Monday, January 18, 2016

Labor Power and Organization

I read an interesting article today called Labor Power and Organization in the Early U. S. Motion Picture Industry by Michael C. Nielson.  It is located in Film History, Vol 2, No 2.  It generally is more about how theatrical workers created IASTE and that stage mechanics typically either worked on the road or specialized in building the scenery for the combination tours.  Film is a more economical model than live theatre.  I assume that it is mostly true today.  After all million dollar movies still cost 8 bucks (or so) plus concessions at a movie theatre.  Any touring show has a range of price points, but you can barely see a high school play or community theatre production for the price of movie ticket today. 

Another quote from the article stands out to me:
It occurred to us that we could use Bill (Bill Bowers was a prop man that had toured in vaudeville attractions) at the studio to take charge of obtaining all the odds and ends needed to dress the sets.  I think Bill established the principle upon which the props departments function today, namely that a director gets whatever he asks for without argument, no matter how crazy or impossible the request.  …early film craft workers set a tone of “doing the impossible” for the sake of creating whatever illusion the director wanted to produce. 

I also thought it was interesting how the article brought up that the unions were based on industrial lines (film and theatre) versus the trades like carpenters and IBEW.  It’s a conflict that still played out in some projects that I have worked on, and we end up working along beside the trades on some jobs depending on jurisdiction.  


  1. When you write this sort of thing it's wonderful but PLEASE include the link the article you are referring to. That would add to the experience. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. I cannot always provide a link because sometimes the articles that I read are from scholarly journals that are not publicly available, which is why I provided full title, author, and publication. It was published in 1988 and is available through JSTOR if you have an account.