Films for use in
"Hanna you must be a crackpot"
In the early twenties, the cinema offered many children a
place to visit that gave them a comfortable seat, often more
cosy that they had at home. The buildings were warm in winter
and cool in summer. The films they watched gave them a land of
make-belief, that was easy to assimilate, it was not too demanding
on their concentration as reading a book.
Often, I found when reading a book that really interested
me, that, after a few lines, my mind would start to wander and
thoughts that the text had suggested would go racing through
my mind, and for a while my mind would move away from the book
Whilst my mind-hopping often led to new ideas and inventions
- I came to the conclusion that films could be more inspiring
and more easily followed. I could see a time when cinemas would
show a short film before the feature film - something of a more
documentary nature to widen the horizons of the audiences who
had come to be entertained.
I had a vision of a machine that would bring pictures to every
home and a library where people could borrow films to play on
their own machine. As a teacher I was determined that I should
help to make this dream a reality and create an atmosphere of
enjoyment into teaching and so improve the willingness to learn
and so improve the standard of education.
It was sad in a way that it was the spin-offs from making
weapons for warfare that new materials and ideas were adopted
for peaceful purposes. In the training of the fighting services,
films became a successful weapon. And so it was that later the
National Committee for Visual Aids in Education added to its
list of blackboard and chalk, pictures and charts - the possibility
of instructional films for use in the classroom. They called
upon me to tell them how it could be done.
I told the academics that it was their duty to foster good
craftsmanship. That craftsmanship was an essential part of our
tradition and heritage, and that in years to come, our country
would be the poorer if we neglected to teach the value of all
useful trades and crafts. I expressed the view that in all schools,
girls as well as boys should be given the opportunity to use
tools and materials, both wood and metal, and that they should
be taught to appreciate the historical developments and influences
on mankind in determining the form of society.
Whilst many agreed with my comments, it was an not easy task
to convince my colleagues in the teaching profession that films
in the classroom could be a useful aid to their teaching. No
doubt many regarded me as a bit of a crackpot; others considered
that I was a. opportunist trying to make a few pounds with a
But nothing could have been further from my mind. It was mostly
at my own expense that I went into pioneering 'films for use
in the classroom'. I even, in an attempt to save money, went
into the business of developing and printing my own cine films,
often with disastrous results. I went through a period of hard,
painful and expensive experimenting - an apprenticeship, that
brought many disappointments. Reels of film were shot , ideas
were developed and more often than not were scrapped and started
The 'film chap' was becoming known even in the back streets
of my own town!
I learnt film making the hard way - by trial and error. found
the whole subject so fascinating, despite the disappointments,
and gradually I improved my techniques, although some of my ideas
brought laughter to some of the professional film producers whom
I met and had talked to.
In my own 'film laboratory' ( a small space I had created
between a bathroom and a bedroom) - I spent hours developing
yards and yards of film. I remember after piling many yards of
throw -outs into the dust bin in the back yard, that I heard
the Corporation bin men say - when they came to empty the bins
- " This must be where the film chap Hanna lives."
and I found them examining the celluloid in the back street.
My Film Laboratory