Your questions answered
Here we answer your questions about how we age rate films (and DVDs, Blu-rays and on demand) and what it is like to be a BBFC Examiner. If you have a question for us send it in here and we’ll answer it.
1. What is a 12A?
The 12A age rating is just for films in the cinema. It means a film is suitable for children of 12 and over. However, though no-one under 12 can go and see a 12A on their own, they can go if they have a grown-up with them. 12A is the newest BBFC age rating. It was launched in 2002. You can find out more about 12A here.
Your parents or carers should always check the content of a 12A film before taking someone younger by reading the BBFCinsight.
We watch films in our own small cinema in the basement of the building. We do have to watch all the films before they are publicly released, so we are quite lucky. We don’t eat popcorn when we are working, but we do eat lots of other things such as biscuits, crisps, sandwiches and so on, anything we like really. There’s no rule against popcorn though. For DVDs and Blu-ray discs we sit at our desks and watch everything on the disc while making notes on our laptop so that we can write reports giving our reasons for recommending a certain category.
Have a look at our Examiner’s Diary (link), written by an Examiner, which will give you a good idea of what the job is like. You can also have a go at rating a film trailer yourself and comparing your ideas with an Examiner’s notes by going to our Rate a trailer (link) section. There are always a selection of family film trailers with instructions on how to rate them.
There are always things we like or don’t like to watch, just like at home. We also get to watch many interesting films and TV episodes that we might not normally get a chance to see. It would be really hard to work here if you didn’t like films though – the Examiners and education team still go to the cinema and watch DVDs at home in their spare time.
To become an Examiner, you don't need any specific qualifications as such, but it’s important to have a good general education and some experience in relevant areas. Many Examiners have backgrounds in teaching, law, social work, journalism and so on. Once someone is hired as an Examiner, they receive all the training they need to do the job. Unfortunately the BBFC is not hiring Examiners at the moment, but our Examiner’s diary, written by an Examiner, will give you a good idea of what the job is like.
The BBFC rates films for cinema release on behalf of local councils because of a law called the Licensing Act. All cinemas need a licence, and one of the things they have to do to get a licence is make sure all the films they show have an age rating.
DVDs and Blu-ray discs count as videos and all videos need a rating because of a law called the 1984 Video Recordings Act. This law means we must make sure that age ratings are suitable and that there is nothing harmful or illegal in films. Have a look at this article Why we rate films (link), which explains it all in more detail.
Anyone who wants to release a film to show in a cinema or a DVD or Blu-ray for watching at home has to make sure that their work has a BBFC classification symbol. It's against the law to try and sell a DVD or Blu-ray without this. Films shown at the cinema also have to display the right symbol. Have a look at this article How we rate films (link), which explains it all in more detail.
Yes we watch 2D and 3D versions of films for cinemas, and on DVD and Blu-ray.
Most film prints that you will see at your local cinema are digitally projected, but this doesn’t mean the viewing experience is the same. If you go to the IMAX cinema they use a much bigger print as their screen size is much bigger this can affect the way you feel when you watch the film – special effects and sound effects may be stronger in IMAX. When we rate an IMAX version of a film, we send Examiners to a special IMAX cinema to watch the film. This is great fun because the cinema is closed to the public when Examiners are working, so we can choose where we want to sit!
Sometimes we do have to ask filmmakers to take bits out of films - this is called 'cuts'. This might be because there is something dangerous or illegal in them. Usually cuts are made by the company who made the film because they want a lower category (for example they may remove some stronger scenes if they would prefer a PG instead of 12A).
Many years ago cuts involved actually chopping a piece of film out of the reel of film. These days cuts may not actually take a picture away – they may dip the sound effects, add shadows to a scene so you can’t see something clearly, or remove special effects like blood.
A trailer is like an advert for a film. If you arrive at the cinema before the main film starts, you'll probably see some trailers for films that are coming out soon, and if they look good, maybe you'll want to see the films too. Examiners have to rate trailers as part of their job. You can also have a go at rating a trailer by going to our Trailers (link) section. There are always four current trailers with instructions on how to classify them. This will give you a good idea of what it’s like to be an Examiner!
Yes, your little brother could go and see a 12A film with an adult, but the adult has to sit with him throughout the film. He can’t just be left in the cinema to watch the film on his own after someone has bought him his ticket. Your parents or carers should always check the content of a 12A film before taking someone younger by reading the BBFCinsight.
Yes, we do many school visits every year. We sometimes visit schools and presentations or assemblies with exciting film clips, explaining what we do at the BBFC. If your school is too far away for us to visit, then we can arrange a video conference so that you can still have the same experience and ask the Examiner any questions you have on film classification. You or your teacher can find out more about booking a school visit in the grown-ups (link) section of this site.
Sadly, our offices aren't open to the public, although we do sometimes have visits from older students who are interested in film classification. We do have video conferencing equipment which is like Skype or Facetime. If your school has this your teacher can contact us here to see if we can arrange a question and answer session.
We can sometimes visit schools and explain it all to your class in a presentation with exciting film clips. Your teacher can find out more about booking a school visit in the grown-ups (link) section.
This changes every year, depending on what the distributors send to us for classification. In 2008 we classified 639 films, and in 2012 we classified 850 films. Back in 1921 the BBFC only classified 43 films! You will be able to find out more about our history in the CBBFC timelines section that will be launched this summer.
None of the film companies send VHS tapes to us anymore, although the term 'video' is also used to mean anything on DVD or Blu-ray or similar formats including VHS. Home entertainment used to be sold mainly on VHS videotapes, but these were replaced by DVD, and now Blu-ray discs.
We rate films and other things on DVD like TV series and children’s programmes which are being sold for you to watch at home. A law called the Video Recordings Act says all DVDs and Blue-rays need an age rating to protect children from unsuitable content.
All films we rate for viewing in the home get an online rating automatically for streaming or downloading.
We also rate some TV shows and films which are available only on demand.
Yes we do. Blu-rays and DVDs are just other kinds of videos.
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