How we age rate films: Step by Step

Anyone wanting to release a film at the cinema in the UK needs to make sure the film has a BBFC age rating. This is also true for most videos or DVDS you watch at home. Films you watch online don't need an age rating by law, but many online video platforms like to make sure their online films and videos have BBFC age ratings.

This is what happens to a film, DVD or online film, for it to get a BBFC age rating.

Step One

When a film is finished and ready to be seen its owner (often called the ‘distributor’) sends it in to the BBFC with an online form. The form gives us vital information including how long a work is, when it is due to be released in cinemas and what rating the distributor would like. It is important for us to know what rating a distributor would like, even if we don’t agree to give it in the end, as it tells us what age group they think the film is suitable for.

Step Two

The company must pay us to rate the film. They pay an amount of money per minute, plus a small sum of money for our costs. An average length film would cost about £800 or so to rate. Years ago films stored in reels were measured with a ruler and the distributor was charged an amount per foot of film.

Step Three

The film is checked to make sure it is finished and good enough quality for a team of Compliance Officers to watch it. There can’t be any glitches or technical problems and it must be completely finished. Compliance Officers have to rate the exact same film that people will see in the cinema.

Step Four

Hundreds of films are sent to the BBFC for a rating each year. We have a department who make sure each film is seen in good time. A film is scheduled in a special diary, which lets Compliance Officers know what time the film will be shown, and where.

Usually films are watched by a team of two of Compliance Officers in our own cinema beneath our offices in London. If there are too many films for us to watch in one day we may go to another cinema to see it. If the film is IMAX, Compliance Officers must travel to a larger IMAX screen. DVDs and online films are watched by one Compliance Officer in their office.
 

Step Five

Compliance Officers watch the film. They must carefully note the title down (as this will be shown on the black card certificate you see in cinemas so can’t have any spelling mistakes on it). They then make a note of all the issues in the film as they watch. When they finish, they write a synopsis, discuss the age rating and write the BBFCinsight for the film. BBFCinsight is the information for you and your parents about what issues are in a film and why it got its rating.