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16/06/2011

British Film Industry Salutes Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE

The British Cinema and Television Veterans (BCTV), established in 1921 in recognition of cinema's founding father William Friese-Green is hosting a special event for the UK film industry on September 22 2011 to salute the work and commitment to the British film industry of Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE.
The tribute is being supported by 12 other industry organisations.
Sir Sydney is acknowledged internationally as having played a leading role in the UK film industry. He set up Samuelson Film Service in 1954, was instrumental in the development of BATA and was Academy Chairman from 1973-1976. Sir Sydney received both the Academy's Michael Balcon Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Film and the Academy Fellowship.
In 1978, Sir Sydney's work in film was acknowledged with a CBE, followed by a Knighthood in 1995. Other honours include a British Film Institute Fellowship and the Guild of Production Executives Award for Merit.
Following Downing Street talks with the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and Lord Richard Attenborough, Sir Sydney was appointed the first British Film Commissioner in 1991. In this new role Sir Sydney campaigned to promote the UK as the leading destination for international film productions and as a provider of world-class crews and facilities.
He also encouraged the Government to introduce a tax incentive for overseas productions that based themselves out of the UK and the set-up of a network of film commissions across the UK. As a result of what was a long-term strategy to position the UK as the leading centre for international film production outside of Los Angeles, inward investment in film production has grown from £182.7 million in 1994 to £752.7 million last year.
Lord Puttnam said: "I had the pleasure of working very closely with Sydney at BAFTA over many years and I know what a fantastic job he did for that organisation. His contribution to our industry over many, many years has been remarkable and it's entirely right that the sector is honouring him in this way."
Amanda Berry OBE, Chief Executive of BAFTA, said: "Sir Sydney is a man of great generosity of spirit - he gives his time, his wisdom and his experience with grace and kindness and his unflagging commitment to BAFTA for over 40 years is a testament to this. He was BAFTA's first ever Chairman under our modern day name and he remains an invaluable part of the organisation. He is regarded in the warmest way by so many of us involved with the Academy and we send him our thanks and very best wishes on the occasion of this tribute."
Anthony Williams, President of BCTV, said: "The British Cinema and Television Veterans honours and remembers those who have served our industries for 30 years or more. It is hard to think of anyone who better deserves that honour and we are proud that the industry is joining us in celebrating Sir Sydney's enormous contribution over so many years."
Sir Sydney has always been a stalwart supporter of the UK's film and TV reputation for the craft of production and the presentation of film to audiences. His father, G B 'Bertie' Samuelson was a pioneer producer of silent films, making more than 100 movies from 1910 onwards. Sydney first entered the business in 1939 aged 14 as a rewind boy in the projection box of the Luxor Cinema in Lancing, West Sussex.
In 1943, he signed up to be a flight navigator for the RAF, but when de-mobbed in 1947 he rejoined the film industry.
He trained as a Film Editor with Gaumont British Newsreel in London and subsequently joined the Film Unit of the British Colonial Office as an Assistant Cameraman. It was in 1954 with the purchase of a clockwork film camera that Sydney was introduced to the possibilities of equipment renting and formed Samuelson Film Service, later joined by his brothers.
The company became the foremost film and television equipment supplier in the UK and Europe working on all of David Lean's films including Doctor Zhivago, 13 James Bond movies, Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, Richard Donner's Superman, Fred Zinnermann's A Man for All Seasons, Norman Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Milos Forman's Amadeus amongst many other films, and was instrumental in making Panavision the camera company it is today.
As a cameraman, Sydney worked on shows for the BBC and the independent television companies, and worked with Movietone in Westminster Abbey to record the Queen's Coronation in 1953.
As part of his lifetime commitment as a tireless champion for the UK film industry, Sir Sydney has given his energies to charities and events that support film, much of which was shared with the public when he became the subject of the famous TV show, This is Your Life! He pioneered the Filmharmonic concerts that raised large sums for the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund and has supported the charity throughout his career.
Retirement came in 1997 for Sir Sydney, but as his wide Lady Doris Samuelson says, Sydney would be the first to admit that he has never really retired.
The BCTV industry tribute lunch for Sir Sydney Samuelson will be held on September 22 at a central London venue. The lunch is not a fundraising event, but any surplus will be donated to the CTBF.
For tickets, please contact the British Cinema and Television Veterans on: bctv.veterans@btopenworld and: 020 7287 2976.
(KMcA/GK)
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