British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

BECTU Membership Forms

What information do the membership forms contain?

These are ‘Application for Membership’ forms which mean they record information about individuals at the point at which they applied to join the union. This includes personal information (name, home address, age) and professional information (such as employer, department, and role).

What do the terms used on the form mean?

Employer’s Name refers to the company for whom an individual worked. In the context of British film and television these are many and varied. Employers include laboratories such as Technicolor and Denham where film was processed, and production companies and studios – big and small – such as Pinewood, the Crown Film Unit and West One Television.

The Position Held category records information about the departments in which people worked and their job title or grade. Many of these jobs still exist in the contemporary industries – art director and script supervisor for example – whilst others such as positive assembly are historically specific and have been rendered obsolete by technological change.

What is the range and number of job titles or grades?

By 1947 the ACTT listed in excess of 120 separate grades in film production and processing.

The very concept of a job title or grade is predicated on role specialism. The more job titles or grades which exist, the more established and mature the profession or industry and the more labour is categorized and organized around a distinct set of skills. In the early days of cinema individual workers performed multiple functions on set. These ‘jacks-of-all trades’ would both build sets and act in films: the distinct roles of director and producer had yet to be established. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s role specialism developed rapidly in lighting, photography, set construction, painting, costume design and make-up. By 1947 the ACTT listed in excess of 120 separate grades in film production and processing. Grades were hierarchical, and the union used the grading system to organize and regulate the flow of labour into the industry and to set benchmarks for pay.

What does the pay category mean?

The pay category records what people were paid at the point of applying for union membership. It was also used to calculate union subscription rates. There are variations in how pay is recorded, most obviously pre and post decimalization, but also whether remuneration is expressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or per annum. In the 1930s-1950s it is most common for people to describe their remuneration in weekly terms, although hourly rates of pay are occasionally used. By the 1960s onwards most people describe pay on a per annum basis, although daily and weekly rates persist in the 1970s and 1980s, a feature of freelance working and short-term contracts.

Different versions of the membership form

The form itself thus constitutes quite a sensitive index of the changes in workers’ rights.

There are three main versions of the membership form which the union used at different historical points. The first version in the 1930s and 1940s consisted of a single page. By the 1950s a second page was introduced with new categories including sponsors’ comments. The format changed again in the 1980s to a four-page version. Categories such as marital status were removed in later versions whilst new categories about fixed term contracts were added. The form itself thus constitutes quite a sensitive index of the changes in workers’ rights. Other versions were used at particular historical moments; war emergency forms during the Second World War for example when the laboratories were short of labour in this area. As different versions of the form exist, the key fields we selected for the dataset are those which remain consistent across time namely job title, employer, gender, date of application and pay.

Page citation: BECTU Membership Forms, Melanie Bell, Women’s Work in British Film and Television, ‎ (Date accessed)