Video Arts was set up in 1972 by Antony Jay and John Cleese and instantly revolutionised the workplace training film, making films that were not only effective but also extremely popular with audiences and managers. These films will now be safely added to the BFI National Archive.
The BFI National Archive and Video Arts are pleased to announce that a legendary and extremely influential series of training films and corporate learning content featuring some of the greatest British comic actors and comedians of the last 40 years will be preserved for the nation in the BFI National Archive.
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.”
Video Arts brought together witty and powerful scripts, high production values, learning expertise and top comic actors of the day including John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker and Bernard Cribbins.
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. Between them the films constitute a remarkable record of the ever-changing British workplace across four-and-a-half decades of national life offer a rare insight into our social history and changing attitudes to work and a vast array of workplace issues.
To mark the entry of this special 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 classic 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. www.bfi.org.uk/player