Cy Young

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12 Jul 2012
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Cy Young started as a Film Editor and graduated to a Film Researcher . He describes many fascinating insights as to work practices when Videotape took over from film He give many interesting insights in how to find material for the archives. His list of TV credits are many in the early days of ITV. Cy Young is also a Governor of the BFI and wrote many articles for the news media.

General Outline follows:

Cy Young interview outline 1965-1968 background in cinema management on Odeon/Gaumont circuit


Granada Television's London office as personal assistant to Leslie Halliwell, ITV film buyer viewing purchased prints for technical quality (eg. grading of 16mm rationalised reduction of 35mm anamorphic/Cinemascope feature) and content (synopsis/critique), television pilots eg. 'film research department' one man and a dog - Cy was dog to Graham (ex-COI ) Murray's man on ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (wef c. 1961) looked back at '25 years ago this week' via deal with Pathe, schools programmes PICTURE BOX (Norman McClaren ),THE MESSENGERS + booklet on themes and subjects for discussion, studio drama 'film inserts' for beyond budget images eg. car crashes (CLAPPERBOARD 1971- devised and edited 16mm pos.cut / sep.mag)


35mm B/W dupe neg and print 'papered up' for overnight laboratory processing at Humphries end of the black and white 'scratched print' (basic anti-piracy spoiler) era


Fact [Non-Fiction]     3 cinema newsreel companies, + IWM, COI, BFI

Fiction          Halliwell's purchased distributors' feature packages (eg. Rank, Twentieth Century Fox), vaults at Elstree, Pine wood etc.

2 x private collectors for PD or rare (involving double payment eg. Film Finders' fee + copyright owners royalty) titles

BBC (no embargo)

1985 onwards


A changed world at Thames, direct 'attended' telecine of 35mm sections, eg. Halliwell's purchased prints for C4 transmission, to 1" VTR compilation of clips for LE [Light Entertainment] shows like LOOKS FAMILIAR* for drama and documentary productions made entirely on film (eg. THIS WEEK), 16mm broadcast standard long since, overnight reduction neg / CRI and work print 'matching key numbers' on edge of stock, Visnews the lab for much-improved Kodak colour with no 'grain loss' on 16mm to 16mm, mixed media process for Buster Keaton documentaries - interviews on film, library footage onto 1" tape with 'BITC reproduced bottom of fi*ame on telerecordings, creative editing on film, EDL chart for 'auto-conform' to time code (ie. equivalent of final 'neg cut' to key numbered answer print) in a V T R s u i t e


Television now feeds on itself, with ABC and ATV telerecordings stashed long ago for overseas sales unseen until now* and (even today, 2008 ) uncatalogued, 'tit for tat' arrangement with librarians for fishing expedition along shelves and complete log of content (not just selected extract) once viewed, similarly with 2" colour transfers

New additional responsibilities

Clearances / permissions / residual fees to actors / writers / musicians under 'live tv broadcast' repeat agreements (originally applied to complete non-film programmes, with a 'loophole' for extracts from eg THE SWEENEY, but later tightened up), important liaison with Production Managers


Increasing amount of archive footage now from videotape masters. Thames used MII for a while, the BBC D3, with short-lived 1" (edit-friendly, fast forward in vision, unlike 2") succeeded by DigiBeta.


Buried treasure

Granada's 'itnsource' computer database nominally represents anything from Gaumont Graphic silent cinema newsreels to Channel Four's current output, but over the years of transferring story information / shot lists from index cards to electronic 'keyword' search programmes, moving film cans physically around the ITV network (from Manchester to London to Leeds, eg. of CLAPPERBOARD* for Elstree Screen Heritage project), and mergers / take-overs of whole libraries, much is being lost in the process. ATV's programmes c. 1955 to 1980,25 years' eyewimess accounts of Britain - how we lived, what we thought of importance - evidenced in documentary, drama, 'sitcom', educational /religious/discussion genres, pure gold to social historians interested in the 20"* century (especially the 'watershed' years of the 1960's): all remain substantially uncatalogued.

Successively owned by Lew Grade's ITC overseas distribution company. Polygram, Universal, and broadcaster Carlton Communications - until absorbed by Granada / ITV, where the buck stops, this huge resource needs investment to render it accessible to programmer makers 100%. Criminal negligence?

'Colour prejudice' amongst Commissioning Editors and Schedulers against monochrome footage, with no allowance on budgets for B/W telecine, results in a false historical balance and distorted perspective on docs like SEX ON TV; 'cut to the chase' is the cry, never mind what importantly happened between 1955 / 1970. Archive footage expected to be readily available on VTR, hence 'same old clips' DIXON OF DOCK GREEN ('take off that uniform') / Z CARS [Friday Night) re-appear because easy to hand.

* cite "all-film" [i.e. shot on film]nepisodes temporarily lost, whilst unsaleable / unlicenceable 'KRS-approved' release round-ups and clip-heavy themed / historical episodes appear on database (but no great detail to this effect) eg. Tallmantz Aviation for CAPRICORN ONE offered as 'stunt flying in the movies' half-hour.

Don't believe what it says on the cards

ref. REEL TRUTH x 4 episodes for Welsh C4: onger language than English /commentary anecdote - re-cut pics? PasT [Programmes as Transmitted - logs held by TV companies may give] mplications of two [differing] versions.

examples of fakery:  [Airship] R 101, Cheltenham Gold Cup, Black and Tans rounding up IRA suspects (judging by the angles and shot changes, either there were 3 cameras on this Pathe newsreel shoot - not [so] - or one camera 35mm photographed the same action in 3 different takes; hence incident was staged): of Pancho Villa's Mexican Revolution and World War One (Somme etc), cameraman's p.o.v. [point of view] would - if true - place him in harms' way / line of fire, hence is shooting exercises / manoeuvres behind the lines.

Re-enactments / reconstructions in Liverpool parks and Welsh mountains of Boer War engagements / skirmishes (with hand-painted / scratched-on gun flashes, 'hat in air' misdirection) and early century attack on a Chinese mission - aka film-maker's villa abode in Hove. And the sister ship Olympic doubles for the Titanic at Southampton (although not at Harland and Wolf, Belfast).

Strange requests

HOC GOONS - coverage of Suez Canal opening, a year before movies were invented ! Sir Winston and Lady Churchill in bed together - with cigar, even better; George III;  anything at all on Hitler?

Optimistic request:

A coloured Pullman car attendant being struck by lightning;

Impossible request:

Titanic arriving in New York: Gaumont Graphic re-prints of 'jerky' Captain Smith on the bridge, painted-out ship's name on tugboats

Life-saving requests

A Piper Cherokee light aircraft exploding into smithereens on tarmac

example. of the film inserts for 1960's/1970's drama productions when television production budgets not enough for the kind of stunts and effects that in tv movies of the 1980's/1990's came to be specially shot: hence for car crashes, explosions, airports, railway scenes (especially 'period' ie. turn of the 19th into 20^ century) we used World Backgrounds stock shots, ABPC/Ealing feature film unused second unit. Index for generic footage of the natural world (ex BP and Shell documentaries), and Movietone.

British Movietone I was poacher-tumed-gamekeeper about 4 years ago. Until then. Film Researchers had manhandled huge ledgers the size and weight of tombstones, leafing through alphabetical generic categories (politics - foreign - elections, traffic - streets - night, theatres - interior - opera, etc.) with a single 35mm frame of the opening shot glued into the page - opposite can reference and key edge no's of the roll. A laborious process, but rewarding to visit Denham - gasometers and trains over viaduct BP plate of several minutes for HOC HANCOCK - suburban monotony in Sunday Afternoon at Home. c. end of 2003 I spent 6 months in the nitrate and safety vaults pulling out and assembling into 10 min reels for xfr * (to DV Pro only alas) the original camera negative cuts from the many features made at Islington, Denham, Shepherd's Bush, Pinewood from the 1930's to the I960's/I970's - interior and exterior, colour and black and white, ie back-projection plates and second unit location footage (and studio sequences with anonymous, unidentifiable extras eg. long shots of ballroom dancing) of all sorts - from Afghan tribesman attacking a military train, to a horse and cart milk float delivering in a quiet street of semi-detached houses.

       *Details with new 'SS' refs entered on Movietone's keyword search database amongst the cut stories. Long overdue investment, on the initiative of Barry Florin, who knew he could sell more of this stuff if made accessible. Barbara Heavens and I made it so. Satisfaction

.Serious, not unreasonable, requests

Neville Chamberlain outside Number Ten announcing to Press that "we are at war with Germany" In fact, no photo opportunities or interviews on the doorstep in those days, and NC was too busy inside preparing his radio broadcast etc. so the cinema newsreels actually show King George VI coming to him (NC), arriving in Downing Street to consult with his Prime Minister.

footnote: chance gathering of crowd at Croydon on return from Munich: waves paper, "well done" from lady at the back.

Lateral thinking department

SBS David Bailey - John French profile in LOOK AT LIFE (then Movietone-handled, now Granada /Carlton) - an un-catalogued (as yet un-famous) Bailey in red sweater

Same programme: for DB's National Service I950's Singapore - dog-eared old COI catalogue on shelf led to IWM doc WINGS ON HER SHOULDERS, about WRAC/WAAF [Women's Royal Army Corps/Womens Auxiliary Air Force] in Far East - hunch that guys would feature somewhere (specifically in light tropical kit, not blue serge) paid off .

Tail wags dog' department

The best producers/directors are open to 'Film as evidence', ie learning from discovered archive footage volunteered by a conscientious Film Researcher exploring around the subject, eg on RIVER THAMES - 6 X 30 mins oral/social history docs for LWT, Gavin Weightman - author and historian - had laid out his chapters - the bridges, the trade, the working lives, the events, the pageantry - in advance: but when shown atmospheric Pathe News b/w footage of drilling tunnels under the Thames in dangerous-looking conditions, he decide to add another chapter and sought out retired engineers to interview, so enriching the programme. *

Probably the last major series where all archive footage duped onto 16mm colour neg (used Eastman stock irrespective of whether original in b/w, to match geometry etc for editing) and cutting copy workprints (logged by sources ** and key numbers by the Film Researcher, because of the volume of material and assistant film editor not yet on board). Result was that processing costs absorbed such a % of the overall archive budget for previews/transfers that not enough remained to pay actual royalties for using the acquired footage. (PM -Production Manager- says 'but you're not going to use all this' - ignorant of creative process, editing (not a ready-made/self-contained extract /clip show), analogy with 3:1 ratio for original SS [Stock Shot?] rushes, standard principle always in ordering library. Gavin Weightman got more cash from LWT ('too far in to abandon the production - they can't say no') and the ends - 6 excellent eps -justified the means.


Direct shelf access / fishing expeditions (last chance saloon) to partially catalogued (title and one-line synopsis only at National Maritime Museum, and un-catalogued random neg/print collection at London 'Museum in Docklands' with enthusiastic local co-operation.

Tea clippers at sea, Baltic Exchange interiors (Port of London Authority official film), red-sailed barges etc, etc.

* other p/d's [producer-directors] who responded in this way, and therefore represent 'the best', would include: Garry Hughes on THE GREAT BRITISH BLACK INVASION (eg?), SEX ON TV lady, retired ill, her 'wow' reactions to eg. IT'S DARK OUTSIDE binned by 'nipple count' philistines, John Fisher Steve Humphries mention?

Finale TBA


Transcription PDF: 

Open the pdf for Cy's take on standing for re-election as a governor of the British Film Institute.

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