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Plan To Work On, A (1948)


Main image of Plan To Work On, A (1948)
35mm, black and white, 34 mins
DirectorKay Mander
Production CompanyBasic Films
SponsorsCentral Office of Information
 Department of Health for Scotland
ProducerR.K. Neilson Baxter
ScriptKay Mander

An account of the project for the replanning of Dunfermline, Fife. The growth of Dunferline through the centuries is explored, and the architect describes in detail the schemes for the changes of the future, and the principles behind them.

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Documentaries were often aimed at specific audiences rather than the general public. As the Monthly Film Bulletin's review of A Plan to Work On observed, it was "intended for specialist audiences such as architects, builders, and local authorities directly concerned with town planning", though "nevertheless interesting to anyone who takes an interest in the future progress of the town in which he lives".

It therefore reverses the strategy of films such as Five Towns (d. Terry Bishop, 1947) which saw public policy through ordinary citizens' eyes. Instead, an architect and his assistant take us through the history of, and prognosis for, Dunfermline, Fife as they prepare their strategy for re-planning it. The film concludes with a council meeting at which the key decision is taken. As the end credits make clear, professional actors are mainly used to portray the film's humane technocrats.

Basic Films specialised, as its name suggests, in interesting filmic elucidation of potentially complicated facts (many of its commissions were for schools films). Kay Mander's film flows effectively, making technical minutiae easily comprehensible, though some staged scenes hit interestingly false notes. To quote the film's own dialogue, "its faults are those of its period". Today's viewers, with the hindsight that has been generally critical of post-war planning, will also have little difficulty in spotting unintended ironies. Yet the film makes its case rationally and persuasively.

Patrick Russell

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950'.

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Video Clips
1. Fact-finding (2:48)
2. The need for planning (6:19)
3. Moving houses (3:08)
Complete film (32:06)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Five Towns (1947)
Mander, Kay (1915-)