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The Cine-Technician (1936) - To the Younger Technicians...


  • article: To the Younger Technicians...
  • author(s): Alfred Hitchcock
  • journal: The Cine-Technician (Dec 1936)
  • issue: volume 2, issue 7, pages 70-71
  • journal ISSN:
  • publisher: Association of Cine Technicians


To the Younger Technicians...

What I write here is advice — advice to those on whom this British Film Industry will ultimately depend — the junior technicians. This advice I temper with a caution. I warn them that one of the biggest dangers that will affect our film industry of the future lies in the overhastiness of themselves. I have noticed in the last two years their attempts to run before they can walk ; their hot-headed attempts to light a set before they have learnt to pull focus. Youngsters are even aiming at becoming directors long before they are equipped for it, and it is to this state of affairs that I call the attention of the industry.

If we wish to compete in the race for motion-picture glory, we must have knowledgable men. We must have technicians whose general film knowledge will render them independent of the faultiness and alibi-ing of the various departments of the business. We must have men who will have the commonsense to forge ahead with their job, unhampered by the petty annoyances from less efficient branches of the business.

It took me six years of progressing from one department of film production to the other till I felt I had enough film knowledge to become a director. Even when I had gained the director's chair, I felt I was there by proxy. I knew I still had a great deal to learn.

This point I desire most earnestly to drive home to our junior technicians — If they come into this business they should bring with them a thirst for general film knowledge. They should not be bounded by the sphere of their own department. When a young camera assistant finds himself idle, let him pay a visit to the studio art department and glean a little knowledge on the business of evolving a setting. Let him wander into public art galleries and from the famous paintings of the world study the laws of pictorial composition. His cameraman's life-to-come should not be spent in imitating other men's ideas. He should evolve his own.

Similarly a junior in the Sound department should keep himself alive to the huge possibilities of observing sound. His early studio life should not be entirely centred on pulling microphone strings. When in years to come he may be called upon to produce the roar of passing traffic, that sound to him should not be simply a roar. His knowledge gleaned through the years — his observation on sounds — should enable him to know exactly what comprises the sound of traffic and what component parts in that everyday sound have the most dramatic value.

Hollywood steals a march on us daily through the progress of her junior technicians. The interchanging of studio staffs is common business. A boy's knowledge is for ever on the increase as he climbs towards his ultimate position. He begins to know how a set is built, how it is painted, how it is dressed. He discovers the difficulties of sound, camera and electricity. He knows how a scenario is composed, how a film is cut. He learns the methods of publicity ; the routine of studio management. His general film-knowledge, thus acquired through opportunities offered to him by Hollywood methods, renders him a master technician — master of his own job, conversant with those of others.

The future of our industry lies in the juniors. Perhaps it is because they may have realised this that these boys are scampering ahead too fast. Or is it that our studios do not give them an opportunity to probe into the methods of other departments? Are the doors of a cutting room shuttered against the enquiring young camera boy? Do our scenario chiefs look with a sneer on the efforts of an assistant director to seek the secrets of their craft? I say to junior technicians of Britain, make these opportunities for yourselves! Seek out this film knowledge ; know what the other men do round you. Strive to amass the facts of film-production, so that when in later years you are called upon to make your own technical decisions, you can make them independently, secure in the knowledge that what you say is right.

Alfred Hitchcock.