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Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 4 (1987)

A sighting of Mr Baird and working at BBC studios in the late '50s

Main image of Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 4 (1987)

The copyright of this recording and transcript is vested in the BECTU History Project. Bryan Langley was interviewed by Arthur Graham on 18 November 1987.

1. Baird, the inventor of television

And at the corner of Manet Street, before it became [unintelligible] there was Kingston and Lynes and we used to have all our cameras serviced there, Parkinsons did. And on one occasion I went to Kingston and Lynes and I saw Mr. Baird, the inventor of television, out with Kingston, Arthur Kingston, concocting some piece of machinery and somebody said that's the man who's invented some crazy idea. I didn't take any notice at the time other than to remember his name. But that's a little highlight of my life to actually see Mr. Baird in the business of inventing television.

2. BBC Ealing

I was at Ealing from 1958 to 1960 and without making you blush Alan I regard my time at Ealing as my university because there I met people who had backgrounds other than film or theatrical or acting. I felt my whole life had been in this groove of films, theatrical and acting and at the BBC I met people who had been to university like David Attenborough and religious people, and women who had been actresses and now became producers. It was a whole different world and I rubbed shoulders with these people and I learned from them that, in particular if you don't know what to do you should jolly well ask.

Many young people came from the Television Centre, came to Ealing to do a little filming for a programme and these young people would no nothing whatsoever about filming and they would ask me as a cameraman what to do and I was able to advise them on several occasions. I learned this positive thing that if you don't know you should ask. I also learnt at Ealing, I'm going on a little bit here because it's very important I think from my point of view.

Two other things I learnt at Ealing: one was how to shoot in 16mm, how to handle 16mm. My whole life had been 35mm and the entire works, great big heavy things and great big crews; the other thing I learnt at Ealing, on some occasion, not very often, I had an assistant who was really bone idle and didn't bother to turn up on location. But the producer was brought up with the belief that the show must go on and you couldn't stop just because somebody didn't turn up, you'd got to do your stint. So on these rare occasions I had to reorganise my thinking from a full crew with all the trimmings to do it yourself or don't do it at all.

This was also brought home to me by a BBC cameraman, I was sitting next to him in the BBC camera room, this was a rather elderly cameraman and I said where are you going to next Dougie and he said I'm off to South America next. I said oh yes, who's going with you. He said it's just me and the producer, a two-man crew. I said but how can you do it, loading and humping all the stuff and he said well they can't afford the airfare for an assistant and all that happens is that everything takes a little bit longer. Because I've got to load the magazines and I've got to unload them, I've got to dust the camera, I've got to think about what to do, make out my timesheet. It gives me a longer on location but I can do it myself. And he did this. Also there was David Attenborough and his cameramen whizzing round the world doing a two-man crew operation because really you couldn't do it any other way.

So I learnt three things: one, if you don't know ask; two, 16mm and three, to do it yourself.

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Langley, Bryan (1909-2008)