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Watch the Birdie


Film crews now and then
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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The big difference between the film crews in studios now and then, was that the studios weren't filled with film buffs, with people who were terribly interested in film as a medium. They were there because it was a good job, it was well paid, it was sort of glamorous, but they were there because they had an uncle or a friend or a father in the business, and they just regarded it as a nice job. Because when... when I became a clapper boy, my salary jumped, in one jump, from £2/10 shillings to £10! My salary quadrupled, because as a... as an assistant in the... at Kinocrat I think I got, initially, £2/10 and then... which is £2.50 in today's terms, and then it went up to £3. I jumped from £3 to £10, just by becoming a clapper boy. But because... what I didn't realise was that the £2/10 job probably could've gone on for years, and the other one was an interval in between bouts of unemployment. That's why those salaries had to be a bit larger, because they weren't guaranteed in any way. But they weren't film buffs. If you'd mentioned to the assistant director or the assistant cameraman, or the focus puller, or any of those people, if you talked to them about Eisenstein or Jean Vigo, they'd say: who, what? Or even somebody like Busby Berkeley who is, after all, quite well known, the famous American choreographer, they wouldn't know who he was. They wouldn't know the names of directors in Europe and America. They wouldn't know any of that. And they wouldn't be interested. They were just interested in doing their job and going up the ladder, because that meant more money, not because it got you closer to being a DP.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: job, salary, director, film buff

Duration: 1 minute, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008