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Video Arts' corporate films placed in BFI National archive

Video Arts' corporate films placed in BFI National archive
Jon Creamer
20 May 2016

The BFI National Archive is to preserve the influential series of training films and corporate learning content made by Video Arts.

The films feature some of the greatest British comic actors and comedians of the last 40 years.

Video Arts was set up in 1972 by Antony Jay and John Cleese. Top comic actors of the day including Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker and Bernard Cribbins appeared in the films. In the 1980s and 1990s a new generation of alternative comedians including Rik Mayall, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders were brought in to make new films as well as updated versions of the most popular titles of the 1970s. Today, stars such as Robert Webb, Sharon Horgan and Sally Phillips front the new digital films that Video Arts produce for online distribution.

The Video Arts collection deals with a huge span of topics including management, leadership, customer service and workplace skills. The BFI says that between them the films constitute a record of the ever-changing British workplace across four-and-a-half decades of national life.

To mark the entry of the collection in the BFI National Archive two key titles will be available from next month to view for free on the BFI’s VOD platform BFI Player: the 1974 film ‘Manhunt’ featuring John Cleese as three inept managers who can’t run a selection interview; and a 2016 short from the Leadership Essentials library called ‘Control Freakery’ which features Robert Webb and Sally Phillips.

CEO of Video Arts, Martin Addison, said “We are honoured that the Video Arts library of over 40 years of engaging and memorable learning content will be entering the BFI Archive for preservation. Our library charts the changes that have taken place in the workplace and documents our unique approach of using humour to change behaviours at work. To quote John Cleese, ‘People learn nothing when they’re asleep and very little when they’re bored’”.

Patrick Russell, Senior Curator, Non-fiction, BFI National Archive said: “The BFI National Archive exists to preserve the art, history and impact of British film - and Video Arts is an important part of the art and history of filmmaking that has had a real impact in the workplace. We are delighted to be able to preserve this important collection for the nation.”

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