Amber worked extensively within the Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians in the development of the Workshop Movement. In the interview with Bessie Bond, Murray Martin talks about the project being an education for Amber and the workshops as well as contributing to the history of the union. The interviews engage extensively with the British Documentary Movement. The ACTT’s Workshop Agreement enabled the independent filmmaking groups to unionise, pay an egalitarian wage and to work across the different craft skill ‘grades’. Without this, the workshops would not have been able to access the broadcast media and notably Channel 4. ACTT became BECTU, which in 2017 merges with Prospect.
0.00 Murray Martin/ Ralph Bond Senior members of ACTT. History of union. people’s experience of trade unionism.
0.50 Product of the 1930s. Not a romantic period. Terrifying period for working people. 2-3 million unemployed. Camden Town Labour exchange. Organised Unemployed. Interested in cinema. Local cinema. 2-3 feature films. Soviet Union films with English subtitles. Elitist organisation – London Film Society. Started company Atlas Films. Germany, workers film movement, Welt Films – access and export Soviet Films. Workers Film Society formed in dozen provincial towns. Atlas films – Import and distribute films. Success in London. Turksib (1929) about new railway between Turkistan and Siberia. Director of film travelled over too (Viktor Alexandrovitsh Turin). Not happy with Eng subtitles. John Grierson worked with Viktor Turin on new set of subtitles. Membership – 1200. 2 shows one Sunday in every month. Own orchestra to accompany films. Produce own films. Newsreels. Contrary to bourgeois newsreel – workers newsreels. Hunger marches. Cine-cameras. Shooting Hunger Marches through towns and sent film down to London to edit. Two films survive at the British Film Institute. Some destroyed in the Blitz.
6.20 Censorship. Russian films turned down by censor. London County Council. LCC, Film Society’s can show films not yet sent to the censors. Sound Films. Soviet Union late to sound film production. First Soviet Sound film, The Blue Express (1929). On Disc. The Academy Cinema. Other Russian Films in commercial cinemas. John Grierson join documentary unit. Empire Marketing Board/General Post Office. General Assistant/ Production/Studio Manager. Write/Director. Documentary movement spread. Realist film units – Strand. 16mm. Allowed to show in any hall. Without license. 16mm non-flammable. Kino Films – all films on 16mm. Trade Union Halls, Clubs. Anywhere with a projector. Voice of Britain. Editing sections. Collective. 1933 joined. Trade Union absence. Roy Stocks. ACT. Organising film technicians. George Elvin. Blackheath studios. Transport and General Workers Union. 100% membership. Private Documentary Film Units – Realist Film Unit.
13.40 Murray Martin. Kino. Film and Photo League.
14.00 Kino. Magazine published. Workers Film and Photo League. Worked together and apart. Back garden.
14.50 Murray Martin. Battleship Potemkin shown with Grierson’s Drifters (1929).
15.15 Strand, Tivoli Cinema. Drifters/Potemkin double bill. Drifters. Critics. New filmmaking. Drifters success – develop EMB film unit.
16.50 Murray Martin. 1930s unromantic period. Turmoil.
17.20 Unemployed. Sign on every day. Genuinely seeking work. Cut off dole money. Left wing leadership. Unemployed get together. Nationwide demands – dole money. Outside Labour Exchange. Right to appeal if dole money cancelled. Camden Town. National Unemployed Workers branch. Appointed Ralph as spokesman. Occupy managers office. Hunger Marches. Hyde Park. Trafalgar Square. Soup Kitchens. War. Ammunition Factories.
20.25 Murray Martin. Russia. Communist Party.
20.35 Communist Party in Britain formed in 1920. Merger of existing left wing groups. Trade Unions. Unemployed. Member of Parliaments. Shapurji Saklatvala. Post war period – Willie Gallagher. Philip Piratin. East London. Labour Party split. Ramsey MacDonald. Jimmy Thomas. Labour movement.
22.35 Murray Martin. Documentary Film Movement. Polticised.
22.42 Grierson. New concept for film. National culture. Bourgeois character of cinema. Representation of working class. comedic. importance, dignity and skills of working people. Flaherty. Nanook of the North (1922). Industrial Britain (1931). Camera. factory. instinct feeling of workers movement. workers value to society. skills. dignity of labour. social content. John Taylor Housing Problems (1935) slums. local authorities. Edgar Anstey. Enough to Eat? (1936)
26.58 Enough to Eat? (1936) diets. Professor Julian Huxley. London Zoo. Prison. Basil Wright Children at School (1937) Social Protest. London Cooperative Society three documentaries. history and cultural activities, choirs. drama groups. Great May Day march in London. Trade Union films. Amalgamated Engineers Union. 12 copies. circulation for five years. recruitment. new members. Transport and General Workers Union film. Other Unions interested in films. Backwards. Victorian Age. Public Relations. Video Tape for Educational schools.
29.50 Murray Martin, innovative quality – documentary movement in form, and bringing in other filmmakers. Flaherty. France. Cavalcanti. Brazil.
30.20 Yoris Ivens. Holland. Cavalcanti taught sound at GPO. Conference. Brussels. UK Documentary Movement. Pride in contribution to cinema.
31.30 British Film Culture. Government funded. Benefit of Post Office. Aspects of communications. Harry Watt North Sea (1938) Information film. Ship to shore communication. GPO films shown in cinemas and non-theatrically. Evelyn Spice. Cable Ship (1933). Communication cable between UK and US. Technically and aesthetically interesting.
33.50 Murray Martin. Cavalcanti. Granton Trawler (1934).
34.00 Grierson shot the film. Edgar Anstey edited. Drifters (1929). Grierson. Inspiration. Dynamic man. Worshipped him.
34.25 Murray Martin. Difficult to marry with Grierson movement. Unemployment. Opposition to the government. Worker level. Documentary Movement for that Government.
34.48 Documentary Movement at Blackheath. Left wing. No films hostile to the government. Treasury. Jobs. Other film units formed Realist Films and Strand. More freedom on social matters. Grierson. Night Mail (1936). Benjamin Britten. W H Auden. Bill Coldstream – painter.
36.25 Murray Martin. Ivor Montagu.
36.25 Ivor Montagu. Progressive Films. Overtly political propaganda films. Free Thalman German Communist Party. Hitler. Spanish Civil War. Pro-Republicans. Ivor Montagu. Arthur Graham – ACT member number one. Sidney Cole. Spain. Defence of Madrid (1936). raise funds for Medical aid.
38.14 Murray Martin. Paul Rotha. Grierson philosophy.
38.25 Admire each other. Rotha and Grierson. Temperaments. Methods. Rotha set up own company. Paul Rotha Productions. Compilation films
39.33 Murray Martin. Conflicts. Humphrey Jennings. John Grierson.
39.40 Greatly admired Jennings work. Poet of documentary movement. Realist films in War. Fires Were Started (1943) (Crown Films Unit) Individualist. Talented. Creative Artist.
40.30 Murray Martin. Documentary Movement. Experience with 1930s, vibrant, socially committed movement, mass unemployment, parallels?
40.52 Parallels. unemployment. welfare state. Beveridge report. Worse off now than 1930s. Film ACTT films, People’s March for Jobs (1981), as producer. Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, into London.
42.45 Murray Martin. Current Workshop Movement.
42.48 Fine development. Initiated by ACTT. Workshop Groups. Community Organisation. Making films, development of Video. Service to the people, help to make videos.
43.45 Murray Martin. Was that approach part of the 1930s movement.
43.50 Film Societies. Showing the films. Not production. Not similar to todays Workshop Movement.
44.22 Murray Martin. No one postulating?
44.22 Nearest thing. Grierson creating non-theatrical audiences throughout the country.
45.00 Murray Martin. Inadequate Cinema Exhibition. Drove him away.
45.30 Canada. Grierson. Stuart Legg. Canadian National Film Board. India. Australia.
46.00 Murray Martin. Canadian Film Board. Model State investment in cinema film culture. Not in England.
46.22 War. Ministry of Information. Gov film value. Cinemas closed down for a time. Suggestion to Gov. Film technicians exempt from armed services. Union. Realise upmost value to the war effort. Exempt from armed services. worked Ministry of Information. Pinewood Studios. Army Navy Air Force film units. GPO – Crown Films. Post-War closed down on issues of Economy.
48.25 Labour Gov post-war. Socialist. Not supporting that system. Why?
48.40 Bottom of agenda. Film Industry. More about television rather than an indigenous British Film Industry. Drop in attendances. New Films Act, destroy basis of film industry. Tories and Labour both to blame.
49.45 1930s generation. Grierson. Bond, Collectivity organise themselves to prevent gov decision.
50.00 Doc people united. But not united enough.
50.20 Grierson. Canada. Australia.
50.35 Coming of TV
50.45 TV. ACTT. Public Service Television. BBC. Worked for the BBC. Union opposed the introduction of commercial TV. Private profit against.
52.03 Murray Martin. As filmmakers. TV given over to generously to journalists. Snobbery of Filmmakers. TV dismissed compared to film. Misjudgement of filmmakers. A different tradition if in the hands of filmmakers.
52.59 Paul Rotha. BBC. Socially progressive views. Restriction BBC.
53.35 Murray Martin. Why were in you in favour of it? BBC?
53.36 in favour of public broadcasting. Public TV, not profit motive
54.00 Murray Martin. Political awakening. Politics. Why did you become a Trade Unionist? Parents.
54.30 Trade Unionist before Filmmaker. TU of general municipal workers. Socialist Jack London Books. Thatcherism.
57.10 Murray Martin. Most excitement.
57.30 Vietnam, Hanoi. Conference. Villages. International Solidarity. 1965.
58.45 Democracy. Class. State hostile to interests of working people. Universal Suffrage. Legalise Trade Unions. Democratic rights eroded. Women’s Movement in ACTT.