Digger: What is your background
Richard: I’m about the
same age as ITV, so I grew up in “the media age”! My parents
and grandparents enjoyed radio and we had a one channel (BBC)
TV set. We got ITV and a “dual standard TV” in 1963. I found
TV a great diversion and was fascinated by the technical
developments. News was fascinating; I remember coverage of
the Cuban missile crisis, I was watching TV the night
President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember the TV coverage
of Winston Churchill’s funeral, BBC2 starting, the 1966 World
Cup, the introduction of colour, the moon landing, the changes
to the ITV franchises. It wasn’t only news that engaged my
attention; as a child in the midlands region I was very loyal
to ABC because they brought The Avengers and Emma Peel to the
screen and I was fascinated by ATV, a truly exciting
international television company with a base in The Midlands.
I decided I wanted to
work in TV and was told “it was not possible” by my career
teachers. In 1970 the BBC opened Pebble Mill and a local
radio station and invited people to their studios. By luck
and good fortune on leaving school I landed a freelance
technicians job in local radio. The BBC is a marvellous
organisation. It was “my University”. It sent me on courses
and trained me in many aspects of broadcasting. I was
fortunate to have found a great set of people who were
enthusiastic, kind and patient! I will always feel a debt to
them and the BBC.
After nearly five
years I got the chance to join a company making promotional
films. I had always appreciated the short travelogues in the
cinema and the films used by the BBC as Colour Trade Test
Transmissions on BBC2, as well as the broader authored
documentaries such as “Whickers World” and “World in Action”.
The BBC had given me a grounding in some aspects of film and
so I took the job. The company I joined also gave me the
opportunity to be part of a new division representing
broadcasters and so I became an agent to TV producers,
directors and TV and Radio presenters.
I emigrated to America
in 1980, working as a researcher on NBC shows made by Dick
Clark Productions such as “Super Bloopers and Practical
Jokes!”. Returning in 1982 to join Central TV becoming Head
of Programme Services. I was a manager in the Programme
Department with responsibilities for Researchers, Producers,
Directors, Casting Department etc. In 1992 I moved on to
become General Manager of The East West Creative Association,
Central TV’s Joint Venture with the Russian Government.
In 1995 I became
International Business Affairs Manager for Action Time and
also joined the television agency Roger Hancock Limited.
By 1998 I set up my
current business which represents Film Archives, Clip
Archives, Writers, Producers and Directors and TV Game Show
Formats. I work as Business Affairs advisor for two major
Independent Production Companies. I acquired The Baim
Collection in 1999. I have continued to search for Archives
and represent many small collections. About three years ago I
became a board member of Britain’s oldest trading film
company, Adelphi Films Limited.
Digger: Can you please tell us
more about The Baim Collection and about Harold Baim?
Richard: I never met
Harold Baim. He was born in Leeds in 1914 and died in 1996.
According to his family, Harold Baim left Leeds after the death
of his father in 1929. Moving to London in 1931, Harold
originally wanted to be a journalist but instead got a job
working the clapperboard for film producers at MGM and Renown
Pictures. He then worked for film producer and distributor
George Minter and moved on to Columbia Pictures, moving into
distribution and selling Columbia’s films to the Odeon, ABC
and Gaumont cinema chains.
He obviously learnt
about the “Quota” system and saw an opportunity to make
films. The subjects of his early films, made by his company
The Federated Film Corporation, were released in the 1940s and
featured well known music hall and variety acts such as Wilson
Keppel and Betty. He moved on to travelogues filmed in England
many of which are now lost to The Baim Collection. I think
some were destroyed probably because they were shot on Nitrate
stock, or just because they were in black and white. Harold
moved onto 35mm colour film production from the mid-‘50s and
in the ‘60s he expanded his travelogue subjects to include
Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, America and Asia as
well as music compilations featuring footage of well-known pop
acts of the era.
The BFI list as many
as 300 films by Harold. He probably made between a third and
half of cinema shorts in the 1960s.
I am considering how
to best make an appeal for the lost titles, prints and
negatives, of over one hundred missing titles. Science Is
Golden, was a “lost” title, returned to The Baim Collection
Limited in 2010. A 16mm black-and-white print of the film,
which was released in 1949, was discovered in a school
cupboard and was returned by the Department of English and
Media at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. The film
features Professor Low, who shows how to make "homemade"
explosives for use in "magic tricks" and also shows a very
early domestic microwave oven and other household
labour-saving gadgets for the home, accompanied by the unique
Harold Baim script.
Harold never stopped
wanting to make films, but his business ended when he was in
his late sixties with six titles; Telly Savalas voiced three
films on Birmingham, Aberdeen and Portsmouth and Pete Murray
(a ‘Baim Star’ from films in the ‘60s) performed the
voice-over on three films on Coventry, Hastings and
Harold provided an
early career boost for Michael Winner who directed and
scripted a number of the Baim films in the early 1960s,
including Floating Fortress concerning life on HMS Victorious
and the popular comedy about modern manners Behave Yourself.
This is one of the few films in which actors speak and is
only one of three shot in black and white, the others being
Playing the Game, a comic look at the game of golf released in
1967 and A Pocket Full of Rye. Winner makes a fleeting
appearance in the title sequence of Behave Yourself. Also
amongst the Winner titles is the feature-length musical The
Cool Mikado starring Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper based on
the comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Digger: The portfolio of shorts
and films is quite diverse. What genres, topics and titles are
available and in what formats?
decided what he wanted to make films about. He funded the
films, releasing them on licence to distributors, mainly
United Artistes. There are some important films about The
Middle East in the 1960s, many animal films, zoos and wildlife
and films about British cities. Harold recorded in detail
some of the more mundane aspects of life in the 1970s and ‘80s
that were not recorded elsewhere on 35mm. Indeed, Harold has
been kindly described as “an accidental historian” his legacy
of films giving a glimpse of our recent past – and now
available in HD.
I started the
restoration of the negatives in 1999 and have now got viewing
copies of 72 of the 120 surviving films. I have 14 titles
scanned to HD. Most of the 70 films are available on DigiBeta
or BETA SP and have also been digitized so are available as .mov
Digger: A lot of the films are
full of nuggets for historians, film makers, documentary
makers and for those simply interested in our history. What
tend to be the most popular from the collection?
Richard: The London
films, Big City and One Square Mile have proved useful to
programme makers, as have the Blackpool film Playground
Spectacular and the film featuring Weston-Super-Mare Down
Somerset Way. I’m always surprised which programmes want clips
and how they are used.
Digger: I can remember some of
these films from my youth. There’s a particular ‘grammar’ to
Baim’s films that is very nostalgic in the light of modern
techniques. How much of an innovator and pioneer was Baim?
Richard: Harold Baim
applied a consistent formula to the creation of his films. No
one addresses the camera; the camera becomes the narrator's
'eyes' as they interpret the scene. The majority of the films
rely on the unseen narrator's voice-over and very few of the
colour films have any lip-sync at all. Wherever he went from
Alsace to Aberdeen, (alliteration was a well-used device in
the Baim formula) he took the same consistent approach in
introducing his subjects to the audience. He often opened a
travelogue by featuring transport facilities such as
motorways, bus stations and airports (a particular favourite).
Then he’d record the old town and educate the audience with a
bit of history; this would then contrast well with new
"sophisticated" office blocks. The shadow of World War Two
looms large in the films. Many images showing the rebuilding
of London as a result of the Blitz are featured in two films
from the early 1960s Big City and One Square Mile. These two
films contain beautiful 35mm shots of the emerging high rise
buildings which are now an established architectural
characteristic of the City of London. Baim also featured
local industries in his films such as the oil industry in
Aberdeen or lace-making in Nottingham. Before closing a film
there would be a recap and some information about day trips on
offer and the narrator often makes a promise to return. The
overseas travel depicted was a world away from the holiday
aspirations experienced by the everyday British cinema-goer
who, at the time, was much more likely to have ventured no
further afield than the British seaside.
The shots in the Baim
films are longer than in short films made today, which is very
useful if a new programme maker is making use of the shots.
Harold was very well planned in the shots he took as 35mm was
expensive and he had to have a good idea about what he wanted
to use in the finished film, unlike today where directors,
certainly in television, can shoot as much as they like,
digitally and it costs no more! I have the ‘out-takes’ or
‘off-cuts’ of the negative for Playground Spectacular and
Harold certainly wasted no more than 5 minutes of negative;
everything else he shot ended up on the screen.
Digger: Why do you think retro
and nostalgia is generally so popular with so many people
Richard: I’m not too
sure; it could be the fact good colour material is available
and it looks “special” and bright and clear, a real window
into our recent past. Humans have never had this sort of
record of the recent past.
Digger: And what are your
personal retro passions Richard?
Richard: I have a 1964
Daimler V8. I keep promising myself I’ll get it running
properly again, but there is never enough money or time! It’s
a lovely silver grey. Want to buy a car?
Digger: Who are your ‘typical’
customers, where are your customers coming from and what
customer feedback/comments do you get?
Richard: Extracts have
been used in new commissions on BBC TV, ITV and Channel 4 in
the last six months. That’s very pleasing. With the DVD
releases I get kind comments in e-mails and I do see nice
comments on various web sites. If anyone does not like the
films, well, there’s nothing I can do about it! Harold made
them; they are ‘of their time’!
Digger: What are the best and
most enjoyable aspects of running Baim Films?
Richard: Getting a new
film transferred – something that has not been seen for 50
Digger: What is Baim’s legacy
and how important are these films?
Richard: Harold Baim
is an accidental historian. He made the films for commercial
gain and sometimes he was not popular because of his hold on
the quota system, especially in the 1960s and ‘70s. The
films, looked at now, give us a colourful window on the recent
past. If the images get used by new producers, then that is
Digger: What are your plans for
Baim Films in the future Richard?
Richard: The only plan
is to get all 120 films – and any others I can find,
transferred to HD for use by future researchers, producers and