Entertainment & Arts

BFI to preserve John Cleese training videos

John Cleese and Dawn French Image copyright BFI

A series of training films featuring British comedians making light of office tasks is to be preserved by the British Film Institute (BFI).

The instructional films feature some of the UK's best known comic actors of the last 40 years.

The company that made the films, Video Arts, was set up in 1972 by John Cleese and Sir Antony Jay.

Two of the titles will also be made available to the public free online from next month.

The two free films are Manhunt, released in 1974, in which John Cleese plays three different inept managers who cannot run a selection interview, and a 2016 short called Control Freakery which features Robert Webb and Sally Phillips.

Martin Addison, chief executive officer of Video Arts, said: "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'."

Image copyright BFI
Image caption A huge array of British comedians appeared in the Video Arts films over the past 40 years

The Video Arts films were popular with audiences and managers and dealt with topics including leadership, customer service and workplace skills.

BFI senior curator Patrick Russell said: "Video Arts is an important part of the art and history of film-making that has had a real impact in the workplace."

Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker and Bernard Cribbins were among the stars to appear in the early Video Arts films.

In the 1980s and 1990s, 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 original titles.

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