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50 Years Ago: The Film Crisis

"We all thought that the forty-five percent quota and the promise of other measures to come . . . heralded a new day for British Film Production . . . How wrong we were. The business of making Britain's films has not been so unstable since the crisis of eleven years ago. Equally therefore the employment of A.C.T. technicians has never during the same period been so uncertain . . ." Thus reads the editorial of "The Cine-Technician" for November-December, 1948, and this is indeed not one wit an exaggeration of the position confronting workers in the film industry today. It indicates (in admirable fashion) the hopes and aspirations of workers which have been ruthlessly smashed against the bedrocks of capitalism which constitute the film industry—as indeed all industry. It is estimated that sixteen out of twenty-seven feature studios are idle with an unemployment figure of twenty-five percent of all personnel, whilst those retaining their jobs know just what a serious threat is presented to wages and conditions when negotiations on a new agreement between unions and employers commence in April this year.

Those who thought film making was in some measure "different" from other sections of industry were rudely awakened by the same old demand last year to cut costs, stop up output and increase efficiency. The first strong protest against the worsening conditions was the Denham film strike of November, 1948, following the issue of notices to ninety-two employees. The union executives refused to back the strike which lasted three days and failed to prevent the majority of these workers being dismissed.

(From an article by "FILM WORKER", Socialist Standard, April 1949)