John Shearman was an active young member of the wartime documentary movement while working at the RAF’s film unit. Post-war, he enjoyed long stays in two key organisations. At omnipresent production consultancy Film Centre, he was a significant behind-scenes influence on the advance of oil filmmaking, particularly Shell’s. On the home front, he became trusted right-hand man to British Rail Films supremo Edgar Anstey. Shearman’s many productions included the sequence of films documenting the 1960s construction of London Underground’s Victoria Line.
BEHP 0023 John Shearman – biography and career.
Born Wistaston, Nantwich, Cheshire, 24th December 1912. Son of John Shearman (1886-1966) and Ludmilla Isabelle Shearman (nee Davy) (1881-1968).
Educated at the Hall, Hampstead, and Westminster School, London. Married 1st October 1938: Betty (Liz) Bradley (1909-1966) a daughter of Robert Noel and Gwen Bradley of Chester. One daughter, Sarah Frances Elizabeth, born July 2nd 1944.
After a general railway apprenticeship, joined the advertising and publicity department of The London, Midland and Scottish Railway where he was mainly employed on writing, directing and editing documentary, staff information and training films.
Served during World War Two in the Royal Air Force as a fitter in Bomber Command and afterwards in the RAF Film and Photographic Units in Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy Jugo-Slavia and Austria. Demobilised in 1945 as Squadron Leader RAF Volunteer Reserve.
Joined the Shell Film Unit as a film director and worked on the series How an Aeroplane Flies and other aeronautical subjects.
At Basic Films wrote, directed and scripted films on Army Radar, Liver Flukes (Venice prize-winner), The Severn Suspension Bridge (River to Cross), and others mainly through the Central Office of Information.
Joined British Transport films under Edgar Anstey at its inception and looked after all training films in the early years of the Unit’s work, and was also responsible for some public information films and (in part) for the beginnings of the R.T.F Visual Aids Department. Directed Train Time (B.T.F.1951).
In 1952 was seconded from Film Centre Limited to the Iraq Petroleum Company, and with British and Canadian colleagues set up a film production unit in Baghdad which in six years made some forty films for public information and for technical training in the Arab world. This unit also trained some twelve Iraqi film technicians to an internationally acceptable standard.
From 1953 – 1961 was film advisor to the Iranian Oil Operating Companies in Tehran.
Then worked for Film Centre in London on such films as Shell Centre, London; Usutu, and All in a Lifetime for associated Electrical Industries Ltd.
Rejoined British Transport Films as a producer in 1963, where he was responsible for most of the technical training film production programme, including s series of some thirty films on electric traction skills, and also produced Under The Wire; The Great Highway; Lost, Stolen Damaged; Courtesy; Locomotive Maintenance Control; The Conversion of Hector the Checker; Next Stop Scotland; Prospects of Ireland; Working With Pictures; Solutions; Having a Fresh Look; London Ride; Britannia – a Bridge; Wires Over the Border; and a series of films on the building and operation of the Victoria Line tube railway.
At BTF assisted in some scientific research filming, some exploratory work in the use of film for train driving simulator practice, and in the application of time-lapse cinematography for ergonomic research. Was active in the application of television techniques in industrial information and safety practices. Worked on film records of the (aborted) Channel Tunnel for the Department of the Environment. Produced the first film, E for Experimental of British rail’s Advanced Passenger Train’s development.
Retired from British Transport Films in 1974.
Author of The Land and People of Iran, ( A& C Black 1962) and of sundry articles on the Middle East, Iran and film techniques.
Member of the ACTT; BAFTA; British Industrial and Scientific Film Association; Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society. In 1976 became the Honorary Secretary of the Kipling Society. Also in 1976 became a governor of the London International Film School. 1979: Member of the Cinema & Television Veterans.