Bernard Wilets
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       wpe1.jpg (8306 bytes)

       Bernard Wilets and Trevor, c. 1995

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View Wilets' Burke & Paine on Revolution, Discovering American Folk Music, his Bill of Rights in Action series, and several other films by going to the filmography below and clicking on the links.

The AFA's Geoff Alexander remembers Bernard Wilets:   Bernard passed away from a heart attack in February, 2007.  He and I would chat several times a year  around the business of academic film, fascinating discussions. Because Bernard was one of the few academic filmmakers who owned the copyright to his material, he utilized multiple distributors selling the same titles, and liked to compare how each distributor was doing against the others.  Among the companies distributing Wilet's films were Barr, BFA, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Film Associates, and Phoenix. When no longer making films, he was keen on keeping them in the public eye, and often asked about royalties and contact people pertaining to the companies still selling his films.  He was a brilliant screenwriter, and used terrific actors, having worked out a gentleman's agreement with SAG to pay actors under scale, for academic films, provided their names were left uncredited.  We hosted Bernard in a 30-year retrospective of his work at a show in San Jose on March 4, 1999, where he fielded questions and discussed his work. 

Just prior to my meeting him in 1995, he'd just tossed his files and photos in the trash, sure that they were worthless, a fact that he and I would bemoan in subsequent discussions.  He was friendly, self-effacing, and always stayed in touch, which is why were dismayed to find his phone number inoperative when we tried to call him in April of 2007.  We finally discovered in January, 2008, that he'd passed away.  We'll miss Bernard, a nice man and a memorable filmmaker.  His films, in particular the 'Man and the State,'  'Bill of Rights in Action,' and 'Discovering Music' series, should eventually give him the recognition he didn't receive in his final days. Wilets appeared on camera in at least one of his films, Hamilton and Jefferson on Democracy. Read Sharon Chaplock's interview with Bernard.


(From the book Academic Films for the Classroom: A History) Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 19 March 1928, Bernard Wilets moved to Long Beach, California at an early age, eventually attending Long Beach State and obtaining a Master’s Degree in English. He began writing plays and composing music (“leaning toward atonality”). In 1964, he made his first of over eighty films, Buses That Serve The Community, for Film Associates.

Wilets, a prolific filmmaker whose subject matter included the Bill of Rights, drama, music, and history, saw perhaps his greatest artistic success in his ‘Man and the State’ series, originally distributed by Bailey (BFA) in the early 1970s. Wilets’ actors, recruited through southern California theatrical contacts, were superb, and some of the finest to appear in educational films of any kind.  Wilets was an exceptional writer and craftsman, whose best work remains as fresh today as it was when originally released.

Filmography (grouped by series)

The following films were all produced and directed by Wilets unless otherwise indicated

Man and the State series

Burke and Paine on Revolution (1973)
Hamilton and Jefferson on Democracy (1982)
Machiavelli on Political Power (1972)
Marx and Rockefeller on Capitalism (1977)
Roosevelt and Hoover on the Economy (1976)
Trial of Socrates, The (1971)

Bill of Rights in Action series

Capital Punishment (1976)
Changing the Law (1968)
De Facto Segregation (1972)
Due Process of Law (1971)
Equal Opportunity (1969)
Equal Opportunity (revised) (1982)
Freedom of the Press (1973)
Freedom of Religion (1969)
Freedom of Speech (1982)
Juvenile Law (1974)
Privilege Against Self-Incrimination, The (1972)
Right to Privacy, The (1970)
Story of a Trial(1976)
Women’s Rights (1974)

Power of the Presidency series

Armed Intervention
Economic Controls

Law and the Citizen series

Contract Law
Landlord-Tenant Law (1978)

Discovering Music series

Children’s Chants and Games (1972)
Discovering American Folk Music (1969)
Discovering American Indian Music (1971)
Discovering Country and Western Music (1976)
Discovering Dynamics in Music (for young learners) (1968)
Discovering Electronic Music (1983)
Discovering Form in Music (1967)
Discovering Jazz (1969)
Discovering Melody and Harmony (1967)
Discovering Mood in Music (for young learners) (1968)
Discovering the Music of Africa (1967)
Discovering the Music of India (1969)
Discovering the Music of Japan (1967)
Discovering the Music of Latin America (1969)
Discovering the Music of the Middle Ages (1968)
Discovering the Music of the Middle East (1968)
Discovering Russian Folk Music (1975)
Discovering the Sound and Movement in Music (1967, a film aimed at teachers of kindergarten-age learners)
Discovering Stringed Instruments (1968)

Films based on short stories

All the Troubles of the World by Isaac Asimov (1978), dir. Dianne Haak
Bear, The by William Faulkner (1980)
Cask of Amontillado The by Edgar Allen Poe
Leader of the People, The by John Steinbeck (1979)
Necklace, The by Guy de Maupassant
Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke (1978)
Veldt, The by Ray Bradbury (1979) dir. Dianne Haak
Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury (1982) dir. Darlene Chaffee

Films based on books for young learners

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1989) dir. Dianne Haak
Alexander Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday (1990) dir. Dianne Haak
Dollhouse Murders, The (1992) dir. Dianne Haak
Fall of Freddie the Leaf, The
Follow My Leader (1988) dir. Dianne Haak
Good-Bye Book, The (1990)
I’ll Fix Anthony (1991) dir. Dianne Haak
Lilith Summer, The (1985) Exceptional story of a young girl and older woman, dir. Dianne Haak
Rip van Winkle by Washington Irving (1982) dir. Bernard Wilets, prod. William O'Donnell
Tenth Good Thing About Barney, The (1987) dir. Dianne Haak
Truck Song (1988)
What Mary Jo Shared (1981) dir. Dianne Haak
What Mary Jo Wanted (1981) dir. Dianne Haak
When the Wind Stops (1986) dir. Dianne Haak

Miscellaneous other films

Buses that Serve the Community (1964), prod. Edward Borcherding
City and Its People, A (1966)
Changing the Law (1968)
Conservation and Our Forests
Conserving Our Natural Resources
Grant and Lee on the Civil War (1984)
Let’s Make a Map (1964)
Let's Visit the Shopping Center (1964)
Living Trees (1986)
Story of a Check, The (1981)
U.S. Elections: How We Vote (1965)
What is Automation? (1965)

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