Archived posts: Film

British Pathé


So we’ve just lost a few hours browsing through the fantastic British Pathé archive on YouTube. We thought we’d share a few highlights here.

Up above, a short film from 1967 showcasing the new British road signage system. Check out how a handy guide helps drivers to decipher the new signs.

The film below shows how a Mr Batley can produce portraits on a Monotype caster.



The next film, Wallpaper, is brilliant, showing how wallpaper is printed – all set to a swinging soundtrack that lets you know this is just about the most fun a human being can have.



And how about this one – showcasing how Ordnance Survey maps are produced?



Or, say, when you’re enjoying your favourite magazine, do you ever wonder what went into its making?



This short film shows how neon lettering is made by remarkably smartly-dressed men in Acton:



Here are a couple of chaps engraving postage stamps:



Finally, meet Mr Leonard Ware, the rubber man:



Find more over at the Pathé channel.

The Cinema Museum

cinema museum

There’s something incredibly special about the experience of going to the cinema. That initial moment of walking in from a hectic high street to a quiet, dim auditorium. Sinking down into the comfy embrace of your seat. The gentle and excited buzz of chatter through the adverts and trailers. The sharp focus that being in a darkened room in front of a huge screen provides. That magic moment you sometimes get when the screen widens before the main film. The expectant hush of a crowd as the first titles begin to roll. The collective and audible expression of shared emotion during the film – gasps, laughs, screams, whimpers, sobs and occasionally even applause. Basking in the afterglow as the credits drift up to the heavens at the end of the film.

Nowadays of course, cinema, as a way of spending your precious leisure time, competes against myriad other forms of screened entertainment: TV. Netflix. YouTube. DVDs. The vast depths of the internet.

But back in the 1940s, cinema was the main form of public entertainment. No TV. No Internet. In 1946 alone, in the UK, cinema audiences hit 1.64 billion (that’s 1,640 million). That’s a vast number of people going to the pictures. Since then there has been a massive decline, principally because of television; and by 1984 audiences had dropped off a cliff, to 54 million (though since then they’ve been gradually climbing, back towards 200 million).

A huge number of cinemas closed over the second half of the twentieth century. And that rich social, architectural and cultural history could all too easily have been lost with their closures. Fortunately, a few people had the foresight to save as much as they could, preserving that history for us.

And one of the very finest collections can be found at the fantastic Cinema Museum, in an old Victorian workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent time as a child, tucked away in a corner of south London.

cinema museum exterior

cinema museum sign

The museum’s unique collection has been put together by Ronald Grant and Martin Humphries, and is the result of a life long passion for cinema. Starting as an assistant projectionist with Aberdeen Picture Palaces, Grant went on to work at the BFI, and the Brixton Ritzy, not far from the museum’s current home. He and Humphries established the museum in 1986, and it moved from place to place until they settled at The Master’s House in Kennington in 1998. It is maintained there thanks to Grant and Humphries, and a small and dedicated force of volunteers.

We went along to the museum earlier this week to have a rummage around, and to take a few photographs.

The museum is a glorious mix. You step through the front doors into a hallway stuffed to the rafters with an incredible collection of projectors and beautiful typographic cinema signs.

projector lens

standing sign

stalls sign

seating indicator

the majestic

prices of admission

cinema house sign

odeon saftey first

seating board

ABC manager

pathe news

secret of blood island

mrs wiggs of the cabbage patch

Odeon Car Park sign

balcony full sign

high fidelity

They also have other bits of cinematic ephemera: uniforms, equipment, playbills, newspapers, magazines…


cinema newspaper

Castle Bolton

pathescope box

projector lenses

35mm projector sign

On the ground floor there’s a small screening room with a stunning set of original cinema seats.

cinema seats

There’s also an extensive library and archive, with more than a million photographic images; film sheet music; books; magazines; catalogues and other ephemera. They also have more than 17 million feet of film.

filing room

filing boxes

filing drawer

cinemas room

From there, you make your way through the building, and upstairs, past a huge Granada cinema sign, to a truly magnificent main room.


granada sign

illuminated sign

cinema museum interior

It’s quite the most incredible place. It’s preserving a vital part of our cultural heritage, and doing so with warmth and love. As well as providing an archive, they are open for pre-booked visits, host a programme of events, work with educational institutions, make items available for loan to other institutions, and are available as a venue for hire.

We went along to a screening there a few weeks back, and the atmosphere was really wonderful. It is absolutely worth a visit.

The museum is set up as a registered charity, and remarkably receives no public funding, relying instead upon donations. And, worryingly, they have no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay in their building beyond next year. For such a wonderful institution to have such an uncertain future is nothing short of scandalous. And peculiarly, it feels like the UK film industry haven’t really realised what a precious treasure trove they have right on their doorstep.

We can only hope that this marvellous place is secured for generations to come.

If you’d like to help, pop along to their Support page, or get in touch directly.

The Hill Valley Project

So this is kinda cool. To coincide with the anniversary of the date Marty Mcfly first went back in time, Back to the Future is being tweeted in real time, right now, by all the characters.

The project has been created by Gavin Fox (creative director at Poke), Martin Rose (creative director at Mother), and Tom Hartshorn (founder member of Nation). All to increase awareness of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which raises funds for research into Parkinsons Disease.

Go follow.

Potter prints

Yesterday, at one of the Clerkenwell Design Week events, we bumped into the very lovely Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, who worked on the graphic design for all eight of the Harry Potter films. Collectively known as Minalima, they’ve recently launched The Printorium, an online market place for a series of lovely fine art prints based on their work for the films.

The prints come in two formats – limited editions of 1,000, embossed and signature stamped; and limited editions of 250, hand signed, which have additional hand-worked details like gold foiling. Where possible, they’re delivered by owl.

It’s really great to see this stuff living on after the movies, and heck, they’d make the most amazing gifts for Potterheads (we had to look that up).

The print below features some ads from from The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper in the films.

Miraphora and Eduardo also have a selection of self-initiated prints available on the site, which are equally lovely.

There’ll be an exhibition of their work at The Conningsby Gallery in London from 17 to 28 June.


Secret Cinema 20 – All G.O.O.D.

Watching a film at the cinema is largely a passive activity, right? You sit back in your seat at the local fleapit or multiplex, munching on snacks, and let the film wash over you. The film ends, you get up and leave.

The folks at Secret Cinema think differently though – they think that the experience of watching a film should be just that – an experience. Since 2007 they’ve been creating interactive experiences for film-goers, blending the worlds of cinema, theatre and cabaret into single events.

They start by finding a unique location, and then work outwards from there to see what classic film most suits that building or space. They then build a dramatic world around their chosen film, creating site-specific sets and narratives inspired by it, all fleshed out with a host of talented actors. Instead of just watching a film, the audience interacts with the space, the sets and the cast, before, during, and after watching the movie; a sort of immersive cinema.

With each event, you don’t find out what the film is until you get to the location. Hints are dropped in the lead up to the events, through a mix of websites, social media, and warm-up happenings, but to be honest, everyone is generally still guessing until they get there (hence the name).

The latest Secret Cinema show (their twentieth) kicked off a couple of weeks ago in London, and we went along last week to check it out.

Now, of course, because of their policy of secrecy, it’s a tad tricky to review one of their events until after it’s finished its run. If you do a full review, you totally give the game away, and risk spoiling it for anyone who’s not yet been.

So, we’re going to talk about the build-up to the event (let’s call it SC20), and talk in general terms about how it felt to be there. We’re not going to tell you what the film is, nor mention anything too specific, but if you want to steer clear of knowing anything at all about it, you might want to skip the rest of this post.

We were initially booked in to go along on during the opening week, but due to a last minute licensing issue, the first few shows were cancelled. Given the massive complexity of putting on a show of this kind, that must have been a nightmare for the organisers, but judging from the online chit-chat it was for ticket holders too, many of whom had booked time off work and travelled fair distances to attend. To their credit, the SC team put on a replacement screening of Footloose over the weekend by way of apology, and offered replacement tickets too – but it shows the risks you run when you’re putting on such unique events.

For the online and social media side of SC20, we were asked to log-in to the G.O.O.D. Intranet system, where we had to fill out a work appraisal, as new employees of the G.O.O.D. organisation. This created a unique Social ID number which would provide access to the event.

All new employees were also invited to attend a global gathering warm-up event in London’s Docklands, and directed to a video showing dance instructions for a collective dance based on the promo for Atoms for Peace’s track Ingenue, featuring Thom Yorke’s singular dance moves.

We didn’t make it along to the warm-up, but a fair few folk did, and it looked like a fun old time.

Of course, this left us wondering whether Secret Cinema were doing something different with SC20 – was it going to be an Atoms for Peace gig instead of a movie? Or perhaps something to do with music videos? Based on our experience, these were red herrings – though the music and the dance did still form a hugely enjoyable part of the evening. But there’s definitely an art to managing the expectations of an audience for a secret event – if you hint at something that isn’t going to happen, you risk leaving people feeling disappointed.

Having logged in to the G.O.O.D. Intranet system (and following the organisation on Facebook and Twitter) we were issued with a Notice of Transfer, which detailed all the preparations we had to make for the event. The specifics differed for each person, but everyone was asked to dress up, and to prepare business cards and an ID badge. We were also asked to connect to other employees via the intranet, each connection increasing your ‘rank’ in the organisation.

Again, there’s a trick to getting that sort of thing right – on the one hand, there’s a definite sense that the more effort you put in beforehand, the more fun you have when you get there. But on the other hand, there’s a vague feeling that some of it is just fluff, and that your efforts aren’t fully recognised on the night, and that feels like a shame and a missed opportunity.

So, the event itself. We don’t want to tell you too much. But it was certainly great fun.

It was less of a movie screening, more of a site-specific interactive theatre event. The movie is screened in part, but we decided not to sit down and watch it – there was too much other interesting stuff to be doing. One of us hadn’t seen the movie before, and the other had, and it definitely felt like familiarity with the movie added a huge amount to the experience, but that it wasn’t absolutely essential.

The location is on the outskirts of town, but not beyond the bounds of an Oyster card. The set building within the space is really extensive, including bars, a restaurant, interactive technology, dance performances, installations and more. Some of it is really slick, but other parts are enjoyably lo-fi.

Upon arrival, audience members are sent to various different entrances. So if you go as a group, you’re likely to be separated from the start – though you can meet up again once you’re inside.

Following on from the online stuff, the plot of the evening is that you’re a new employee on your first day at a new company. There’s a lot of interaction with the actors, all of whom manage to pull you in to their narrative without making you feel awkward or patronised. They give you small nudges as to where you might head next within the space, gently giving shape to your overall experience.

Because you’re free to roam, everyone has a slightly different experience of the evening. The more you explore, the more fun you have. There were a few shared moments when everyone in the building was doing the same thing, and there’s a very clear climax to the event too.

All in all, it’s a great night out. Just don’t go along expecting to sit down quietly and watch a movie.

Mike Dempsey on visual culture

~ While Alistair is away cycling the length of Great Britain, we’ve invited twenty disgustingly talented people to each write a post for our blog. Today’s post is by the brilliant graphic designer Mike Dempsey, who has done a ridiculous amount of incredible design during his life, and now runs Studio Dempsey. ~

Hmmm, visual culture. Something we, in this funny old business of design, are submerged in. We see stuff when others don’t. It’s what we do. It’s what we love. But somehow in this increasing digital age, our visual dexterity is being diverted…

Have you noticed how many people walk straight out into the road or onto a zebra crossing without looking because they are texting or chatting on their mobile? Or others having half engaged conversations with friends because they are too distracted by their emails or texts? Maybe you haven’t, because it’s exactly what you are doing right now reading this?

Yes, we’ve all got one and spend more time looking at it than our surroundings. SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, and I’m sure many more new kids on the block, have taken us over like those big pea-poddy things in ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

As wonderful as these innovations are, they come at a price. And it’s not just financial. They deprive us from being in the ‘here and now’. For a so-called ‘visually aware’ community we are losing our sight and the protocol of real social interaction.

Digital has accelerated our world. Freddie Mercury’s, ‘…I want it all, and I want it now’ is a reality. Bookshops, music stores, fashion outlets and many more are closing down in favour of virtual shopping; and the recent demise of Design Week has brought it closer to home.

Many years ago I conducted a workshop in order to help Royal Mail discover how they could improve the accessibility of their stamps for the partially sighted and blind community. The meeting was held at the Royal National Institute for the Blind in a rather bland room in the basement. As I watched this small group with their heighted tactile sensitivity navigating perforations, size, shape and Braille, all in minute detail, I suddenly realised that I was the only person in the room with something very precious. My sight. And that day in that soulless basement has stayed with me, and I never undervalue the gift I have. I look everywhere and anywhere and resist being mesmerised by that irritating, but necessary, little gadget that we all carry around.

So slow down, put your phone away and look around you. And engage with those passing moments. They can be a joy to behold…

Like this…

Or this…

Or even Alfred Hitchcock on the 38 bus. And what is he up to?…

If you need a primer to get into the zone of the beauty of our world, take in Terrence Malick’s stunningly shot The Tree of Life photographed by the brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki – a man who truly uses his gift…

Take a look here:


~ Alistair is raising money for Cancer Research UK during his ride – please wander over to his Just Giving page and donate a little cash. ~

Mike Dempsey

Test Pilot

Sticking with yesterday’s space theme, and since today marks 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in outer space, we figured we’d post this rather fine collector’s card, featuring a Test Pilot, from our Adventurous Lives set on Flickr.

And check out this rather lovely film, First Orbit, which recreates what Gagarin would have seen, using footage shot from the International Space Station, overdubbed with Gagarin’s original mission audio:

Thursday – Matthias Hoegg

The good folks at File Magazine just got in touch to let us know that the short film Thursday, by recent RCA graduate* Matthias Hoegg, has been nominated for the Short Animation Award at this year’s Baftas.

Each bi-annual issue of File comes in two parts – a physical broadsheet style magazine, and a full-screen online player – as they themselves say, ‘it’s a magazine to watch and read’. The ‘watch’ part of the latest issue (No. 4) is online now, and features Hoegg’s beautiful seven minute film, ‘an everyday love story set in the not so distant future [which] sees blackbirds battling with technology, automatic palm readers and power cuts’.

Check it out.

*Interestingly, both the other nominated shorts are by RCA graduates (Michael Please and David Prosser) . Monopoly much?

Rolling Roadshow posters

We just spotted this rather tasty set of posters on the Trailers page on the Apple site. They’re the handiwork of Olly Moss, and are promoting the Rolling Roadshow We are all Workers film season, which is screening movies in locations where the films where set or shot. Great stuff.

Arcade Fire + Sergio Leone

It’s a bit old, but we’re loving this edit of Once Upon a Time in the West, used as an unofficial promo for Arcade Fire’s My Body Is A Cage (from their fantastic Neon Bible
album), by Chicago based designer J Tyler Helms.

And it give us a chance to link to this little promo piece the band have put together for their upcoming 12″ double-A side, The Suburbs/Month of May:

A. The Suburbs

AA. Month of May