Working Below the Line in the Studio System : Exploring Labour Processes in the UK Film Industry 1927-1950
Drawing on archived interview material from ten participants in the BECTU Oral History Project this paper gives voice to largely unheard below-the-line technical employees in the UK film industry. It considers the extent of personal contacts and network groups as a source of labour market intelligence between 1927-1950. The paper also assesses the degree of stability present in the labour market across a number of selected film industry occupations in order to provide a comparison with the precarity which characterizes the contemporary film labour market. This provides an historical context to debates surrounding the organisation of work in the sector, examining both continuity and change in a way that can provide a greater understanding of these issues as they are experienced today. The paper argues that the British film industry has never been a stable, 'job for life' sector, nor have its labour processes followed mass production lines. We suggest that epoch based assumptions ( a Fordist past, a flexible future) are inadequate for understanding the historical context of work in an industry where continuity is as evident as change.