After the late and forced addition of ‘Angie’ to my film, I knew I had to do more character research in the aim to develop and understand her role further. To do this I watched Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham (2010) to study the role of ‘Rita’ in the film, in the aim to gather inspiration in the development of ‘Angie’ in my text.
The film is set in 1968 Britain, Dagenham to be exact just outside the East of London. Ford at the time, was one of the largest private employers providing jobs to thousands of male employees, they also employed several women. At the time there were 187 underpaid female machinists who primarily assembled the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. After years of putting up with these poor and ill kept conditions the women stood up against the firm and took action with Rita O’Grady at the forefront alongside union rep Albert Passingham. It soon came to Rita’s attention that the bigger issue at hand was the fact that women were being paid a fraction of the men’s wage while doing the same skilled jobs. The women were also deemed as unskilled workers. Rita refused to tolerate the inequality any longer and rallied her female troops to strike in the name of equal pay for equal work. There was then a huge tug of war in politics between the labour party which resulted in many losing their jobs and therefore being out of pocket. You really see the financial strain this action has in the home when Rita and her husband Eddie have a heated argument about their fridge being reprocessed due to a lack of payment. In the end the women prevail and receive their pay rise under the new equal pay act of 1970.
I really enjoyed watching this film again. The first time I watched it was at one of the premier nights in London when it was first released. That day, I met the director of the film Nigel Cole and I partook in his Q and A session. Needless to say this was a critical moment for me, as he helped to reignite my dream of becoming a film director. Even though this film is a historical drama it also has a rich sense of your typical East London banter within it, making it thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Without overshadowing the main issue at hand (women being underpaid) I also gathered a lot from the less prominent themes within the text. For example the way in which people lived their lives at the time and the divide between the working class and the middle class. This was a fantastic backdrop for the film and it really helped to highlight the drastic change from back then to present day. The use of music to set the scene was also very key. This helped to give the film some context and drove the feeling and emotions of the film really well. The colour grading of the film really worked well also, you can tell that the editor spent time to find the right balance of saturation particularly in the shots of the council flats to really bring out the grey and solitude which was associated with the working class at the time. ‘Thus, the working class were defined as ‘ordinary people like myself – around these dim estates’ (Savage, 2005: 938). There was also a strong use of wide angles which worked well to compliment the more intimate and emotional shots. The use of archive footage also worked really well to highlight non fictional aspect of the film. My rating 7/10.
Rita VS Angie
There are lot of similarities between Rita O’Grady and Angie as well as there are differences. They are both bold, funny, and driven. We see Rita’s funny side just after her initial meeting with the board at Ford. Albert applauds her for bringing out the companies upholstery material and using it as a motif in her dramatic speech in the boardroom, she then says in similar words ‘no I’m really going to pinch it, my husband Eddie needs it to pitch up the tent at home’. This transparent and frank sense of humour really helps to bring out her character and shows us her comedic side just moments after displaying to us her more serious aspect, this drastic change in character highlights the fact that she is not a one dimensional. ‘Don’t limit your characters to a certain set of behaviors so that your shy character is ALWAYS shy, or your outspoken character is ALWAYS loud. Instead, be open to unexpected character traits’ (‘Writers relief’ 2013). Doing these things help to make your character feel real. We also see similar traits of this East London banter with Angie in her narration when she says ‘little did I know this mothers meeting down my old local would change my world forever’. This also helps to demonstrate the contextual use of cockney slang which really helps to bring out the comedy in both characters. Rita is a very strong motherly figure, but her strength does not shine through until the latter stages of her character development in the film. When she finds out her son is being beaten my his teacher she timidly enters the school and confronts him. He then quickly shuts her down by insulting her intelligence and existence in a very patronising manor. At this point she is relatively weak and storms out of his class frustratedly. Even though Angie will not be seen as motherly in the eyes of the public she does have a genuine love for her son Billy, who she neglects at the tender age of 5. In her voice you can hear the tone of her apologetic nature alongside eternal guilt, especially when Billy dies. Both of the women have big dreams. Rita’s being to receive equal pay and Angie’s to become a big time actress in the west end. Even though Rita’s aspirations may seem more moral and selfless then Angie’s her actions do negatively affect her family and the people who worked for Ford at the time. Her husband Eddie who was supportive initially grew frustrated with Rita as he felt like she was neglecting her motherly duties and causing more bad then good. The irony is, she made her husband feel like less of man by leaving him at home to look after the kids. While Rita ventured out to protest in the aim to get paid more like a man. Frank’s world really crashes after the departure of his ex wife Angie, but she left similarly to Rita to follow her dreams despite of all the mess it caused. The main difference is Rita returned in time to save her breaking family where as Angie was 15 years too late. Her son dies and her relationship with Frank never fully rekindles.
Eddie and Frank can also be compared. They are both good, genuine and wise men who have been put in tough situations by their women. Eddie is softer, calmer and more collected where as Frank is aggressive, manly and hot tempered. We see these characteristics shine through when Frank pours out his tainted heart to Daniel in the kitchen scene. He looks very angry and forceful and by the reaction on Daniel face his disruptive past has really made him into this monster. Frank literally loses it all and by the end of the film and even though he has this tough exterior the audience will feel sorry for him, as they will be able to see past his bad boy facade. Similar to how we feel for Eddie in ‘Made in Dagenham’ when Rita shouts at him and storms off when he tries to tells her how much he’s been trying to support her. Both men play an important role in their respective films but it is the two women Rita and Angie who run the show and dictate the pace of the narrative, and although both females are very similar they are both independent and strong in their own right.
There are a flurry of other interesting characters and sub plots in the film like Connie who loses her husband to suicide, and Sandra who sacrifices her modelling career for the betterment of her female colleagues at Ford. They all play key role in the narrative like Daniel, the Doctor and Billy in ‘A bit about Angie’.
To conclude I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing and learning from this film. The character Rita, who has clearly been developed wonderfully well by Nigel Cole is the shining light in this historic story. I have taken a lot from her role and the film in general which I will try to implement in the final stages of production for my film ‘A bit about Angie’. For example her tone, pacing, character development and in terms of the film in general I will take it’s contextual authenticity and it’s strong use of music to help set the scene.
SonyPicturesClassics (2010) MADE IN DAGENHAM official trailer in HD! Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHvz5kBkD0U (Accessed: 20 March 2016).
Made In Dagenham. U.K: Nigel Cole, 2010. film.
A bit about Angie. U.K: David Sanni, 2016. film.
Savage, M. (2005) Working-Class Identities in the 1960s: Revisiting the Affluent Worker Study. Available at: http://www2.facso.uchile.cl/sociologia/1060225/docs/savage/working_class.pdf (Accessed: 21 March 2016).
Staff, W.R. (2013) 5 ways to create Three-Dimensional characters. Available at: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2013/11/5-ways-to-create-three-dimensional-characters/ (Accessed: 20 March 2016).