Records of The Observer Film Company

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Contains records relating to the administrative running and establishment of the company, legal agreements with UK television companies, proposals for potential productions and publicity and research material relating to individual productions. Also includes copies of broadcast productions of the Observer Film Company.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Observer Film Company was established in October 1988, primarily as a result of negotiations between television producer Kimi Zabihyan, freelance journalist Andrew Drummond and The Observer's then-editor Donald Trelford for the establishment of an independent factual film production company with financial backing from the Observer.

The first documentary to be produced by the company, 'Lord of the Golden Triangle', an expose on the Burmese drug baron Khun Sa, was broadcast on ITV on the 12th July 1989. This was co-produced between Drummond and Zabihyan, who had previously been a producer at Picture Partnership Productions. Zabihyan produced most of the company's productions.

The company continued to produce programmes for all the major UK television companies, including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, until 1995. Over 30 productions were made in the first four years of the company's existence, covering UK domestic issues and many of the main issues of interest in international journalism from the time. These included various productions on the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, investigations in China and El Salvador, various productions on the Soviet Union (including an interview with Andrei Gromyko, conducted just a few months before his death), gang culture in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica and an investigation into the testing of chemical and biological weapons by the Ministry of Defence on unsuspecting British soldiers.

The company became part of Guardian Newspapers Ltd when the Observer was acquired by Guardian Media Group in 1993, continuing to operate under the same name. The Observer Film Company was wound-up in December 1995.

Arrangement

These records are divided between papers relating to the management of Observer Film Company; and papers and audio visual material relating to the programmes produced.

Conditions Governing Access

Open (part). Some files are subject to access restrictions in line with the Data Protection Act and confidentiality.

Records may be viewed in our reading room by appointment only, see our website for more information.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from The Observer in 2004. A number of videos were also transferred from the Guardian Human Resources Department in 2005.

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue description for this collection can be found on the GNM Archive catalogue.