ACTT Interviews

Amber Talks & Interviews

A set of Interviews with senior members of ACTT, developed in the 1980s, exploring their histories. Interview 1 is with Kay Mander.

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.

Kay Mander

0.00 Kay Mander ACTT, 1985 ACTT Conference. Begun in film industry. May 1935. October Fox British, Wembley. Sound recordist, John Cox. ACTT offices in Shaftesbury Avenue. 1938 – 60 hour week. First Union Agreement. May Dennington.

3.43 Kodak organised. Not a professional trade unionist. Tried to run women group but lacked impetus. May Dennington and Kay Mander women’s group organisers.

5.10 Less conscious as ‘women’ regarded as film technician. lack of context.

6.10 1935 German Film Congress Berlin. Showpiece for Nazis. Goebbels, patron. Andrew Buchanan, short filmmaker. London Films Productions – Company, Alexander Korda. Interpreter for German cameraman. Building Denham Studios.

8.11 Worked in continuity. Production offices. Secretary to French Producers. Continuity Dialogue. Union training. Film Industry, Training and Apprenticeship Council, set up 1940s. Clerk in government department in wartime.

9.55 1940 – Fall of France. Shell Film Unit, entry in documentary. Highlander (Pub) now Nellie Dean met other filmmakers. Doc crew three people (camera, director, production assistant) Then as director for 15 years.

11.00 Homes for the People. 1945. Rod Neilson Baxter (husband) (Treasurer for ACTT). Co-founded own company Basic Films. Homes for the People (1945), sponsored by The Herald. Made for the 1945 General Election – Labour Party.

12.20 Rod Neilson Baxter worked for UNITED NATIONS. Sent out to Indonesia. 4 1/2 years. Filmed there – The New Boat (1955).

12.45 Expected films to be made as women at that time. Corsetry, Animals or children. ‘A women’s subject’. Subjects suitable for women.

13.40 Industry changed? Creches upset. Atmosphere has changed.

14.40 Technical Grade. Women – research, location, shot and budget lamps. Show and edited. Track layering. Like workshops today. Trafalgar Square on VE day, shooting with Newmans Sinclair. Indonesia camera work.

16.00 Freer and easier in Indonesia. Processing, link cutting. Film about shrimps. 16mm no edge numbers to match.

16.55 Film Industry, Training and Apprenticeship Council (FITAC) All industry body. Chairman of Training Syllabuses. Entry, length, and grade of training. Films now vanished. Finished in 1950. Planing 2-3 years.

18.35 Women’s group. sporadic meetings. On Executive. back to UK 1957. Nominated for Executive. Indonesia tape came in. Feature for Children’s Film Foundation, The Kid from Canada (1958). Bernard Braden, Christopher Braden (now TV producer in Canada). Asked ACTT to go back into Studio to learn about Videotape.

21.10 Mixed on a double projector.

21.30 Women organising autonomously within the union. Film technicians not women technicians. Different times, mixed men and women. Never conscious. Few women directors. Dorothy Arzner. Leni Riefenstahl. Not at all sympathetic towards division of men and women in industry. Equality Officer has done a great deal of good.

23.55 Women’s fault for a lack of presence in the union. Not an active part. No training. So many ways of getting a job in the industry and union. More women wanted to get into the industry. Melanie asked to stop asking questions.

25.10 Big productions. Production Stills from Fahrenheit 451. Worked with Vincente Minnelli, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Francois Truffaut in Fahrenheit 451 (1966). Anthony Mann Heroes of Telemark (1965). Continuity. Plenty (1985) Meryl Streep. Charles Dance. Play by David Hare.

27.20 Want to put people on film rather than TV (video). Suspicious of tape. Before tape, you could read your soundtrack. Once a cut a sound film on silent Moviola. Doesn’t like new video editing machines. Improvisation. Makeshift equipment. Like the workshop situations. Learn all skills from beginning. Animator Cynthia Whitby. Old Mitchell camera. Taught to join without a joiner. Two drawing pins and blotting paper. Burma Road.

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Kay Mander