Andrew Dawson

Andrew Dawson BSc Econ, PhD

Andrew Dawson
BSc Econ, PhD

Principal Lecturer, Film

Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts

Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities

Andrew Dawson joined the University of Greenwich in September 1974. He was a research student in the United States and returned to the UK to complete a history PhD at the University of Sheffield. In the 1980s Andrew taught at Temple University, Philadelphia. For most of his career as a university lecturer, Andrew has taught American History. Drawing on his research expertise, he has delivered courses on 19th and 20th century history, including specialist courses in American labour, slavery and the Civil War.

With rising student interest in media and film studies during the 1990s, Andrew shifted his attention away from researching industrial development in Philadelphia to the 20th and 21st century motion picture industry in Los Angeles, teaching courses on Hollywood movies and the motion picture industry. In addition, he teaches practice-based courses on documentary and fiction film making.

Andrew is a member of the Higher Education Academy, and a University Teaching Fellow.

Teaching areas

  • Hollywood film
  • Documentary, theory and practice
  • Film making.

University Teaching Fellow

  • Helping implement the university's learning and teaching strategy
  • Supporting colleagues in their teaching.
  • 1984–85 American Council of Learned Societies – Fulbright Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania.

Andrew Dawson has had a fascination with the workplace and the interplay of power relations, social dynamics and culture ever since embarking on postgraduate research in the United States in the early 1970s. More recently, teaching on the film studies programme, he has developed a specialism in work relations in Hollywood and the British film and television industries. Andrew believes that modern capitalism gives citizens the vote but democratic principles do not extend to the workplace. It is this clash between the two realities that continues to animate his research. 

Andrew has written two important publications – Lives of the Philadelphia Engineers, an examination of 19th century machine shop entrepreneurs as they came to terms with the social consequences of industrialisation, boom and bust, slavery and the American Civil War; and Working in the Global Film and Television Industries which he co-edited with Sean Holmes at Brunel University. With individual chapters on such topics as Mumbai makeup artists, Hollywood stars, and French women camera operators what this volume highlights is not only the commonality but also the diversity of industry experience.  

Funded research projects

Civil Rights Era Hollywood

Equal opportunities is a major concern for the modern creative industries. Attracting and retaining men and women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds has been a problem throughout the history of the motion picture industry both in Britain and the United States. Instead of concentrating on the present situation, this research looked back at the impact of US civil rights legislation on Hollywood’s employment practices, specifically highlighting the experiences of African American in gaining entry to the motion picture industry. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed race discrimination in the workplace. A number of groups both within and outside the industry actively supported or opposed workplace integration. These included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, studio heads, Federal government, Screen Actors Guild and locals of the studio technicians union. Some early gains were made, particularly in acting, but once the Federal government lost interest in promoting diversity, African American recruitment declined. Today, Hollywood is disproportionately white and fails to reflect the vibrant ethnic diversity of the wider Los Angeles workforce. 

Research involved hours ploughing through back numbers of Variety and Hollywood Reporter, as well as more glamorous visits to the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences where the reading room is embellished with Oscars. But the real human story underlining the research came not from libraries or the trade press but through interviewing retired African Americans who succeeded against all the odds in gaining entry to the industry. These interviews, the first of their kinds, are now deposited in the oral history collection of the Charles E. Young Research library, UCLA. 

Andrew’s findings – which make grim reading for modern-day campaigners for ethnic equality  in film and broadcasting – are published in Challenging Lilywhite Hollywood: African Americans and the Demand for Racial Equality in the Motion Picture Industry, 1963-1974, in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture.

Disappearing Film/Lost Worlds

Andrew and co-researcher Sean Holmes, from Brunel University, are producing a video documentary on the largely forgotten world of film laboratory workers. ‘Film’ remains in the language but no longer refers to celluloid, which is fast disappearing. Most cinemas have switched to digital projection. The iconic Technicolor Laboratories at Pinewood Studios closed in May 2013. This short documentary tells the story of working lives at Deluxe Laboratories in Denham, the last remaining full-scale film processing facility in Britain. The laboratory struggles to survive and may not last beyond 2014. Using archival material, including old photos, interviews and footage, the film narrates the history from the building of the lab in 1936 to the present day. It explores the process of production and its impact on work culture, creativity and conflict inside labs. 

This research involves close collaboration with volunteer members of the Bectu History Project (Bectu is the union representing broadcast and film industry workers).  This is the oldest and one of the largest oral history projects of its kind in the world.

() . The Journal of Popular Culture. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.. pp. 1206-1225. ISSN 0022-3840 ISSN 0022-3840

and () . Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. Routledge. pp. 435-448. ISSN 0143-9685 ISSN 0143-9685

() . International Review of Social History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 160-162. ISSN 0020-8590 ISSN 0020-8590

Browse our research at GALA

() . In: Working in the global film industries: creativity, systems, space, patronage. Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK. pp. 21-38. ISBN 9781780930206

and () . In: Working in the global film industries: creativity, systems, space, patronage. Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK. pp. 1-17. ISBN 9781780930206

() . In: The Encyclopedia of Strikes in American History. M.E. Sharpe Inc., Armonk, NY, USA. pp. 652-664. ISBN 9780765613301

Browse our research at GALA

and (Eds.) (2012) . Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK. ISBN 9781780930206

() . History at the Higher Education Academy, Coventry, UK. ISBN 978-1-905165-520

Browse our research at GALA