What is the BFI Filmography?
For the first time, the BFI has compiled a comprehensive list of UK feature films from the start of UK film history until now. The list contains information about each of these films which is searchable in a dedicated BFI Filmography web portal as well as in the BFI’s Collections Information Database (CID).
How can I use the Filmography? What can I use it for?
The Filmography can be used to play around with the data we have compiled in order to ask it simple and more complex questions about the history, production and context of film in the UK. Take a look at the BFI Filmography to see data visualisations and statistics about UK film. Access our Collections Information Database for a more detailed look at the films in question. Contact us directly for more complex research queries or any other questions you may have.
Why did you make the Filmography?
There is so much interest in film and UK film history in particular and yet the story of that history has always been partial. As an institution we already document and record a vast amount of information about films released and made in the UK so it was an important step to compile meaningful data about British films in particular. With this information you can begin to uncover untold histories about the UK film industry from many perspectives. An exciting prospect.
How did you make the Filmography? Where does the data come from?
The BFI catalogues all films released in the cinema in the UK as part of our remit to document and review films in our Sight and Sound magazine. In fact the BFI has documented all feature films released to cinemas since 1934, when our Monthly Film Bulletin magazine began. The information captured includes title, date of release, production companies, production countries, running time, names of the cast and crew etc. As this already existed in our Collections Information Database, we were able to apply criteria to this information and begin to reveal a history of UK film. The research to uncover these films has been a mixture of manual, library-based research, online research and large-scale data projects to identify these British films, collect data about them and collate them in our database.
Which films are in the Filmography?
To answer this question we needed to decide on what we meant by ‘UK feature films’. We wanted to be rigorous but inclusive in our selection so decided on the following criteria to see whether or not a film would be included in our Filmography. A ‘UK feature film’ has to be:
Feature Length – running time of 40 minutes or more
British – funded or produced in part or in full by a UK-based production company. These will include films which have passed the Cultural Test required to achieve UK Certification i.e. British tax incentives for British participation in the production of a film.
a Cinema Release — has been released and displayed in a UK cinema for the purposes of commercial and public consumption.
40 minutes or more running time – we researched the definition of ‘feature length’ films throughout film history, looking at the definition used in the USA and elsewhere around the world, for various film awards ceremonies including the Academy Awards etc. We opted for a length that we felt would provide us with the most inclusive definition of ‘feature length’ films without including short films. This 40 minutes definition means that the Filmography includes shorter feature films which may have played supporting roles in double bills — often referred to as ‘B Movies’.
There is already research into many of the world’s larger, commercial film industries like Hollywood. We are the British Film Institute so it is our job to research and encourage dialogue around British films in particular. This is ground-breaking research and data work and because of our position, we are best placed to do it.
Cinema Release? Why not DVD, Video-On-Demand, shorts etc.
We felt that our focus needed to be on ‘film’ for this project and where we talk about the UK film industry, in the main, we are talking about commercial cinema and distribution. That is certainly true for the history of the feature film and is still largely true now — cinemas are still a very popular venue for viewing feature films and cinema audiences are still growing. It’s not that we have ruled out thinking or talking about other methods of viewing films, especially as the landscape of film production and distribution is changing, but we wanted to start with ‘film’ in this context as a basis for thinking about ‘film’ in other ways in the future. This also helps to put into context our film history, before we look at our film future.
How do you decide if a film is:
A film record in the BFI’s Collections Information Database will usually contain the running time. Where this was absent for some reason, we have undertaken further research (online or in trustworthy magazines and journals) to establish that the duration is 40 minutes or more.
We record the countries involved in making or funding a film in our Collections Information Database, including the name of company/companies involved. We support this with further research in databases such as Companies House, to establish whether a production company is British or not. Also, films which receive Certification (i.e. tax incentives for films which choose to make their films in the UK and/or with British support) will have a British company attached to the production as this is one of the requirements, so we use this list to cross-reference our inclusions.
a Cinema Release?
We have used various sources for this across the history of UK film. In the main, we have referred to sources which have already documented films which have been released at the cinema in the UK and compared them with our own Collections Information Database. These documents of record include:
- The British Film Catalogue, vol. 1: The Fiction Film 1895–1994 by Denis Gifford
- Monthly Film Bulletin, 1934-1991 (BFI)
- Sight and Sound Magazine, 1932- present day (BFI)
- The Film Distributors Association website, Launching Films
We also supplement this knowledge with further research in trade journals and cinema listings in magazines among other sources.
Why don’t you include films exhibited in other ways – eg in film clubs, smaller scale cinema screenings, and screenings by direct agreement between film-maker and cinema?
In this iteration of the Filmography we limited our inclusion to film screenings that fall within scope of a ‘document of record’ as described above, in order to achieve a complete dataset and publish the Filmography with available resources. The project team used the BFI’s two published documents of record for films released to UK cinemas – Monthly Film Bulletin and Sight and Sound – and for the recent years where S&S has not quite reviewed all releases, they used the FDA database, to augment S&S lists and cover – hopefully – all films released via that mainstream FDA route.
However, it is clear that by excluding films where release is negotiated directly between filmmaker and cinema, or films shown in clubs or less formal commercial contexts, we are excluding an important set of film screenings from the Filmography – and a set that may in particular offer exhibition possibilities for women filmmakers and BAME filmmakers potentially excluded from mainstream commercial supply chains. We recognise this challenge and aim to develop methodologies to include them in systematic ways, to avoid bias and selectiveness. It’s important that we plan those next steps carefully and proceed systematically with available resources, rather than act without a plan to achieve the data capture at scale, robustly.
Are there documentaries in the Filmography?
Yes. Non-fiction, where films meet the other criteria for inclusion, are in the Filmography – certainly for non-fiction films released in recent years. However, as the information for these films is historically not as complete in our catalogue, we are working to ensure that every film that meets our criteria has definitely been included, and that is a high priority. If you notice any glaring omissions, please help us by letting us know.
Is the Filmography complete? Will it change?
This is a large scale data creation and research project which means it is unlikely to ever be 100% complete or perfect. We are continually updating our Collections Information Database with new release films, all new information which continues to feed the filmography. We do feel however, using the resources we have access to, it is complete enough to tell stories about the UK film industry in a way that has never been possible before.
We will also be periodically reassessing our criteria to see if still relevant to current and future production and distribution conditions. In other words, the database will change and grow as the film industry does. We are also looking to enhance the data with more information to be able to tell a range of stories from different viewpoints (for more information, see BFI Filmography Gender FAQ).
Why can’t I see a filmmaker’s or actor’s entire career represented in the Filmography?
The Filmography is not a complete personal filmography of everyone working in the film industry but it is a document of the history of British-produced, cinema-released feature film in the UK. Our criteria has been set to ensure that we capture as many of these films as possible. This means that short films (under 40 minutes), films made for television or internet platforms only, festival screenings and smaller-scale screenings, will not currently appear in the Filmography. So, if a filmmaker or actor has worked in moving image across a variety of formats and platforms, it is inevitable that not all of their work will appear in this Filmography. The BFI’s Collections Information Database (and its web interface Collections Search), described below, does contain fuller filmographies for some of the filmmakers and actors in the Filmography.
What is the difference between the BFI Filmography and the BFI’s Collections Search?
The BFI’s Collections Information Database (and its web interface Collections Search) contains data for many moving image works outside the Filmography, including television, short film, industrial and government film, advertising, amateur film and home movies. That data is created in line with the BFI National Archive’s Collections Policy, driven by two priorities: documentation of the Archive’s collections and the creation of knowledge resources supporting the BFI’s cultural programme. As a result, records are created in CID for all moving image works collected in the Archive, with records for the filmmakers and actors; records are also created for films programmed in the cinemas and Mediatheque in BFI Southbank, released on BFI DVD and Blu-Ray, and shown on BFI Player. The Filmography – although large — is therefore a small part of that larger database, which contains records for 800,000 moving image works and almost two million cast and crew, as well as BFI Reuben Library books and articles, and stills, posters, designs, scripts, pressbooks and documents in the BFI National Archive’s Special Collections.
What if I disagree with information in the Filmography?
Please tell us. If you can help us to improve the data in anyway, whether it is suggesting a film you think should be included, disagree with any of the information as we have presented it or think there is information missing, feel free to contact us.
How do I access more detailed information about the Filmography?
There is more information about the background of the filmography and the more detailed data work that we do on our BFI Filmography site. If you have any questions that are not answered here or have a more complex research query please do contact us.