Referencing films, and quoting from films

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Referencing films, and quoting from films

  • Writing about details observed or heard in a film text:

  • There is no need to use a footnote citation to refer to any particular moment or point in a film (or TV) text. You do not need to tell your reader information like ’44 minutes & 17 seconds’ to pinpoint a moment in the text. Neither do you need to use footnotes to name either the film title or the film’s credited screenwriter whenever you write out a line of dialogue. Films are not written texts. All you need to dowhen analysing a particular sequence / event in the film – is to make it clear in your own prose where in the film you are writing about (eg, ‘In the short sequence following the robbery, Jack tells his brother, “…”).

  • You may wish to give the actor’s name in brackets immediately after the first time you mention a character’s name in an assessment.

  • Citing a film:

This is how I suggest you do it (but read the notes below): The Grapes of Wrath, dir. by John Ford (20th Century Fox, US, 1940).

  • You need to use the MHRA Style Guide – and can find information about how to cite films by looking in the Index of the full guide. (Find the link to the Guide via the Assessment Toolkit in Moodle). MHRA is disappointingly vague on How To Cite Films. This is what its basic entry says:

11.2.16 Recordings, Films, and Digital Media
For films, the reference should include, as a minimum, title, director,

distributor, date, e.g.:

The Grapes of Wrath, dir. by John Ford (20th Century Fox, 1940).

Names of artists may be given after that of the director. First names may

be omitted if not deemed necessary. If a video reference is available, it

should be added at the end.


References to material published on CD or DVD should follow the

format outlined in 11.2.1–11.2.3, but with the addition at the end of the

phrase ‘[on CD]’, ‘[on DVD]’, etc., as appropriate.

  • My advice is this: the first time you mention a film by name in an assessment use a footnote to supply the information given in my example above. A few guiders for you:

    • Distribution Company: MHRA tells you to cite this, as the distribution company are the people who hold the screening rights. They are the equivalent of the publishers of a written text. However, the company who now owns the rights may not be the company who first owned them. For example, a DVD distribution company may have bought the rights from the original company. MHRA don't specify whether their system should give the original distribution company, or the most recent one, or even the one who made available the old dvd you might to have used. It makes logical sense to cite the CURRENT distribution company (and it’s possible to find out who this is by checking on sites like the and searching for the film title). The short answer is: Don't worry. Provide the distribution company information if it is clear what you should put. If not, miss it out.

    • The Year: this should be the year of original release (unless you are specifically referring to a re-release, or an ‘director’s cut’ which came out later than the original version etc). It should also be the Year of original release in the country where the film was first distributed. This shouldn't be too hard to establish (try NB: if you look on AMAZON, you are likely to see a ‘Date of Release’ which is the date on which the specific DVD/Blu-Ray went on sale. This is NOT the release date.

    • Partly for the doubts about distributers and year of original release glossed over here, I recommend you ALSO give the COUNTRY OF ORIGINAL RELEASE in the brackets just before the Year).

    • Once you’ve given this full citation in a footnote the first time, you don’t need to repeat it at all. You don't – in fact – need to keep giving a short version of the citation in a footnote every time you mention the film later in your assessment. Just that first entry will do, in this style:

The Grapes of Wrath, dir. by John Ford (20th Century Fox, US,


    • Consider giving a Filmography as well as a Bibliography at the end of the assessment. This should list all films cited, alphabetically, and give all of the information you included in the footnote citation.

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