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Film Archive

The Catalogue

Amber's documentaries and dramas chart a unique engagement with communities in the north east of England. The archive also holds a rich collection of associated work.

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Category: Amber Films: Completed Works.

Tyne Lives

Amber Films 1980

A not-entirely-successful attempt at putting a number of Amber’s projects together in the absence of a budget, the film does include some great footage of the river. It is structured around three people talking to camera about their experiences and commitments, real and fictionalised. Jim Murray, a union activist explains why, in spite of recognised contradictions, he retains his belief in, and support for union strength. Betty Hepple (also appearing in Amber’s films as Amber Styles) is a housewife, describing the dissatisfactions and frustrations of her struggle to get by. Arthur, a retired fish quay worker, talks about his work experiences and indicates his belief in working people’s struggle for a better deal.

Quayside

Amber Films 1979

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Part of Amber’s campaign to preserve the architectural heritage of Newcastle’s Quayside, the aesthetics of the film were determined by a photographic project in which Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and Graham Smith documented the lives and landscapes of a, then, rundown part of the city. The film is a poetic journey along the Quay, the camera exploring its monumental bridges, offices and warehouses, as voices from the past recall the once momentous life of the area.

Laurie

Amber Films 1978

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I've always had that desire to do something big, you know, in a funny kind of way ... I'm a manual worker really. I like working with me hands, and sculpturing is the essence of working with your hands, it's a kind of a manipulation. If I had my time to begin again, I'd be a manual worker again. The opening words of Laurie Wheatley, a South Shields born plasterer, and a self-taught sculptor, painter and photographer, who claimed that the only thing he really knew anything about was music. At the age of seventy he was commissioned by Amber to produce his first ever life-size model, for the River Project.

That's Not Me

Amber Films 1978

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In the late 1970s Live Theatre actor Tim Healey, later finding fame with Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and a number of other screen and stage roles, decided to try his luck as a stand up comedian playing the tough rounds of the North East’s workingmen’s clubs. This film follows his progress through rehearsal periods at home, up to his first performances including an appearance at the ‘comic’s graveyard’, The Neon Club, Jarrow, where he is inevitably paid off.

Glassworks

Amber Films 1977

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One of the series of Amber’s 1970s celebrating work and the working environments of the Tyne and the wider North East, the film is a wordless record of a handmade industrial glass factory in Lemington on Tyneside.

Last Shift

Amber Films 1976

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Adamsez, the well known bathroom ware manufacturers, went out of business in 1975. One of the casualties of the closure was a small self-contained operation housed in an ancient collection of buildings in Swalwell-on-Tyne, which was devoted to the manufacture of hand-made bricks. Here a handful of men produced high quality refractory bricks, via a process which seemed to have been untouched by the industrial revolution.

Bowes Line

Amber Films 1975

Built in the 1820s by George Stephenson, the Bowes Railway linked Kibblesworth Colliery with Jarrow Staithes. The full sets of coal wagons were hauled up the steep hills until they reached Springwell, where they were set free to run down the incline towards the river and the colliers waiting to carry the coal away from the Tyne.

The Case for Rapid Transit

Amber 1974

A commission from Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive, the film was a commercial job making the case for what became the Tyne & Wear Metro. It includes filming in Tyne & Wear, filming of a rapid transit system in Germany, archive footage from San Francisco and some anumation. Amber also shot footage of the development and building of the metro system. This footage was handed over to Turner's, when Amber's contract stopped. It is held in the Turner's Collection at the Northern Region Film & Television Archive, University of Teesside.

Six to Midnight

Amber Films 1974

A day in the life of Newcastle upon Tyne... The Grainger Market is at the beating heart of this film, that was recently rescued from the Amber archive. The council wanted a film about what was going on in the city; the Amber the collective thought they could maybe take the opportunity to make the film they wanted to make about the market. Nobody ended up too happy. Less than keen on the meat being unloaded on the pavement and the preponderance of ‘To Let’ signs, the council rejected it. “It may be all right for the Straw Dogs generation,” one councillor commented. For its part, Amber left it unreleased on the shelves, determined not to get drawn into anybody else’s PR agendas again. But looked at all these years later, it’s a fascinating portrait of the city at a time of immense change.

Launch

Amber Films 1973

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Amber’s film of the launch of the World Unicorn has remained a popular entry in the back catalogue. Sometimes criticised by the British left for its romantic lyricism, in Germany it was seen as a political exposé of work conditions in British shipyards. When shown on Channel 4 in 1982, Chris Auty described the film in the Sunday Times as ‘a tone poem on working life with a distinctive combination of loving nostalgia and political protest.’