Film titler, film trailers, Rank Film Laboratories and National Screen Service
Interview 12 November 2013
Interviewer: Sean Holmes
Camera: Andrew Dawson
Date of birth: 23 January 1938
This wide ranging interview covers Pat’s early years in Chalfont St Giles, family background, schooling, career in the film business, pioneering role in African television, and university teaching in graphic communication back in the UK.
At school Pat excelled at art. Leaving school with Art A Level, a contact of her father’s suggested she should apply for a job in the art department at Rank Laboratories, Denham. Although the one traineeship had been allocated that year, the lab was so impressed with her that they took her on as an ‘unofficial’ trainee, although she did not get the day off each week to attend college. This was 1956/57. Pat was a keen observe of the social and cultural life around her. The interview goes into considerable detail about the working practices in the art department - both at Denham and later at National Screen Service - and in the wider work environment.
Pat was a trainee throughout her time at Denham and worked on other people’s designs. Letters were painstakingly hand drawn on tracing paper, then on to card, white on black. Being left to her own devices, she considered the quality of training poor. Pat remained at Denham for three years before moving to the more prestigious, National Screen Service (NSS) at Perivale. Here she found the work deeply rewarding: no longer a trainee she had her own projects, including titling, film trailers, adverts and animation. Building upon an interest Pat had cultivated at Denham, Pat also learned the art of film editing.
After a number of successful years at NSS Pat married and lived abroad for fourteen years as an ‘accompanying spouse’ in Asia and Africa. Never idle, in addition to raising a family she taught English and became involved in early television production through the British Council and UN.
Eventually returning to the UK in her thirties, she studied typography and graphic communication at Reading University before joining the university as an academic. Here Pat worked in multimedia teaching students and producing public information and campaigning materials for the UK and the Third World.
This interview charts Pat’s exciting and ever changing career that began in the art department at Rank Film Laboratories, went on to the TV studios of Addis Ababa before concluding as a highly innovative university teacher and researcher.
Pat appears in the documentary, Women and West London Film Laboratories (Dawson and Holmes, 2016) https://historyproject.org.uk/blogs/women-west-london-film-laboratories
For additional information on NSS and Esther Harris see:
Esther Harris interview, 18 January 2000, British Entertainment History Project https://historyproject.org.uk/interview/esther-harris
Sarah Street ‘Another Medium Entirely’: Esther Harris, National Screen Service and Film Trailers in Britain, 1940–1960, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 29 (issue 4, 2009): 433-448
(Andrew Dawson, 9 November 2019)