British Universities Film & Video Council

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National Coal Board Film Unit

Profile

Dates
1952-1984
Role
Production Co.
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
Mining Review; Review
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History

The National Coal Board [qv] set up its own in-house film unit in 1952 to produce training and promotional films for the entire organisation. This unit replaced the original arrangment, whereby the NCB commissioned films from established production companies, using government-supported firms such as the Crown Film Unit [qv] and commercial firms such as DATA [qv]. The impetus for these changes came from the NCB report The Plan for Coal, a national plan for the reconstruction and reorganisation of the industry. The plan would lead to an increased demand for training and recruitment, a demand that led the film officer, Donald Alexander, to put forward a proposal for the NCB to set up its own film unit - thus the National Coal Board Film Unit [qv] was born. Initially the three-year programme of technical films allowed for half the films to be made by outside companies, with the remainder by the NCB Film Unit.

By 1959 around two thirds of the NCB’s production was handled in-house. According to Donald Alexander [qv], the NCB production team consisted of "three to four directors, one and a half cameraman, a supervising cameraman and appropriate assistants. As a matter of interest, it can be demonstrated theoretically that this is the smallest size at which a unit of this type can keep all its members busy".

The NCB Film Unit took over the production of Mining Review in January 1963, beginning with 16th Year No.5. It continued to produce the series as well as the various training and promotional films for the NCB until 1984. The decline of the coal industry in the early 1980s, increasing production costs for films and videos, and budget cuts within the NCB saw an inevitable drop in production. The last of Review, Review 36th Year No. 5, was released in March 1983, and on April 1984 the NCB Film Unit closed.

Sources

http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/474432/index.html; Accessed 9/2/2006: NoS Number 346194; Mining Review 16th Year Number 5; Date released January 1963: NoS Number 346841; Review 36th Year Number 5; Date released January 1983: H. Donaldson, ‘Coal Film Makers: An Appreciation’ (NCB, London, 1981) p.13.

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