decent market price in the face of a rising gale. The r success of "Drifters" lay not so much in the appeal of sea and sky and storm as in the creative shaping z of natural material into film form. Instead of invent- ing a story to lead up to a slogan Grierson had gone straight to the heart of his subject and found in it material infinitely more exciting than the stories thought up by the fictional scenarist's towel-wrapped brain. By taking everyday events as the core of his film and by using the camera to shape that event he had applied the old laws of dramatic conflict to a modern and a real situation. Before Drifters the presentation of everyday reality on the screen had been almost entirely confined to the "interest short." The function of the interest short was to pad out the programme as pleasantly as possible between the newsreel and the main feature. For this purpose it concerned itself with pretty, quaint and out- of-the-ordinary things. Its pet subjects were beauty spots. It was based on a postcard technique. It sought to reproduce what lay before the camera with fidelity and an emphasis on the picturesque. It achieved a standard of photography and assembling consistent with the demands made upon it, but it got no farther. Because it approached its material passively it never took on film shape; because it concerned itself with unimportant subjects it never presented important issues. The propaganda cinema, building on the realist ap proach, sought to breakthrough platitude and triviality to the greater issues beyond. For its subjects it looked to the daily work of industryand the social and econom ic backgrounds connected with it. It contacted with and drew its material from the people and processes behind the surface familiarities of everyday life. It changed the camera from a recording machine to a creative instru ment of description and dramatization. It endeavoured to interpret a given industry not in terms of the show case finished product, but in terms of the skills and accuracies lying behind it. It sought to relate the pro duct and its backgrounds to the complexity of the modern world, and in so doing to show something of the economics of production and consumption. In its simpler forms it tried to replace ballyhoo by straight forward information; on its higher planes it tried to bring to the screen the drama and the poetry of every day work in factory, field and mine. The realist approach demanded a new attitude to the creative processes of movie. The production of fiction films calls for invention-invention of plot, characters, situations and settings. The realist film director is called upon to invent nothing. In the factual material before him he finds story, characters and action. He 208 creates by analytical observation and selection. In analysing his subject he seeks those aspects of it which are operative to his theme. He treats his camera and his cutting-bench as selective processes by which he may transform the original material into a new and dramatic shape. His job is to select order out of chaos, and to use the creative resources of his medium to build the chosen material into a film. The application of this theory was bound to develop in accordance with practical demands. The formation of the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit under John Grierson gave the realists their first starting nucleus. Here the film material lay in the fields of home industry, of overseas agriculture, of the shipping which connected them, of the research which made possible their progress. Thus "The Country Comes to Town" showed the intensive production and distribution neces sary to supply London with perishable produce,Indus trial Britain" traced the centuries of tradition behind the skill of the craftsman, "Shadow on the Mountain" revealed the research behind the grasses planted on the Welsh mountain pastures, "Aero Engine analysed the construction of aeroplane engines from foundry to flight. In these and other early realist films the direc tor's job was to describe and dramatize the plain fact of process and event. In so doing he was as much con cerned with machines as with people. And in analys ing the movement of objects he learned to make good movie out of the simplest of things. The E.M.B. gave the film propagandists their first lessons. It taught them that the film medium need go no farther than plain fact to bring excitement out of ordinary things. It taught them that the film had powers of relating and co-ordinating possessed by no other medium. In 1934 the E.M.B. was disbanded and its film unit was taken over as a section of the newly formed Public Relations department of the GP. O The change-over brought an adaptation and a develop ment. The dramatization of a world-wide communica tion system demanded a new emphasis and new forms of presentation. Where themes had previously lain in industrial and mercantile process they now lay in organizationthe organization of the vast machine behind the posting of a letter or the lifting of a telephone receiver. The easy and possibly romantic subjects of sea and field and industry were replaced by the harder, and in a sense wider, subjects of a national service and the people it served. The emphasis be came a social emphasis, demanding more flexible and comprehensive treatments. The acquisition of sound made possible the solution of the new problems, for sound opened the door to many new methods of presenting natural material on the

Industrial Arts en | 1936 | | page 48