01 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.

Alternatively, if you have a theme in mind – perhaps a special event for your festival or a local history night at your cinema – you may choose to research your own programme. This can be very rewarding, but don’t underestimate the time involved. Begin by getting in touch with the BFI National Film Archive or your regional film archive. Search Your Film Archive is a combined online catalogue, hosted on regional film archives, which allows the public to search across 11 national and regional public sector film archives’ collections and watch clips of some of the films. It can be accessed via any of the participating film archives. You can also research archive films at the six BFI Mediatheques around the UK. Other sources of archive film in the UK include museums, libraries, colleges, community groups and private collections, although they are not all set up to cater for screening requests.

Bear in mind that not all films are available as screening copies, and for many films it can be unclear as to who holds the rights. To avoid frustration and wasted time, it’s advisable to start by getting to know the archive’s collection and what is available to book from their catalogue. Catalogues are often available on the archives’ websites but since the collections are usually vast, they are not always listed in their entirety, so it is still worth getting in touch with the archive directly to discuss your ideas. Archive staff have specialist knowledge about their collection and may be able to suggest films for your programme. Do be considerate of their own work pressures and timeframes though – get in touch the earlier the better, and take some time to build the relationship.

Contacts for booking archive films:

020 7957 8938/8935

020 7636 7120

Park Circus
0141 332 2175

Regional Film Archives
See this guide to Regional Film Archives at the BFI.

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