Before the NFB

At the beginning of the 20th century the Canadian government began exploiting film for educational and promotional purposes. For example, when the railway was built as a first step towards the political unification of the country, the Canadian Pacific Railway received government support for its series of films called Living Canada, intended to encourage American and British immigration to the Canadian northwest.

In 1917, the Exhibits and Publicity Bureau, which came under the jurisdiction of the Department of Trade and Commerce, used film for the first time. Until 1921, the Bureau expanded considerably and produced films and photographs for several different government departments. To respond to increasing demand for a wider range of services, it was restructured and set up in new headquarters and renamed Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau.

For ten years the Bureau had a solid reputation, and Canada was the country in the British Empire that most successfully used film for information and promotional purposes. But the Depression led to severe budget cuts and Canada neglected its film industry. The Bureau fell far behind in terms of technology and even continued to produce silent films until 1934.