The term “archive film” can encompass fiction features, shorts, silent movies, non-fiction local and/or social history films, from documentary television news pieces to home movies. Much of the advice offered in this section applies to all these types of film – both as reissues from distributors and as collections in regional and national film archives – while some of it is specific to social history shorts in particular.
Why programme archive film?
Screening films from the past can capture the imagination, whisking people back to a bygone era and tapping into the appeal of reconnecting with the norms, fashions and quirks of the past.
Programming archive film can help differentiate your venue or festival from mainstream cinemas, as a place to experience something unique and largely unseen. Screening social and/or local history film in particular can position a cinema as a community venue making a valuable contribution to social cohesion. Working with a national or regional film archive can help expand your networks and potentially open up further opportunities for projects and funding. Moreover, archive film screenings can be very popular with audiences.
Enabling audiences access to film heritage is part of the BFI’s strategic priorities for audiences for 2017– 2022.
Sourcing archive films
An easy way of programming archive film is to book a single title reissue on national release or a pre-packaged specialist programme from an organisation such as the BFI, ICO, Park Circus or your regional film archive.
In some cases, clearing the rights to screen the film will be straightforward if the archive or distributor has already ensured they are available for screening. However, be aware that archives do not usually own the rights to the films in their collection, so the licence to screen a film must often be cleared elsewhere.
Programming tips for archive film
Programming an archive screening or strand can be a great opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and showmanship skills.
Marketing archive film screenings
Think about the wording that you use in your marketing copy. The terms “archive” or “heritage” may not be the most appealing to particular audiences, so try rephrasing it to evoke the notion of time travel, the appeal of vintage, or the opportunity to see their town in their grandparents’ time.