), Schulz Productions (1976 to 1987) and Rawi-Sherman Films Inc. (1987 – 1991).
Spiess recognized the need for an organization to promote and foster Canadian cinematographers and their craft, and he became a charter member and early President of the Canadian Society of Cinematographers (CSC), providing its membership with technical information and professional expertise. Over his career, Spiess was instrumental in assisting younger people in the business through his affiliations with the CSC, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 644, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). Spiess also taught courses and gave lectures at Ryerson Polytechnic University and Sheridan College.
Spiess shot over 3,000 commercials for more than 300 advertisers, and he earned a number of national and international awards. The Canadian commercial film industry recognized his achievements with the Fritz Spiess Award in 1979, and Spiess was the only cinematographer to receive all three of the CSC’s non-competitive awards (the Fuji award, the Kodak New Century award, and the Bill Hilson award). He also won international awards at Cannes and Venice. Spiess’ artistry and generosity earned him the nickname “the dean of Canadian cinematography”.
Fritz Spiess died in Toronto in 1998.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
This fonds is divided into 5 series, divided by format. These are: Cinefilm, Video Materials, Audio Materials, Photographic Materials, Textual Records.
The first series, Cinefilm, contains original prints in both b&w and colour. It includes home movies, newsreels, as well as Spiess’s debut film Die Thomaner.
The second series, Video Materials, contains Digital Betacam cassettes. These include transfers of commercials, home movies, and Die Thomaner.
The third series, Audio Materials, includes soundtrack elements and radio commercials.
The fourth series, Photographic Materials includes behind the scenes photos of commercial shoots, family portraits, and glass negatives by Spiess’s father, Karl.
The fifth series, Textual Materials, includes papers relating to the formation of the first accrual of the Fritz Spiess archive. It also includes several periodicals that featured work by Spiess and technical literature about technologies of the day.
This fonds includes textual, photographic, graphic material relating to a number of productions/entities/products, including:
• The Canadian Society of Cinemathographers 1957- 2007 (2007)
• Upside Down: Les Artiques (2008)
• Upside Down: Les Artiques (2011)
• Eskimo Art Film
• Fritz Spiess fonds
• “Jamaican Pumpkin”
• Karl Spiess
This fonds includes audio-visual material relating to a number of productions/entities/commercial products, including:
• Spiess Family German home movies (1930 – 1941)
• Die Thomaner (1941)
• Spiess Family Canadian home movies (1950s)
• Canada 100 Centennial Film
• Carling Black Label
• Eskimo Art Film
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
Rules and/or conventions used