Wilfred Brandt

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Interview Date(s): 
11 Nov 1991
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Wilfred Brandt (WB)

Laboratory Engineer (Technicolor)

BECTU No.225

Interviewers: Alf Cooper (AC), Alan Lawson (AL), Len Runkel (LR). Bernard Pope (BP) is credited for Side 3.

Date 11/11/91

2 Tapes

Side 1

00:00:00 – 00:11:10 Born in Bedfont, 21 July 1923; then moved to Cranford where his father had a garage for a number of years; WB went to Cranford School then moved to live with his grandparents while studying at Southall Tech which he left at 16; he applied for Technicolor in 1939 and started in Easter as an unbound apprentice in the tool room; most of his colleagues from school moved on to the power plant; Frank White tool room foreman; when war broke out they had to dig shelters; in those days you were not allowed to go from department to department due to the secrecy of the Technicolor process; Bill Adams, George Porter worked in the tool room; Technicolor was in a state before the war, fishing around to get sub-contracts; WB was sent to Kings at Hayes for a period during the war; he went back and forth to other factories to help with the war effort; the tool room were working around the clock at this point; Technicolor virtually emptied at this point.

00:11:10 – 00:20:50 WB discusses other jobs that he had to take on during the war; the studio was built during the war; the ‘dome trainer’ for gunners; WB went along to install these training machines; WB was called up to the forces for two years after the war in Germany was over; he returned to Technicolor in the auxiliary department; he went to Slough College in the evenings for boiler house management training; most of the men were returning to work at this point; Technicolor were working on Royal events and sporting events; newsreels were guaranteed to be ready the same evening of the event; they were all three-strip except for the Olympics in 1948.

00:20:50 – 00:31:20 Temperature and humidity and lack of dirt was of great importance at the plant; they still had stokers in the boiler house at this point; WB talks about supplying power to the Technicolor plant; the whole plant ran on the one steam engine; the quality of the water from their own well was one of the reasons why they built the plant there; once the process changed they stopped using water from the well; on the transfer machine they used de-aerated water; waste water all went into the normal sewage; scrap film was incinerated every morning and the ash was saved for the silver; WB wanted Technicolor to build their own treatment plant in the 1950s.

00:31:20 – 00:45:00 During coal strikes and bad weather they had to bring in diesel engines which were made by McLaren for the Russian market (early 1950s); these engines were not very reliable and cost a fortune to run; Alf Dibb boiler room supervisor; Charlie Southern former engineer for the merchant navy; Paddy Reilly; Alfie Warden; Tom Bonner; Technicolor began to expand and became a factor rather than a laboratory; WB and interviewers share stories about their workmates; story about Alf Dibb.

Side 2

00:00:00 – 00:12:00 [Story from previous side continues]; the workers never received their share of the money Technicolor were making; ‘a licence to print money’; discussion about union issues and negative developer’s strike.

00:12:00 – 00:14:25 Technicolor always thought that Eastmancolor would never happen and the new plant they built was a rush job; the rot started in 1948 when the dupe developer was converted to do tripack which was Eastmancolor; the whole of the Olympic Games in 1948 was shot in what came to be Eastmancolor; Technicolor had an agreement with Kodak that they wouldn’t mark it as such; the American Monopolies Commission taking Technicolor to court resulted in the change in branding.

00:14:25 – 00:25:00 In the early days they were a pilot plant for PVC tubing carrying chemicals, pirex tubes, hard rubber; the advent of PVC was a great boon for the film industry; tanks lined with rubber and later fibreglass eroded and effected the picture; dye transfer sold to China in mid-1970s; in the 1960s Russian moved into dye-transfer because of the number of prints required – they had already given monopack to China; due to a breakdown in the relationship between China and Russia, China had to look elsewhere for the process; IB prints have a longer shelf life; Technicolor prints could have a fourth colour added – silver.

00:25:00 – 00:33:00 To take promotion at Technicolor was to take a salary cut; setting up the ‘78s’ and moving into the ‘hot process’ and the end of transfer machines; WB’s job was to keep the old Eastmancolor plant going while Technicolor built their new plant over it; WB was involved with the architects and the planning of the new plant; the building was called ‘78’ and so were the new machines – after the year operation was due to begin; a lot of thought had to go into the new high-speed hot process.

00:33:00 – 00:43:55 69-3 65mm developer built for MGM with MGM money – only used for one film; Technicolor’s move into the super 8mm business; Bill Ingram; WB discusses work in the boiler house; power supply from Southern Electric; the pressure from the steam engine was upgraded mainly for the introduction of Eastmancolor to the business.

Side 3

00:00:00 – 00:11:00 Once the China project was completed, WB was mainly involved with the 78 plant; James Tour architect of the 78 plant; debate surrounding how to get the services into the building; it was all new ground for Technicolor; it was a completely new drive system; temperature control was a problem; Keith Burnham, Chief Engineer, worked on a tight budget at the new plant; desire for more speed led to increased temperatures as the film had less time in the baths; the developer was incredibly corrosive; lots of film was thrown away because of the poor quality – it would have been better slowing the speeds down again.

00:11:00 – 00:22:55 WB never really got credit for his input on projects; discussion of pension funds; printers were built in those early days of the business; BP talks about lightweight VistaVision cameras – 11 were built by Technicolor; story about LW Oliver.

00:22:55 – 00:42:00 L W Oliver took BP to a screening of the first Eastmancolor tripack at the Odeon London; it was thought that the process wouldn’t take off; BP talks about setting up the plant in China; WB mentions the trouble they had maintaining temperatures in Summer at the 78 plant; early retirement in November 1987; WB enjoyed every day at Technicolor – there was always a challenge; BP talks about the newer staff and the lack of expertise.