From page to screen: a quick guide to the film industry

FilmA whole host of companies and organisations – big and small – play a part in bringing a film or programme from an initial idea through to your local cinema or TV screen. Here’s just a selection of some of those involved – check out their websites for more details.

Making films

Films and TV programmes are either shot on location, in the studio or a mix of both.

The main UK  studios are in or around London. Pinewood is the best-known, with other names including 3 Mills Studios in East London (popular with Tim Burton and Danny Boyle), Ealing Studios and Elstree Studios. There’s also studio space – primarily used for TV production – in cities across the UK including Manchester, Cardiff, Leeds and Glasgow.

Studios often house lots of smaller related companies – such as workshops which help make items for sets, and post-production facilities, where editing takes place and sound and special effects are added. The Knowledge  is a comprehensive directory of production suppliers, from prop to costume houses and UK Screen represents companies who provide services to the screen industries.

Creative England supports location filming in the UK outside London, and Film London covers location filming in the capital. Some local authorities such as Liverpool, have a dedicated office to support local street or location filming.

Production companies make film and TV programmes, ranging in size and scope from Eon productions, the company behind the James Bond films, to Working Title  whose credits include the Nanny McPhee and Johnny English films, through to smaller production companies such as Number Nine Films (This is Dagenham) or Warp Films (This is England, Submarine).

Releasing films

Before a film can be released in cinemas, it needs an age rating, which is awarded by the  British Board Film Classification.

Companies that release films for UK  cinema audiences are called distributors, represented by the Film Distributors’ Association. Big names in distribution include Warner Bros UIP  and 20th Century Fox – you usually see the distributor’s logo at the start of a film’s title sequence. Promoting film releases and festivals often falls to specialist PR companies such as DDA and Premier.

Watching films

Cinema chains range from the big names like Odeon and Vue, to the smaller Picturehouse group.  You can also see films at mixed arts venues across the country, such as Phoenix in Leicester or FACT in Liverpool.

Film festivals often bring together a variety of titles – such as new releases, archive treasures and foreign language films, or celebrate a particular kind of film such as Encounters, Bristol’s short film and animation festival.

Film culture

The British Film Institute (BFI) awards Lottery funding to film projects, and runs and supports a range of other film activities, including the BFI London Southbank and The London Film Festival.

The British Council links UK films and film-makers to international audiences.

Best known for the Film and TV awards, BAFTA is a membership organisation that also has a year-round programme of events and activities.

Film archives store and look after films – The BFI National Archive  has a wide range of holdings, while regional film archives include MACE (Media archive for central England) and the North West Film Archive. Other collections include those at the Imperial War Museum and studio archives such as Pathé.

Find out more

BECTU is the media and entertainment union.

Creative Skillset is the sector skills council for the creative industries.