Monday 6 December 2010

'Revitalising the Regions' - reflections on my first month working in a film archive

I should change the title to first six weeks as I started writing this post ages ago - as visitors to my blog will know my posts have been far from regular recently!  With the move to London and the new job I seem to have got rather behind with my postings.   My new job is just what I was looking for as it is a post as a film cataloguer.  I knew when I did my Masters in Archives that I was interested in working in a film and sound archive but I think what I hadn’t was expected was just how much I have loved all my jobs since I qualified! I would consider myself a pretty positive person most of the time anyway but I can’t imagine how anyone could get bored with the variety of material you get to work with in an archive. 

The Wessex Film and Sound Archive where I now work has its home in the Hampshire Records Office in Winchester.  So, I now have a commute from London to Winchester every day – the opposite direction to most people.  I really enjoy the commute though, I started writing this on the train one day last week but I often use the journey for an extra wee half hour snooze, or to read my book, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery passing by outside the window.

So, my new job: I am working on a project again, as a film cataloguer, this time on a six month post.  I enjoy project work and for me it’s been a great way to start out in the profession, going from projects at Glasgow Caledonian University, to Stirling University and now on to Wessex Film and Sound Archive.   Although with the way the cuts in the arts and cultural heritage sector are going I'm starting to get slightly worried about finding another job come next April!  

The project I am working on ‘Revitalising the Regions’ is one strand of the larger Screen Heritage UK project, itself based on the Strategy for UK Screen Heritage which states that -
“The public are entitled to access, learn about and enjoy their rich screen heritage wherever they live and wherever the materials are held.”

I am working, along with fellow cataloguer Zoe Viney on cataloguing over 600 films which will then be put on the Screen Heritage UK Union catalogue.  Some of the films we’re cataloguing already have some cataloguing information on them, others have very little, and many have nothing except one line of description.  We have set fields we have to complete in order for the records to be exported to the Union Search catalogue, which covers information about the format and physical description of the film in addition to date, title, any information about the filmmakers, and of course description of the film itself.  In addition to the set fields we are also adding in any additional contextual information to the films which we think could be useful to users.  

My only experience of cataloguing films prior to this job was one afternoon, a very interesting afternoon, at the Huntley Film Archive (which I wrote about in an earlier post here).  I was slightly apprehensive about beginning then but have found that the cataloguing process works in much the same way as with paper records, in fact, I'm not even sure why I would have thought differently as the main purpose of any cataloguing is to make the records more accessibly, understandable, provide context etc. whatever the format.  What I have found difficult is the films which have sound as it's difficult not to write down everything in the commentary, and difficult to concentrate on the visual.  Is this just me, that the aural takes over the visual when they are both together?  It's made me think more about sound in movies, and about silent films.  In a silent film, or one with limited sound, or even with only diagetic sound, the image is central, but maybe I'm not alone that once there is a soundtrack or commentary, it becomes hard to pull back and only concentrate on the visual?  I'm really enjoying cataloguing the films as I'm learning so much about Hampshire, its history, landscape, industries, culture and people. I'm hoping to become a bit more regular with my posts again so I'll write more about specific films as I catalogue them. 

My new workspace - with TV and VHS player to the right.
I also have a mouse mat map of Scotland for when I get homesick

Before I started work Zoe had already set up a Twitter account for us to chart our progress, document our finds, and ask for help if, for example, we can’t identify a particular building in a town, so we’ve both been posting to this on a regular basis.  In addition to the Twitter account I’ll continue to write about my work on this blog. 

Thursday 2 December 2010

This Sporting Life - sports book of the half century

There was an interesting article about the novel 'This Sporting Life', by David Storey, on this morning's Guardian sportblog.  The point is made that the depiction of Rugby, both the on and off pitch side, is as realistic a portrait as you will get.  I knew when watching the film that it was pretty brutal, both on and off the pitch, but as a non-sports person with no knowledge of rugby I had no idea how true a depiction it was until it was pointed out to me in reviews of both the book and the film.

Here's an exert from the article by Frank Keating.  The original article can be read here

"By nice coincidence, this modest commemorative hurrah to mark the half-century since the publication of the finest British novel about professional sport to be written by an actual professional sportsman coincides with yesterday's naming of Brian Moore as 2010's winner of the William Hill prize for sports book of the year.
In the 50 years since its first appearance in 60s' pre-Christmas bookshops, David Storey's This Sporting Life remains not only the best literary novel by a sportsman, but the only one...
This Sporting Life has stood the test of "classic" category; at the time the Guardian staffer and rugby league buff Geoffrey Moorhouse hailed the novel as "unique", adding that "an interest in rugby league is by no means necessary to appreciate this story, any more than a fascination with whaling has ever been vital to an enjoyment of Moby Dick"...
Indeed, only this very year, the novelist Caryl Phillips was acclaiming Storey in our books' pages as "the only author who knew what it was like to be raked and stamped on by opponents, and then patronised by the chairman over drinks in the boardroom, so only he could have written such a fiercely authentic account of the hypocrisies of British sporting life"...
The novel's uneasy love story of insecure anti-hero tough, Machin, and his world-weary landlady, Mrs Howard, earthily provides harrowing off-field narrative, but it is in the raw sporting passages where the reader can wince at the resonance of uncomfortable truths as in, to take a single example, this touchline gallop by the malcontent, joyless Machin...
In Robert Sellers's unputdownable new book Hellraisers, on the careers of various larger-than-life actors, the author quotes Storey on the first day's shooting of the film at Huddersfield's ground where the cynical local team, hired as extras, waited in a bored, heel-kicking cluster for Harris's entrance.
"They were at the other end of the pitch going, 'Oh, Jesus, look at this flower coming out.' Harris just took one look at them and ran down the whole pitch towards them. And as he ran, he got faster and faster until they suddenly realised with horror that he was going to run right into them, which he eventually did. It was that initial gesture of total physical commitment, indifference and carelessness, that caught the players' admiration and they really took to him in a major way."
For once a film was so faithful to its origins that it even enhanced the original novel's unfading and stimulating quality. Sports book of the half-century, you might even say."

The novel was first published in 1960 and the film, made by Lindsay Anderson, and starring Richard Harris, was made in 1963.

Lindsay Anderson and Richard Harris on set of This Sporting Life
© Lindsay Anderson Collection, University of Stirling Archives