Making the Grade

Making the Grade: Women Directing Documentary Past and Present

Directors UK (2018) reports an almost 10% decline in the number of women directing factual programming in recent years. What factors are driving this and how have individual women managed to forge careers in this sector? We will use the career of Jill Craigie (1911 – 99) as a springboard to explore how far things have changed since she started as one of the first women documentary directors in the UK, with contributions from women film-makers from the South West and around the UK.

Jill Craigie directed a series of films in the 1940s including The Way We Live (1946), a film which tried to foreground women’s perspectives on the plan to rebuild Plymouth after the World War Two. After her success in the war and post-war period, she had few opportunities to direct again, until, propelled by anger at the fate of the people of Dubrovnik during the war in Yugoslavia, she made Two Hours from London at the age of 84.


Friday 22 November  6 – 9pm
Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Screening and discussion of Making the Grade (working title) with director Lizzie Thynne, invited film-makers and Professor Yvonne Tasker (Leeds). Followed by wine reception.

Archival footage and Craigie’s own words from letters, diaries and interviews present an intimate portrait of the life and career of this pioneering film-maker whose work imagines a new place for women post World War Two. Craigie made the first film to feature living artists at work, Out of Chaos (1944) and To Be A Woman(1951), a forceful and witty argument for equal pay.  Making the Grade explores her unique contribution to documentary and her contrasting identities as director, writer, early media ‘personality’ and wife of former Labour leader, Michael Foot. The film will be a rough cut presented for your responses and feedback.

Saturday 23 November Day school 10am – 4pm
10am – 1pm
Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

A workshop with women directors to discuss the opportunities and obstacles women face in sustaining a career in documentary production. What avenues have they found to fund and exhibit their films outside, and within, film and television?

Discussion with film extracts by established and emerging women directors from the SW region and beyond. Led by Kayla Parker (University of Plymouth) and Lizzie Thynne (University of Sussex).

2 – 4pm Arts Centre Cinema, Plymouth College of Art

1pm Buffet lunch
2pm Screening and discussion of The Way We Live(Jill Craigie, 1946) with Stephen Essex (University of Plymouth), Hollie Price (University of Sussex) and Sadie Wearing (LSE).

Craigie’s provocative documentary on the Abercrombie plan to rebuild Plymouth cleverly combines humour, melodrama and political polemic to stir up support for the architect’s radical proposal to re-design urban space and ensure housing meets the needs of families and young people.