Cat no. 226534

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Kay Mander (documentary filmmaker/continuity 'girl')


Recorded 28 September 1988

Kay Mander (29 September 1915 - )
Interviewed by Sid Cole

Kay Mander entered the British film industry in 1935 as a ‘continuity girl’ at London Films and in 1937 she became the first female member of the ACT. In 1940 she moved into documentary filmmaking as a production assistant at the Shell Film Unit, before joining Paul Rotha Productions in 1943, where she directed four instructional films for the home-front propaganda campaign. Mander and her husband, documentary producer R.K. Neilson Baxter, formed Basic Films in 1945. Among their first productions was 'Homes For the People' (1945), commissioned to promote Labour party reconstruction policies. Mander continued to direct films in Britain in the late 1940s, before moving to Indonesia in the early 1950s to set
up a film unit. She returned to Britain towards the end of the decade, directing films for the Children’s Film Foundation and later working in continuity for a number of international productions.

In this largely fascinating interview conducted with Sid Cole, Mander discusses her early career in the publicity departments at London Films and Fox-British Studios before moving into continuity. She provides many interesting details about the continuity department, particularly its relationship to the editor's role. Asked how she went about directing her first project, she states 'I just went and did it'. Mander claims to have directed over fifty documentary films, and her recollections of these years are the most valuable part of this interview. The interviewer describes this period in her career as 'adventures in documentary', to which she responds, 'Oh Sid! They weren't adventures.' She makes some interesting comments about her experiences as a woman in the film industry, but refuses to be drawn into a political discussion, saying 'I have got too much to bother about in my life without having to bother about being a woman'.