Monday, May 12, 2008

A Film Research Guide

The library has a very extensive collection of books, databases and links to websites that include film history, production, directors and directing, national cinemas, biography, criticism, reviews, genre, documentary film, editing, censorship, costume and set design, budgeting, grants for filmmakers, vocational guidance. and directories of film services.

Over the years, the Library of Congress has changed the call numbers for film titles. In order to make a thorough search, it is necessary to consult the online catalog to view the entire list of titles on any film related subject. Books on film are found in several departments. The General Collections and Humanities Center collects titles on documentary film history and production, scriptwriting techniques, and censorship. The Business, Science and Technology Center has film vocational guides, books on the financial aspect of film, and about the computer software used in film production. The library’s collection of films on DVD and VHS is found in the Audio Visual Center.

Using the Library Catalog

Use the subject Motion Pictures to find a complete list of subjects relating to film. There are over 700 of these subject headings. To narrow a search, use keyword search combining any subjects. Once you have selected a title from a list look at the bottom of the record for the subject headings assigned to that book and use those subjects to continue your search. To avoid finding audiovisual titles in your results you can limit your search to the material type to book and /or periodical.

Until 1993 film books were given call numbers starting with 792. Older film biographies can be browsed at 792.1, film history and criticism at 792.5, screenplays at 792.51, and cinematography at 792.55.

Books published since 1993 have been given call numbers starting with 791.43. Newer film biographies can now be browsed at 791.4302, film history and criticism at 791.4308 and 791.4365, screenplays at 791.4372. Cinematography is now located at 778.5.


For an overview of American film history consult the following:

American Film Institute Desk Reference.

Mast, Gerald. A Short History Of The Movies.

Oxford History Of World Cinema.


In addition to searching the catalog for books on individual directors, names of film critics, and organizations such as the National Society of Film Critics see the following resources:

Film Review Index. Lists reviews in film periodicals, encyclopedias and general magazines for films made between 1895 and 1985.

Film Review Annual. Covering the years between 1981 and 2002 this source reprints full length reviews from as many as ten full length reviews from respected film periodicals, newspapers and general magazines.

Internet Movie Database. An excellent source for information current and future releases.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Volume 1: Films. Each entry provides credits, a critical essay, and, most importantly, a bibliography of periodical articles. This is also available through our Gale Virtual Reference Library database.

Magill’s Survey of Cinema. This multi-volume set includes critical essays about silent films, as well as English language and foreign titles.

Film Literature Index. Between 1973 and 2004 this source has indexed the international body of film periodicals. It also has a section on television and video. Indiana University has provided online access to this database for the years 1976 to 2001.

Nash, Jay Robert. Motion Picture Guide. A multi-volume set of film since the silent age. Entries include a plot summary, production details, anecdotes, plus the full credits. This publication ceased in 1998.

Gerlach, John C. The Critical Index. Indexes articles on film in English language periodicals between 1946 and 1973.

MacCann, Richard Dyer. The New Film Index. Indexes English language articles on film between 1930 and 1970.

American Film Institute Catalog of Films Produced in the United States. Decade by decade this is the most thorough and authoritative catalogue of films over 15 minutes in length produced in the U.S. since 1893. It has multiple indices. It is a work in progress with some decades yet to be published.

Thomson, David. New Biographical Dictionary of Film. The title is a misnomer. This one-volume dictionary actually provides a critical analysis of the complete body of work of actors, directors and producers by this veteran British film historian who seemingly has “seen it all.”

Biographical Dictionaries

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. Essential oft-revised one volume encyclopedia on all aspects of film.

Quinlan, David. Quinlan’s Character Stars. The actors and actresses included date from late 19th century to present. Photos are included. This source is international in scope.

Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. An on-going multi-volume biographical reference set covering all the performing arts, including film.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Vol.2: Directors, v.3:Actors & Actresses, v.4: Writers and Productions Artists. Each entry includes a career summary, filmography, a short biography and a bibliography. This is also available through our Gale Virtual Reference Library database.

Recommended Viewing Sources

National Film Registry. Created by an act of Congress, the National Film Preservation Board under the direction of the Library of Congress has selected 25 films for preservation each year since 1989 that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. These include documentaries, amateur films, shorts, as well as feature length titles. All but one are English language films.

Foreign Affairs: The National Society of Film Critics' Video Guide to Foreign Films.

Produced And Abandoned: The Best Films You've Never Seen / reviews by the members of the National Society of Film Critics.

New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Films Ever Made. Original release date reviews from this newspaper.

Time Out Film Guide. Film evaluations guide by this London entertainment magazine’s weekly staff. Very pithy comments in the critical vein of the British who, it must be admitted, know great acting when they see it. Revised annually.

Shaw, Andrea. Seen That, Now What? A select group of titles arranged by genre within each decade since the silent era. Rates and points out highlights of each film.

Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever. Revised annually.

Film Services

Hollywood Creative Directory. Provides contact information for studios, networks, executives, producers, shows, and companies. They also publish the Blu-Book Production Directory, the Hollywood Music Industry Directory, the Hollywood Representation Directory, as well as a directory of Film Writers,

International Motion Picture Almanac. Revised annually – provides information about a year’s film releases as well as current directory information.

International Television and Video Directory. Revised annually – includes information on the DVD market.

Kemps Film, TV and Video Handbook International. See their website.

LA 411. Professional references from commercial film production. See their website.

Reel Directory. Northern California film services. Also see their website.

Film Resources on our reference page.

Film Resources on our local (San Francisco) information page.

See also Printed Indexes for Film Reviews.

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