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History of the Secondary Technical School of Film in Čimelice (part 2)

History of the Secondary Technical School of Film in Čimelice (part 2)
History of the Secondary Technical School of Film in Čimelice, part I.

Formation of the School and Plans to Produce Below the Line Crew

Just before the foundation of the Secondary Technical School of Film (SPŠF – Střední průmyslová škola filmová), a news article was published encouraging the FAMU (Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague) directorate to create fixed academic regulations, differentiate practice and theory and establish a technical branch of the school.1 The obvious thirst for technical training course that would precede FAMU was indisputably included in the article. “With participation of all sections of the Czechoslovak State Film (ČSF – Československý státní film), a state conference on the founding of educational facilities for new below the line workers was held on November 25, 1950. […] In the final period of establishing the education of the below the line workers it was ascertained, based on the reports, that the film training course must be organised in a unified and comprehensive framework that would integrate primary, secondary and higher film education. All employees must be provided with basic expert knowledge – the level must be continuously raised and coordinated with the general educational process.”2

Foundation of the SPŠF in 1950 was, therefore, an answer to the prayers for establishing a school that would raise new workers in technical and production fields. In 1949, negotiations between the Ministry of Education and the Czechoslovak State Film took place. The school was built in Klánovice, a town on the edge of Prague. Here, the film school was opened on September 4 as a selective secondary school, with Ladislav Eichler taking the place of the first director. Only 43 pupils were accepted out of 227 applicants. The quotas put in place for the first years of the school allowed only a certain number of applicants from different regions to be accepted. The school specialised in three fields – technical, production and chemical (abolished in 1965). During the first year, the school ran atelier techniques courses, photography and screening technology courses. Concurrently, practice workshops and laboratories were being opened. Ústřední škola dělnická (Central Worker’s School) was opened the same year in the town of Hostivař.3 It was intended to solve the pressing need for further training of the ČSF workers in accordance with the party political authorities that conducted recruitment of below the line workers to the school.4

Due to unsuitable conditions, the school was relocated to the Čimelice Castle in 1953 after a temporary residence in the Film studios in Prague-Hostivař. “The temporariness was opted for merely due to the restorations of the Čimelice Castle, and as it goes with the construction industry, the deadlines were not being met and it simply kept being prolonged. And so it happened that when we finished our first year in 1951 and new applicants had been chosen for the following year, when we started the second year and the first year had to open, the Čimelice Castle was still not ready. So the first year went to Klánovice and our second year of the film school was moved to Hostivař. In the Hostivař film studios, there was a hotel-like building, probably designed for the purposes of temporary accommodation. We occupied the building and carried out our school and residential activities there. And then, in February 1952, by the end of the first term, our second year was moved to Čimelice where we met the first year students for the very first time.”5

The first school leaving examinations were held in Čimelice in May 1954. The SPFŠ was subsumed into the accounting unit of Film Industry in 1955 after the first school leaving examinations and renamed Vyšší filmová škola (Film High School). After the education reform, the school was renamed again to Střední průmyslová škola filmová (Secondary Technical School of Film). In January 1956, the Ministry of Education revised and approved new syllabi with focus on training semi-technical and culturally administrative below the line workers with a new specialisation in film, radio and television technology.6 The teaching staff newly comprised nine permanent employees and sixteen external teachers, mostly the employees of ČSF, FAMU and Výzkumný ústav zvukové, obrazové a reprodukční techniky (Research Institute of Sound, Picture and Reproduction Technology).

Fighting for Authority and Integrity

Between the years of 1954 and 1956, there was a rift between the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Education over the province to which the Secondary Technical School of Film should belong. Since its establishment, the school belonged under the authority of the Ministry of Education. In Summer 1954, the Ministry of Culture filed an application to the education Minister Václav Hendrych to move the school into their province.7 Further applications were sent between October 3 and November 10, 1954.8 Not one of them, however, won great acclaim at the Ministry of Education.

During 1955, the Ministry of Education held talks on the province and integrity of the school. Closing the school and moving the students to a specialised secondary technical school in Prague was also under discussion. However, on September 10 of the same year, the Ministry of Education issued a statement designating the SPŠF the only suitable and eligible institution to educate film students.

“The cinematography activity, that is the work conducted with the intention to create and screen a film, comprises roughly of two equal parts – creative artistic work and technology. In the past few years, the film technology has been, however, gradually left out in the cold which had an impact on the provision of youth. The ČSF now, therefore, lacks a sufficient number of theoretically trained technicians. Majority of technical work is being carried out by practitioners whose methods, based merely on experience, prove insufficient where precise measuring is required.

On the other hand, the fact that cinematography has been undergoing a tumultuous progress in the last few years needs to be taken into consideration. The ČSF was soon to face pressing and difficult technical challenges such as a wide-screen film or even plastic film, magnetic sound records and an objective control over laboratory processes. These tasks require specially trained film technicians. We may say that the SPŠF is one of the footholds of the film technology and it would not be right to deprive the ČSF of one of the few means it possesses to fulfil the technical task right at the time when the film technology is experiencing fast development.”9

On March 22, 1956, following the decision not to dissolve the Secondary Technical School of Film, the education Minister František Kahuda complied with the request made by the Ministry of Culture. The school was to be transferred under the authority of the Ministry of Culture on January 1, 1957.10 The dispute, however, was nowhere near over. April 25, 1956, the Ministry of Education demanded that the school be returned back under their authority. The main argument for the return was the technical character of the school which placed it under the administration of the Ministry of Education.11 These requests were not granted in the end and the school was passed to the competence of the Ministry of Culture in 1957.

Education Structure during the First Decade

The close relation between the school and the Czechoslovak State Film ensured a regular inflow of film experts as well as rare cinematographic devices otherwise difficult to obtain in that time and era – tape recorders, flight cases with measuring equipment, etc. Even with the high number of external workers, specialists chosen from the leading employees of the ČSF, FAMU and research institutes (e.g. VÚZORT – Research Institute of Audio, Video and Reproduction Technology), the main burden was not put on them. The nine core employees including three teachers from the town of Písek stood in for everyone, teaching educational, language and technical subjects and PE totalling 222 hours per week. Sixteen external workers worked only five hours per week in the 1950s, 90 hours per week in total.

The school administration considered it suitable for every film technician to be able to screen both 16mm and 35mm film. All students of the Secondary Technical School of Film thus had projection workshops counting up to 93 hours in their first year and 35 hours in their second year. Here, they were educated in the booth equipment and the projectors. Having attended a certain number of screenings, they were examined in front of the ČSF committee. The students also attended 93 hours of electro-technical workshop in the first year and 35 hours in the second year.

In the second year, the students were taught theory of photography two hours per week, including two hours of photography workshop. In their third year, the students familiarised themselves with the development of the film equipment for 5 hours per week. The major requirement for the graduates of the SPŠF was, however, familiarisation with the basics of the creative filmmaking – filmmaking was given two hours per week in the second year. One of further requirements was a more profound knowledge of physics and mathematics, emphasized mainly in the first two years of the studies, five hours per week.12

The students of the technical and chemical branches were taught the basics of construction in the fourth year, twice a week, namely the film studio construction, lab and cinema construction. The school recognized also the fact that film business requires knowledge of foreign languages. Compulsory Russian and optional English and German language classes two times a week were, therefore, also implemented into the syllabus. Construction, foreign languages and the organisation of the Czechoslovak State Film were considered necessary subject for the technical and chemical branches of the school due to the possibility of employment abroad.13 For the needs of all the branches of the schools, eight workshops were established in total – engineering, screening, three dark rooms for the photographers, chemical and electro-technical lab and a film equipment cabinet.14 In these workshops, the students underwent practise in machine and hand cutting of metals, electro-technical workshop, film technology workshop and a photochemical lab.15

History of film was also incorporated into the syllabus.

“Yes, we studied the history of film and art. I have also completely forgotten to mention – from those who were commuting – A. F. Šulc, František Alan Šulc, a very respectable FAMU teacher. But he wasn’t just a teacher, was he. He got to teaching because he was such a brilliant director of documentary films. So Šulc commuted to Čimelice. And Jan Kučera came a couple of times – also a teacher at FAMU. And they taught us the history of film. They would bring it with them the copies of old Czech films.”16

The history of film classes introduced to the students the major films of the Soviet, Western and Czechoslovak cinematography. Often, the lessons were enriched by screenings in the Čimelice cinema: “[…] on the main square, there is a pub Na Knížecí with a hall, as it’s always been. People used to dace there, and we would take chairs, the TON chairs, connected them with battens and screw them together to make rows. And there was a projecting screen, so it worked as a cinema. If there was a dance, the chairs would be moved to the side, the floor waxed and people would dance there. There was one projector there on the side, […] and so we’d go there and watch archive films and so on, […] also the projectionist who was working there at the time, Mr Černík, was also a boiler operator at our school, so it was all connected.”17

Filmmakers from the Castle18

The newspaper articles published during the first ten years of the SPŠF were predominantly optimistic. The founding of the school was perceived as another step in the formation of socialistic cinematography – the contribution of the school to the Czechoslovak film and television was stressed together with the employment possibilities outside the field in other jobs and universities.19 They wrote about the extra-curricular activities of the students and the utilisation of the Castle outside of the school year as a summer camp for children of the Czechoslovak Film employees.20

The reason was that in the 50s, youth education belonged to the most important tasks of the Ministry of Education. During the meeting of the ÚV KSČ (Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) in January 1956, these parameters were stressed: “Creation of a conscious character to the socialistic class arrangement signifies familiarisation of the youth with the advantages presented by this arrangement and arousal of a strong will to act. They shall understand and be inseparably connected with the socialistic system of work and creation. In order for the socialistic youth education to reach these goals, the Ministry of Education pledges to fulfil its task to participate on the education of youth more dutifully and actively than ever before.”21

The interviews with the first graduates thus include their memories of a strict daily regime they had to follow at the beginning of the Secondary Technical School of Film: “Franta Beran was from Čimelice, he lived just downhill from the church, but he had to stay in the hall of residence. They just wouldn’t tolerate it. […] you couldn’t simply suspend and then continue. Nothing like that. I’d say that we were a kind of a company school. We were their employees. We belonged to them. You couldn’t repeat a grade or anything like that, nine got kicked out after the first term, […] and even those who lived near Čimelice, it would seem they could live home, right, but they couldn’t. Once in two months we were allowed to visit our parents.”22Solidarity, planning and endeavour to create an autonomously functioning “world within a world” was palpable also from the daily regime. It consisted of a joint morning exercise, breakfast, ten minutes of politics, morning and afternoon lessons. “Of course, there was mostly only cold water, so it was a little… but at fifteen sixteen you have different standards, so we didn’t really mind that much. In the morning we were woken up by a siren, then we had to jump back into our clothes and off we went outside the Castle for the morning exercise, right, then to the lunchroom for ten minutes of politics, only then we got breakfast and then we went to the classrooms. Once the classes were over, we had obligatory studies in the classrooms. Home we got once during the first term, then for the Christmas, then once in the second term. At the beginning, we were only allowed to walk outside all together.”23

Even the extra-curricular activities comprised of compulsory sociability. The students published a journal Naše tvorba (Our Creation), they also played in amateur theatre and participated, under the supervision of the educators, in many interest groups: “The journal Naše tvorba, which I’m carrying with me, was a journal we were publishing without any help of the educators. We put there, I don’t know, information about interest groups. We had about eight of them: culture, dance, choir, laboratory and drama etc.”24

From the Czech original translated by Daniela Vymětalová.

The study is an excerpt from the author’s master’s diploma thesis.
Photo source: http://cimelice.ic.cz
Translator’s note: all direct speech and names of the schools were translated freely by the translator.


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  1. Filmový dorost v nouzi (1948). Lidová kultura, Nr. 8 (Feb 11). []
  2. Výroční zpráva čs. státního filmu (1950). ÚPF: Prague, p. 77. []
  3. Výroční zpráva čs. státního filmu (1951). ÚPF: Prague, p. 32. []
  4. Similar training of creative and other film production workers and employees was typical throughout the whole of 1950s and was executed primarily at the workspaces by the training schools. In Radlice in 1951, a two-month course for quality inspection technicians was held in 1951. In 1953, a three-week training course was held for regional technicians and a nine-week training course for region administrators in Klánovice and in 1954, two two-week courses for regional cinema directors, a week course for regional technicians, two week courses for regional assembly technician, a course for regional inspection technicians and a fourteen-day and three-day course for regional planners were held also in Klánovice. See Deset let Čs. státního filmu (1955). Praha: CSF, s. 177. []
  5. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jan Blažík interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []
  6. Výroční zpráva čs. státního filmu (1955). ÚPF: Prague, p. 23. []
  7. NA Praha, f. Ministerstvo kultury (944), inv. č. 316, Žádost ministerstva kultury (Jul 14, 1954). []
  8. NA Praha, f. Ministerstvo kultury (944), inv. č. 316, Žádost ministerstva kultury (Oct 13 and Nov 10, 1954). []
  9. NA Praha, f. Ministerstvo kultury (944), inv. č. 316, Prohlášení ministerstva školství (Sep 10, 1955). []
  10. NA Praha, f. Ministerstvo kultury (944), inv. č. 316, Prohlášení ministerstva školství (Mar 10, 1956). []
  11. NA Praha, f. Ministerstvo kultury (944), inv. č. 316, Žádost ministerstva školství (Apr 25, 1956). []
  12. SOkA Písek, f. Střední průmyslová škola filmová Čimelice (578), inv. č. 68, sig. IIB/8, k. 2, Výroční zpráva. []
  13. SOkA Písek, f. Střední průmyslová škola filmová Čimelice (578), inv. č. 53, sig. IIB/5, Čtvrtletní závěrka. []
  14. SOkA Písek, f. Střední průmyslová škola filmová Čimelice (578), inv. č. 68, sig. IIB/8, k. 2, Výroční zpráva. []
  15. SOkA Písek, f. Střední průmyslová škola filmová Čimelice (578), inv. č. 59, sig. IIB/4, k. 1, Výroční zpráva. []
  16. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jan Blažík interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []
  17. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jiří Hora interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []
  18. The Czech title of this chapter (Filmáci ze zámku) was taken from the title of a book written by Petr Pavlů, Filmáci ze zámku knížete Schvarzenbergra (2011) where he collected his personal memories of his studies in the 50s at the Secondary Technical School of Film. []
  19. Ústřední dělnická škola Čs. státního filmu (1951). Kino, VI, Nr. 20, p. 466.; ADAMEC, Oldřich (1959): Od piky ke kameře. Kino, Nr. 5, p. 67.; Desetiletí průmyslové školy filmové v Čimelicích (1960). Filmový technik, 8, Nr. 7, cover back side.

    In 1955, a film technology department was created at FAMU, intended for the graduates of the Secondary Technical Film School who wanted to expand their practice in photography or camerawork. []

  20. FIŠAROVÁ (1957): Na podnikové rekraci. Záběr, Nr. 9, (August), p. 3. []
  21. NA Praha, f. ÚV KSČ f. 53, sv. 29, Materiály ke schůzi sekretariátu (1956). []
  22. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jiří Hora interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []
  23. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jiří Hora interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []
  24. National Film Archive, the Archive of sound documents. Jan Blažík interviewed by Kateřina Lachmanová. []


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