The Amateur Cinema

The Amateur Cinema

There is in Britain a large group oj film enthusiasts who ate actively engaged as amateurs in the production oj ambitious films. In this section their work is fully described, and a complete list of the Amateur Cinema Clubs oj Great Britain is added.

by Reginald Bruce Bartlett

MARVELLOUS work is being performed in the realms of cinematography by that devoted army of enthusiasts who make up the Amateur Cinema.

Before reviewing what is being done outside the field of professional production, let us glance briefly at the general position of cinematography in the scheme of things, with an understanding of the parallel developments of stage and screen, professional and amateur.

The cinema is the most popular amusement of to-day. The “ flicker photography,” laughingly dismissed by theatrical wiseacres a few years ago, now draws its audiences of many millions every day, all over the world. Theatre managers are busily striving to stay the ebbing tide of public support. The brightest stars of the ‘‘ legitimate ” stage are blessing their fortune if they are able to get film contracts.

The cinema, then, has seized the public imagination as an amusement form. Will it ever be anything else ?

Just as the age-old technique of the theatre is something greater than a popular form of amusement, and always will be while Shakespeares and Shaws are produced, so the modern art of the cinema will eventually be adequately expressed by men of inspired imagination.

Now what has this preamble to do with the Amateur Cinema ? Just this —that, whereas amateur dramatic companies are content to carry on their excellent work in the wake of the professionals, many amateur cinematographers are endeavouring to work, not merely level with, but ahead of their professional brethren.

Amateur cinematographers were heard of very soon after professional production began in earnest. There were a few isolated experimenters who worked with such standard professional equipment as they could pick up. Special sub-standard equipment was introduced for their needs as their number grew ; and individuals gravitated inevitably to production groups. In other words, they formed amateur film clubs.

To-day there are well over 200,000 active enthusiasts in this country alone and scarcely a week passes without its report of the formation of a new club. Each club maintains its self-contained production unit or units and adequate film plays are regularly produced. It might be imagined that the lure of seeing themselves upon the silver screen was the chief attraction to the majority of recruits to the movement, but this is not so. Most of the real enthusiasts are technicians !

Amateur cinematographers may be divided into two classes—the organized club members who produce their story-films in the professional tradition ; and the lone workers who plough the solitary fuiTOw of completely individual production.

A well-run film club utilizes all the resources of the cinema, and its members are not only responsible for the complete production of the film but also for its presentation. A handful of enthusiasts will transform their club-room into a well-equipped studio for production and again into an adequate little projection cinema for presentation ; their library will be stocked with the latest books on filmcraft; and their general technical knowledge and artistic appreciation of things

Tbe Amateur Cinema


cinematic will be staggeringly complete.

The growth and popularity of amateur cinematography owes much to the assistance and co-operation of the trade. Without specialized substandard film and apparatus, cinematography would be a prohibitive hobby for all but the most affluent. The " standard ” professional film, which we see projected upon the screen at the cinemas', is 35 millimetres in width. Amateurs have the choice of four substandard sizes of celluloid : the most popular in this country are 16 mm. and 9.5 mm. Particular attention has been paid to the quality of substandard film of late, and beautiful results have been obtained with the modem panchromatic emulsions. Necessary equipment costs and running expenses, although on the heavy side in these days of depression, are by no means a serious problem to a well-organized club, whose members naturally share the burden of expense. There are now signs of a definite tendency towards cheaper amateur cinematography. A British firm has introduced a thoroughly reliable 9.5 mm. cine-camera at the price of £2. 1 os. and a considerable reduction in the price of a new quality panchromatic film is announced.

Adequate studio lighting equipment has always been a problem, but amateur technicians have been extraordinarily resourceful in overcoming obstacles. Remarkable ingenuity is also displayed by amateur art directors in the design and construction of settings. Castle and cottage, train and taxi, salon and saloon bar have been made from the simplest materials. And, as happens so often in artistic spheres, the very limitations and restrictions imposed upon amateur cinematographers are undoubtedly helping to develop a new technique of symbolic background treatment which will in time influence the professional cinema.

Shakespeare painted his own backgrounds, and advanced amateur cinematographers are beginning to grasp the artistic possibilities of the scrapping of elaborate background photography. A fine example of modern simple treatment is to be seen in Night Scene, by Geoffrey Collyer

and Horace R. Hughes, of Ace Movies, Streatham, London. This brilliant little film crystallizes the modern movement in amateur cinematography.

Nor does the Amateur Cinema lack its screen personalities, although as yet it misses that universal recognition which sets the seal upon acting fame. Yet there is undoubtedly room for much talent to be developed. It is my contention that the director is allimportant in stamping his personality upon the actor. A few remarkable instances of celebrated stars’ exhibitions of electric brilliance under one particular director, with corresponding dullness when differently “ handled,” vail occur to most of us. These support my theory. Now surely there must far more frequently be a sympathy and friendly understanding between director and directed in the intimate atmosphere of the amateur film club that should encourage this allimportant personality factor; these Sternberg - Dietrich and Lubitsch -Chevalier partnerships are nurtured in the kindly soul of close friendship.

“ Lone Workers ”

Outstanding examples of individual work are being shown by the great army of “ lone workers.” Obviously the more elaborate story-film production of the big clubs is denied them ; but here again the limitations provide definite channels for expression of individual genius. Amateurs have produced many Nature studies that rival the best efforts of professionals. Two recent gems of this class are Glimpses of Nature—produced by A. G. Phillips, a lone worker attached to the Finchley A.C.S.—and J. D. Ridley’s Breaking Through, a beautiful, fairy-like little study of growing plant life and unfolding flowers. Another enthusiast, F. P Barnitt, of Tunbridge Wells, is producing Windmills of the Weald. To secure adequate shots of the picturesque but all-too-infrequent mills at work, he recently > travelled an average of seventy miles a day for five days. He is also getting excellent results from experiments with microcinematography, in which microscope and cine-camera are collaborating to

The Amateur Cinema

secure moving pictures of minute organisms.

The question of some form of national organization has always exercised the minds of amateur cinematographers, and recently two associations were formed, representing the slightly diverging points of view of their sponsors.

The British Association of Amateur Cinematographers was the first body to be formed, with Sinclair Hill, the distinguished professional director, who has long been interested in amateur cinematography, as President. Geoffrey Collyer, the brilliant young amateur director of Night Scene, is Hon. General Secretary, and his friend and collaborator, Horace R. Hughes, who has lately been astonishing the film world with the brilliance of his photography, is Technical Director. H. H. Head, who has been instrumental in successfully running an annual amateur film contest, is Chairman of the B.A.A.C., the headquarters of which are at n, Soho Square, W.i. The aims of the Association are to represent amateur cinematographers generally in this and other countries ; to provide for contracts and working associations with the professional cinema ; to produce and issue moving pictures and sound records on educational lines; and generally to promote the interests of amateur cinematographers.

The Institute of Amateur Cinematographers of the British Empire, formed shortly afterwards, with somewhat similar ideals, is devoting special attention to the individual amateur cinematographer, as distinct from the club member. The Chairman is George

H. Sewell, F.I.A.C., the author of Film Play Production for Amateurs, and a man whose name is a household word in amateur cinematographic circles. A film which he made on standard stock, entitled Smoke, was recently presented at the Tatler News Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London. W. E. Chadwick, F.I.A.C., an enthusiastic amateur and keen business man, is Hon.'General Secretary, and he has very efficiently publicized the new Institute, the headquarters of which are at 7, Red Lion Square, London. W.C.i.

Both societies provide for the pub

lication of technical bulletins and for the organization of competitions and exhibitions. Other very useful moves which they are making include the provision of central clearing-houses for the exchange of amateur films and an attempt to improve the hampering customs regulations which have done much to arrest effective international exchange of films.

Many important developments are foreshadowed by announcements of these two national associations. There is much to hope for in the projected competitions and exhibitions. The

I.A.C. announces a scenario competition and, if it succeeds in unearthing but one brilliant scenario writer, it wall have deserved well of the movement.

Film competitions must also bring out the finest creative work, and it is essential that adequate public exhibition of the winning films be staged. We may not be far from the long-cherished ideal of a theatre for the regular public presentation of amateur films.

One very important development of the amateur cinema of the future may be the organized production on a large scale of educational films. Already Governments are considering the question of national educational cinematography ; -but this is a side of the industry that does not spell “ box-office " and the problem might well be left to the amateurs, who are well qualified for this type of production. In the United States, indeed, amateurs regularly produce films for medical, civic, welfare, and general educational purposes.

The question of sound must bulk largely in the future. Practicable sub-standard sound-on-film will certainly be universal at some not too distant date, when prices have been suitably adjusted.

Science and Art march on hand in hand ; the world of cinematography seethes with experiment; and more and more to be identified with its progress and emancipation from the crude vulgarities of early days, more and more to share in its discoveries and successes, is its at present scarcely recognized auxiliary, the Amateur Cinema.


Britain’s Amateur Cinema Clubs

Ace Movies

Amateur Cinematographers Association Apex Motion Pictures

Avant-Garde Productions

Beckenham Cine Society Camera Club (Cine Section) Eastern Amateur Film Society

Finchley A.C.S.

Footlight Motion Pictures

Hammersmith Hampshire House Photographic Society (Cine Group) Kjniklub

London Amateur Film Society

Mayross Amateur Photographers, Hammersmith North London A.F.S. Palmers Green Amateur Film Society Panther Cine Club Riverside Film Fans Royal Photographic Society (Cine Section) Seall Film Society

South London Amateur Film Society Southgate Cine Club

Swan Motion Pictures

■Teddington Amateur Film Productions West Ealing


H. R. Hughes, Apsley Lodge, Woodbourne Avenue, S.W.6.

S. W. Bowler, i, Lansdowne Place. W.C.i.

Miss Louise Johnstone, 50, Harrington Street, N.W.i.

B. Braun, 27, The Ridgeway, Wimbledon,


J. W. Mantle, 56, Croydon Road, Beckenham.

W. Phillips, 17, John Street, Adelphi, W.C.2.

C. Packman, 18, Margery Park Road, E.7.

Miss Pat Anstey, 2, Tregaron Avenue, Crouch End, N.8.

Raymond Southey, 9, Beer Lane, Great Tower Street, E.C.3.

J. Radford, The Hampshire House Club, Hog Lane, Hammersmith, W.6.

J. Merrington, 34, Foscote Road, Hendon.

Miss May Jasper, 42, Fentiman Road, S.W.8.

S. G. Finch, 27, Shaftesbury Road, Ravens-court Park, W.6.

R. Gaden, 42, Lea Bridge Road, Clapton, E.5.

C. F. Guinery, 8, Ecclesboume Gardens, N.13.

С. P. Tothill, 8, Stewarts Close, N.W.9.

Dr. Reece, 62, Addison Gardens, W.14.

Major Bull, 35, Russell Square, W.C.i.

John Gordon (President), Ridgeway House, Mill Hill, N.W.7.

Miss Lovell, 311, Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common, S.W.

S. Neill, 4, Selboume Road, Southgate, N.W.i 4.

E. J. Jones, 25, Kew Gardens Road, Kew, Surrey.

V. Insani, 79, Teddington IPark Road, Teddington, Middlesex.

H. Pepperill, 27, Regents Road, West Ealing, W 13.

Amateur Cinema Clubs

West London Amateur Cine D. G. Wall, 82, Goldershaw Road, S.W.18. West Middlesex Amateur E. Morant, 87, St. Kilda Road, West Ealing, Film Society W.13.

Wimbledon Amateur Cine H. C. Bealby, 34, Murray Road, Wimbledon. Club

Rest of England

Altrincham High School

Attleborough & District

Banbury Amateur Film Society

Bedfordshire Cine Society

Bedfordshire Amateur Cine Society

Birmingham Amateur Cine Club Association

Blackburn Film Society

Blackpool Amateur Film Society

Bolton Amateur Cine Association

Bradford Amateur Cine Society

Bristol Amateur Film Production Society

Bristol Film Club

Bristol Patiiescope Club

Bromley Film Society

Burleigh Productions (Blackpool)

Burnley Amateur Cine Club

Cinderford Pathescope Club

Chatham Cine Society

Crystal Productions (Bournemouth)

Devon Private Group (Hon i ton)

Derby Amateur Cine Society

Ronald Gow, High School, Altrincham, Cheshire.

T. N. Eastland, Attleborough, Norfolk.

Norman Blinkhorn, South Bar, Banbury, Oxford.

T. C. Dean, Upper Caldecote, Biggleswade, Bedford.

0. Watkins, Shortmead Street, Biggleswade, Bedford.

Miss Van der Werff, 232, Alcester Road, Alcester Lanes End, Birmingham.

F. C. Swarbrick, 103, Queens Road, Blackburn, Lancs.

J. S. Bailey, 9, Leafield Grove, Blackpool, Lancs.

G. N. Booth, Knowsley Grange, Heaton, Bolton, Lancs.

Roy Firth, 13, St. Margarets Place, Bradford, Yorks.

J. P. Mountjoy, 10, Camden Terrace, Clifton, Bristol, Glos.

or Mrs. Jacobs, 67, Downe Park Road, West-bury, Bristol, Glos.

E. Jones, 16, West Street, Old Market, Bristol, Glos.

H. F. Hunt, 50, Bellevue Road, Easton, Bristol, Glos.

Norman Grout, 14, Minster Road, Bromley, Kent.

D. Thornley, Wayside, 28, Rosebery Avenue, Blackpool, Lancs.

E. G. Shoesmith, Coalclough Lane, Burnley, Lancs.

C. Bower, Cinderford, Glos.

F. W. T. Sanders, 377, High Street, Chatham, Kent.

R. G. Torrens, B.A., D.Sc., 55, Wimbourne Road, Winton, Bournemouth, Hants.

R. J K. Marker, Combe Studios, Honiton, Devon.

A. J. Holland, 165, Gerard Street, Derby.

Amateur Cinema Clubs

Eastbourne Amateur Cine Society

Electrotone Amateur Film Society (Wirral)

Excel Amateur Cine Club (St. Annes-on-Sea)

Folkestone Amateur Cine Group (Private)

Glendale Amateur Film Society ,(Westcliff-on-Sea)

Goole Amateur Photo Players

Grimsby Amateur Cine Association

Grimsby Radio Society

Headingley Amateur Cine Club

Hednesford Pathescope Club

Huddersfield Cine Club

Hull Cine Society

Leeds Amateur Cine Association

Leeds Screen Art Club

Liverpool Amateur Film Society о

Maidstone Amateur Photographic Society (Cine Section)

Manchester Film Society

Mansfield Amateur Cine Club

Merton Motion Pictures (Oxford)

Mineiiead Amateur Cine Players

Mullion Cine Club

Murlyn Amateur Films t (Sunderland)

Newcastle-on-Tyne Amateur Cinematograph Assoc.

Newport Film Society

G. Grimmond, 46, Mill Road, Eastbourne, Sussex.

J. R. F. Stewart, 13, Francis Avenue, Hoy-lake Road, Moreton, Wirral.

R. W. Beilis, 125, Victoria Road, St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancs.

Dr. B. R. Billings, Cupola House, Dover, Road, Folkestone, Kent.

W. L. Gadson, 64, Genesta Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.

F. Senior, 84, Jefferson Street, Goole, Yorks.

J. Easte, 18, Welholme Road, Grimsby, Lincoln.

W. Markham, 104, Torington Street, Grimsby, Lincoln.

Р. Reason, North Lane, Headingley, Yorks.

F. H. Charles, Stafford Lane, Hednesford.

Gordon Lang, Ambleside, Cambridge Road, Huddersfield, Yorks.

L. B. Nicholson, Anlaf, Anlaby Common, Hull, Yorks.

P. G. Peacock, Wanstead, Ayresome Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, Yorks.

Miss M. Bray, Danz Swiss Caf6, Burtons Arcade, Leeds, Yoiks.

G. E. Fisher, 132, Bold Street, Liverpool, Lancs.

D. M. Prest, 6, Grace Avenue, Maidstone, Kent.

Peter Le Neve Foster, 1, Raynham Avenue, Didsbury, Manchester, Lancs.

A. C. Vallance, West Gate, Mansfield, Notts.

Frank Bowden, Merton College, Oxford.

J. Martin Cross, 23, The Avenue, Minehead, Somerset.

Arthur Tonkin, The Meadows, Mullion, Cornwall. -

John O. Murray, 2, Brookland Road, Sunderland.

H. Woods, Bolbec Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Northumberland.

Douglas Hull, Farnborough, Stanley Road, Newport, Mon.

Amateur Cinema Clubs

North Manchester Film Club (Films of Jewish Character)

Nottingham Amateur Cine Society

Owlpen Pictures

Philelectric Film Society (Cobham)

Plymouth Amateur Cine Players

Rugby Film Society

Scarborough Amateur Film Society

Sheffield Amateur Cine Club

Sheffield Amateur Film Club

Sonodisc Productions (Tunbridge Wells)


Stockport Amateur Cine Players

Southend-on-Sea Amateur Film Society

Southport Amateur Cine Club

Southport Amateur Film Society

Stoke-on-Trent Film Society

Trent Cine Club (Nottingham)

Tiianet Amateur Cine Association

Tiverton Amateur Cine Association

Warrington Film Society

Wiiitstable Film Society

Wirral Amateur Cine Club (Birkenhead^

Wolverhampton Cine Society

York Amateur Film Society

L. Preger, 8, Narlow Road, Higher Broughton, Manchester, Lancs.

Ken Burrows, St. Gulvias, Park Drive, Hucknall, Nottingham.

J. Seeming, Owlpen, Bowden, Cheshire.

The Hon. Ivor Phillips, Stoke D’Abernon Manor, Cobham, Surrey.

A. River, 3, Herman Terrace, Peverill, Plymouth, Devon. v

D. Powell, 146, Murray Road, Rugby, Warwick.

W. Sanders, Grand Opera House, Scarborough, Yorks.

A. D. Hobson, 65, Pringle Road, Millhouses, Sheffield, Yorks.

The Studios, 6, South Lane, Cumberland,

S.O. Sheffield, Yorks.

W. G. Bennett, Salus, Peldhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

G. Turnhill, St. .Marys Street, Stamford, North,

or N. Paten, Westgate, Peterborough, North.

J. W. Greenwood, Penrhos, Beaufort Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancs.

W. L. Gadson, 64, Genesta Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.

J. B. Brook, 6, St. Peters Road, Birkdale, Southport, Lancs.

The Secretary, 103, Manchester Road, Southport, Lancs.

G. H. B. Chantry, Maini, Longfield Road, Harpfield, Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford.

Norman О. P. Taylor, Crestleigh, Oakdale Road, Carlton, Nottingham.

L. Saunders, Sydland, Gladstone Road, Broadstairs, Thanet.

K. G. Bareham, 61, Brampton Street, Tiverton, Devon.

E. Steel, Mill Street Chambers, Warrington, Lancs.

Ernest Ovenden, Journey’s End, Badlesmere Road, Whitstable, Kent.

H. Hirst, 256, Grange Road, Birkenhead, Cheshire.

L. B. Duckworth, 3, Primrose Lane, Low Hill, Wolverhampton, Stafford.

W. Holden, 3, Acomb Road, York.

Amateur Cinema Clubs

Dundee Cine Society

Edinburgh & District Amateur Film Society

Edinburgh Film Guild

Edinburgh Photographic Society (Cine Section)

Glasgow Amateur Cine Association

Paisley Amateur Cine Players

Pinnacle Productions (Edinburgh)

Scottish Amateur Cine Association

Scottish Educational Cinema Society (Educational only)

Artistique Productions (Penarth)

Llandudno Cine Society

Rhos Amateur Movie Club


J. Clifford Todd, 5, Newington Termer. Droughty Ferry, Dundee.

V. L. Alexander, 44, Cranlej- Road, Edinburgh.

Norman Wilson, 3, North Bank Street, Mound, Edinburgh.

P. E. Kohler, 151, Mayfield Road, Edinburgh.

G. & J. Glasgow, Causeside St., Paisley.

W. Hodgson, c/o The Art Club, 20, High Street, Paisley.

Forbes W. Adam, Ammonia Works, Galashiels.

Miss M. C. Auld, 258, Tantallon Road, Glasgow, C.i.

or 818, Eglinton Street, Glasgow.

The Studio, 129, Bath Street, Glasgow.


Don Elliot, Chelsea Studio, Plassey Street, Penarth.

J. Mack, c/o N. Wales Auto Electric Co., Madoc Street, Llandudno.

E. Mellor, Bradda, Allanson Road, Rhos-on* Sea.

The world film encyclopedia, 1933

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