Women's marginalization in the British feature film industry is well documented: gender discrimination, and sometimes overt segregation, shut most women out of senior creative roles after the introduction of sound. What has received less critical attention is their participation in nonfiction filmmaking, which offered women greater employment opportunities, especially in the decades after World War II as Britain rebuilt its economy. This article provides the first historical mapping of women's involvement in sponsored nonfiction filmmaking in Britain in the period between 1945 and 1970, using newly available statistical data from Britain's film trade union, the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians (ACTT). It also draws on oral histories, extant films, and specialist trade publications to outline two case studies, one featuring three editors, and the other a director (Sarah Erulkar) who between them produced, directed and edited more than two hundred shorts on topics ranging from mineshaft sinking to French cookery. It argues that evidence of women's creative agency in this sector offers new ways of thinking about film history.
Rebuilding Britain: Women, Work, and Nonfiction Film, 1945–1970
Melanie Bell is an associate professor in film and media studies at the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds. She has published widely on gender and film, including Femininity in the Frame: Women and 1950s British Popular Cinema (I. B. Tauris, 2010), British Women's Cinema (Routledge, 2010), and Julie Christie (British Film Institute, 2016). She is currently the principal investigator for the AHRC-funded project “A History of Women in the British Film and Television Industries, 1933–1989.” Her monograph Female Technicians: Women, Work and the British Film Industry, 1933–1989 will be published by the University of Illinois Press in 2020.
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Melanie Bell; Rebuilding Britain: Women, Work, and Nonfiction Film, 1945–1970. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2018; 4 (4): 33–56. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2018.4.4.33
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