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Movietone – 15 assignments a day


When I re-joined Movietone in early 1961, the position of Assignments Manager was somewhat leisurely.  With only the Movietone General Release to worry about, it represented an average of two stories per day.  Of course, this did allow time to research future assignments which would make sure that nothing was left to chance.

However, already United Press Movietone Television was requiring more and more material to be shot for their particular purposes.  I should say that in the make-up of the UPMT output it was the United Press journalists who made the choice of subjects to be shot.  However, I still handled the assignments of these stories.

In 1961, Movietone were still supplying the UMPT serviced with reduction prints from their 35mm coverage of events, even events that they, Movietone, were not interested in for themselves.

Rank Laboratories Denham 1967 Movietone

Rank Laboratories, Denham

As soon as the company moved to Denham in December 1961, the situation changed.  By now, the United Press journalists were working on the same floor as Movietonews and thus able to discuss their requirement at first hand.

The move to Denham was said, at the time, to have been an attempt to reduce the locations in which the companies operated. Before the move, we had production at 22, Soho Square, administration at 7, Great Russell Street, Camera workshop and garage at Conway Street in Fitzrovia, accounts and library in D’Arblay Street Soho, a deep library at Perivale and, of course, United Press based at Bouverie Street.

After the move, every department was housed at Denham, including a new building for the library and the accounts.  This meant that there was no London base at a time when most late news stories were located in London.  At the Carlton, there was always a sound crew in waiting.

Movietone took up offices and a workshop in the rear of the Carlton Cinema in the Haymarket.  This office was run by Marian Nugent, who had worked at Movietone for some time and had been offered my position before I came back from Australia.  She declined thinking that it would be too much for her to do.

She and I devised a plan whereby I would take phone calls through the night until 9am at which time, I drove to Denham, a distance of about 25 miles.  While on the road, Marian would take calls at the Carlton.  Everyone in the company knew these arrangements.

During 1962, the work-load for me, and for Production Manager Paul Wyand, increased as UPMT required more and more output to satisfy their television clients.

Although we had done the occasional work for the Central Office of Information, they were becoming more and more regular.  One of the items we used to shoot was known as TWIBS, This Week in Britain, a weekly magazine programme showing off the best of Britain with a view to helping exports.   This programme was distributed throughout the world.

Work for Rediffusion became more regular and, although it did not require much in the way of work for me, it did reduce the number of available cameramen.

English: The former two-dimensional version of...

The American Broadcasting Company, ABC, had set up a bureau in London headed by George Pipal.  George would call on a daily basis to ask for coverage.  This, of course, had to be done in 16mm.

United Press Movietone Television was closed down when Movietone and United Press decided that it was in their mutual interest not to go on.  In the case of Movietone, they felt that they were being asked to contribute more than their fair share of the work, whereas UPI now with eight years of experience felt that they could organise all the film activity themselves.

The Newsfilm Agency continued under the title of UPIN, United Press International Television.

As a result, they took on three cameramen, Tony ChapmanJim Godfrey who, in spite of their comparative youth, were top class cameramen.  The third man was Peter West.

The work load for the Production Department, that is to say Paul Wyand and myself grew by the week.  With all the cameramen working during the day, I was sometimes obliged to assign the next day’s work over the phone from home during the evening.

An event took place that typified the situation at that time.  It was a Saturday and my wife and I had been shopping for the weekly groceries.  Upon returning home around midday, the phone was ringing.   I picked up the phone.  After all this time, I have to confess that I do not remember what the fuss was all about, but, it was a breaking news story and I had to make arrangements for coverage and find a crew or two.

It was 2pm before I managed to get my top coat off.  Being a Saturday, some of the crews were away for the weekend others were already assigned.  I was ringing round to try to find a cameraman having been given a clue to their whereabouts by their family.

By 5pm, I had managed to sort out the whole assignment and then I had my lunch.

In the summer of 1963, we reached peak work-load.  I assigned fifteen crews in one day.

Four of these were for Movietone’s General Release, three for ABC-TV, one for Associated Rediffusion, two for the Central Office of Information and five for United Press.

In August, we went on holiday and Paul Wyand invited Marian Nugent to fill in for me. She came to Denham on the first Monday of my holiday.  By Tuesday evening she was in severe distress and told Paul that she could not continue.

The following day, she called in sick having been diagnosed with Shingles.

She never dreamt that there would be such a lot of work to do.  Paul and I had taken on more and more over the previous two years and, I suppose, we did not realise how the jobs had changed in that time. As the world-load increased, we were able to absorb it.

It crept up on us over a period of time. It hit Marianne like a thunderbolt.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

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