Sad death of History Project founder - Roy Fowler
Producer Director and Historian
Many in our industries, particularly in film and television, will be sad to learn of the recent death of Producer/ Director Roy Fowler. He died at home in London at 92. Roy was a remarkable man.
A precocious movie intellectual, he wrote a book on the French film industry, read for 20th Century Fox. This was followed by a very well received biography of Orson Wells- "Orson Wells a first biography". A little while later he became an Associate Member of the Screenwriters Guild while still in his teens. He joined ACT – The Association of Cinematograph Technicians – in 1947 and after a productive career in film and TV here and in the States He became an active Chair of the Union’s Producer Director Committee in the Nineteen Eighties. I worked closely with Roy as the Official servicing the Committee. We became friends. He could be difficult and testy but he had an energy and enthusiasm which I found attractive.
A full account of his career and union activity is beyond the scope of this brief tribute. I want to acknowledge here what I believe was perhaps his most lasting contribution to our industries: the ACTT History Project. It began in 1985 at a Union Conference when Producer and LIFS Principal Bob Dunbar and Roy sat drinking wine over lunch in a Soho Pizza Express swapping stories, laughing about people in the industry and the movies they had worked on. They lamented the fact that so much experience and knowledge was being lost as workers in the industry died. During their conversation it occurred to Roy and Bob that It would be interesting to explore the possibility of creating a group to record the life stories of people in the industry to preserve those personal histories.
Roy decided to follow it up. He discussed it inside the union and out, wrote letters, pitched and smoozed, talked to organisations. He came to me and asked what I thought. It was brilliant, I told him so
and the Union provided accommodation for the project, office support and meeting rooms with Roy fiercely insisting that the Project remain independent. And it did. Many current and retired union members joined and supported the project. It was a runner and Roy’s role as the founder of the project was crucial. There were many other individuals who played a key role in the Project but Roy’s was the guiding hand. We all owe him a lot.
The Project has now evolved into the British Entertainment History Project. An impressive and respected initiative which is now an internationally recognised archive of more than 700 interviews recording the working lives of the men and women who work and have worked in our industries. It is an entirely independent organisation run on a completely voluntary basis with interviewers and technical crew drawn from the industry. It is our Project.
The interviews are freely available. They are fascinating history of our industries and the people who built them from lab technicians and loaders to directors and writers. They are used by programme makers, writers, researchers, historians, Students and the general public. You can access them on the BEHP website. Better still join the Project: Interview and record. The future needs you.