Gemma Starkey

Gemma Starkey

I'm a producer and educator at the BFI specialising in working with our archive collections and cultural programmes. To date I’ve made over 40 short films which explore the UK's rich film heritage.

Location United Kingdom


  • @PeteB yes! Thanks for your interest. It's an Open University short course exploring British documentary from the Victorians to the present day. It launches in May next year. More info will be posted here nearer the time:

  • Thank you for sharing this @PeteB I've just been watching The Battle of the Somme for inclusion in another course and it really is fascinating.

  • Thank you for your positive comments, Siarra! I am a big fan of the magic lantern too. I also think that you're right about the frame painting - you might be interested in this article which I came across the other day, coincidentally:

  • Thank you so much @AnneT - I was delighted to read this review. I also love that you had such a valuable detour into the Music Hall. I think I must've done the same while writing the course which is no bad thing! I hope it keeps bringing you enjoyment.

  • @DeborahHunter great idea and thanks for sharing. Yes, researching into early women filmmakers in Britain (and the rest of the world) would be a fascinating line of enquiry. I will certainly be doing the same for the upcoming documentary course. Enjoy!

  • Thank you Deborah for your kind feedback. I'd love to create a course on women as you suggest, but sadly, and as far as I know, there aren't many women involved in British filmmaking until the early 1930s. There'd certainly be some scope to do something about women in front of the camera though.

    You might be interested to learn that the BFI is currently...

  • Hi Carolyn, as promised, Bryony tells me: "I'd say it was unlikely (although possible) as they would probably have sold black and white versions of the film as well as coloured prints. It's something we still do though in archival film duplication where we can adjust the gamma to allow for the take up of dyes in tinting and toning."

  • @CarolynPage I'm sorry to hear this - what a shame. I will pass your question on to Bryony now and hopefully get a reply back to you shortly. I'll also ask my colleagues at FutureLearn what might be done about your particular situation as I'm not sure if this course will 'runs' as such in the future as it becomes 'Unlimited'.

  • Thank you Alex for this thoughtful review. I have shared this link above but certainly worth repeating if you're interested in the wonder of the magic lantern:

  • That's lovely to hear @Louisesmith - I can't wait to get back to the cinema too and be completely immersed in the world of a film. I don't think the experience will ever lose it's magic!

  • Thank you very much for the feedback @VeraV I was only thinking the same other day - how amazing to be amidst a happy, raucous crowd of entertainment seekers at this time! It's not a Victorian film show as such, but the Magic Lantern Society is worth taking a look at as they do some great events:

  • Fascinating to hear about this, thanks for sharing @JuliaBeaman I agree with you about the power of film too!

  • I hope you enjoy the M&K DVD @AngelaBrown - it's a great series to own! More on the duo from our shop, including the Cruickshank set:

  • Even if you don't want to add your own film Lyn, you can still access the course Padlet and watch other learner's rides and film programmes. I'm glad to hear you've enjoyed the course nonetheless!

  • Thank you @JoanAtkinson - I had to chuckle at your reference to Phoenix Nights!

  • Looks like the first adaptation was in 1908 according to this website, but I'll check with Bryony if she can confirm if there were any earlier:

  • Oh yes! This would be excellent - I'm surprised they didn't use this extremely visual story for subject matter.

  • I've shown silent and trick films to my 4-year-old son @JoanAtkinson and he loved them! These are a perfect length for young children.

  • I look forward to watching your phantom ride, @FranziskaS :-)

  • Hi Franziska, if you're in the UK I'd recommend you following the See Also link to the BBC page above. You can also read a bit more about it here:

  • Interesting thoughts, Anne. Big stars were definitely an attraction in those days - you'll learn more about these in relation to the theatre in Week 3.

  • That's great Alex. Did you manage to share your film on Padlet? If so, I look forward to watching it.

  • Yes, that's right Joan. You can read more about it here: Unfortunately, the moving images on Screenonline are no longer viewable but I believe the film is available on DVD.

  • Yes! I have all the same questions alongside - what happened to these people? Could they have ever imagined that almost 120 years in the future we would be watching and wondering?

  • I'm very pleased to hear this @FranziskaS Hopefully you'll be inspired enough to make your own in the next step!

  • Oh yes - nice example, Peter! I remember being intrigued at the idea of the 'found footage' and terrified at the film itself as I thought it was genuine. Although the found footage trope is relatively new, this re-creation of the real using filmmaking techniques like handheld cameras and re-staging the action clearly isn't new. Perhaps an equivalent today are...

  • I'm glad you managed to upload it, Steve! Thanks for sharing and adding to the growing collection of course phantom rides.

  • Welcome Maxwell - great to have you here. If you're able to give us some feedback at the end, we'd love to hear whether this course impacts on your teaching in any way.

  • Welcome back, Carolyn! I hope you can successfully carry on from where you left off.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Sandra. There are a few more I've flagged in the previous step.

  • Hi Lyn, yes these would have almost certainly be shown as part of a programme of entertainment which would include various live acts accompanied by a band or small orchestra. Live music was key to the experience.

  • Hi Adrienne, I'm so glad you're enjoying the course so far. If you're in the UK you can watch 'Visit to Pompeii' on the BFI Player and, even if you're not, you can learn more about it here: You can also read about the filmmakers on Screenonline, G.A. Smith:...

  • Thank you for the feedback @PeterHannis I am so glad to hear that you've enjoyed the course so far! Hopefully we will see you next week.

  • Hi @LynAdams - thanks for your question. Please see Bryony's pinned response above.

  • Hi both @LynAdams and Steve - thanks for your comments.

    I asked Bryony to give us some more technical detail on Gibbon's system pinned above, but also to add that the question is also intended to be open-ended. By that I mean, do you have a view on whether you're enjoying the experience of watching and listening to this film? In the past learners have...

  • Thanks Steve - I think you agree with Ian on that final point, as do I. Do bear in mind that Bryony is talking about how film and TV have commonly represented the Victorian period and how that has coloured our perception of it.

  • Welcome Vanessa - it is amazing how you can study Victorian history and not be told about the wealth of films made towards the end of the period.

  • Thanks @SteveBamlett - great to have you here!

  • Hi David, thanks for your comment. I agree that we should always question what we see in moving images and I think that's exactly what Bryony was getting at. She wasn't disputing the presence of fog in Victorian London, which we know to be only too real. But was trying to build a picture about the clichéd images we may have in our minds based on depictions...

  • Hi Amanda, aside from watching the films themselves, I'd suggest having a look at the 'See also' links as well as Matthew Sweet's book.

  • Thanks Deborah - I hope you'll find it useful throughout the course and beyond!

  • Thank you for sharing @DianaNicoll

  • Inventive is certainly the word for it @ElizabethGlaister ! In Week 3 we explore early non-fictions films of the era, and you'll certainly discover some fantastical treats there, as well as hopefully some films you've never seen before.

  • Welcome to the course Nancy, it's wonderful to have you onboard.

  • Hi Deborah and hi Lyn! I'll be checking in over the coming weeks so I hope you'll feel like this course is very much a 'live' course with plenty of discussion and the opportunity to learn from each other.

  • Hello and a warm welcome to all our new joiners - I'm enjoying reading your reasons for being here and looking forward to answering any questions on the course in the coming weeks. Please keep well and keep learning!

  • Great! Well done Anne! I'll certainly look out for it.

  • I agree with you @IanF - the use of stereotypes is a process of simplification and often involves negative viewpoints, or polarised thinking, as well. It requires much more work to delve below the surface ...

  • Thanks @AngelaStearn - I'm so glad you enjoyed the video and thoughts contained therein. I love the sense of humour too!

  • This is an interesting concept especially in terms of perspective @SteveJeanes - I think it's definitely worthwhile thinking about these very early films in terms of their theatrical predecessors because that was their starting point.

  • @SteveJeanes If it's any consolation, I'll certainly have a look at your Big Swallow comments! And @HarryNichol unfortunately, decisions around how the courses appear and how they run are in the hands of FutureLearn. But thank you again for your feedback - I will pass this on to them.

  • The course was conceived as an introduction to Victorian film and, the introductory week aside, I structured it around the themes of the Victorian World and the Victorian Imagination. This was the focus of our season too. Unfortunately, we couldn't include everything around film developments, as much as we would've liked to. I think I hoped that the links...

  • Thanks Steve - I take your point! In terms of the Hove Studio we included films by James Williamson such as 'The Puzzled Bather', plus we had a focus on 'The Big Swallow' which was obviously significant for its enigmatic qualities and point of view. But you're right, the course didn't specifically refer to the important developments in films like 'Fire!' or...

  • @HarryNichol and @SteveJeanes - if you were looking for lively discussion, it is indeed unfortunate that you both joined the course towards the end of the present run. It opened on the 4th January and will close this coming Sunday. Some learners are happy to work their way through without much interaction, but I can appreciate how for others it does greatly...

  • Hi @SteveJeanes - thank you for the feedback. I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed by the films contained in the course - we'd be keen to learn what was missing for you.

    Did you manage to access the course's Vimeo playlist: password: bfi-LPC:IVF ? In addition, to supplement your learning if you're in the UK, you...

  • Hi Sebastian, thank you for the feedback. I do think you're right about the dissemination of the content. One reason for this was that there were far more non-fiction films made in this period rather than fiction and entertainment-type films, so less to cover in the final week. Also, and this is a quirk which I'm wholly responsible for, once I'd gathered...

  • Thank you Pauline; that's really helpful. I'd added that into the link now.

  • @AngelaStearn @SharonBell @SadieBrown Thanks all for flagging this. I'll add a note into the link about that in the hope that it'll be restored sometime soon.

  • That's great, thanks @AnneStrathie All the best with your book - I will look out for it!

  • And thank you all of your great contributions @PaulineCashman - I will see if Bryony can shed any further light on your point about the influences on Artistic Creation (1901).

  • Hi @AnneGrove - thank you, your description jogged my memory and reminded me that I used a still from that moment in the film in one of our education pages many years ago!

  • Yes, I know what you mean - he seems to be talking for a long time! It's impossible to know. You can read more about the film here, but nothing more about his lines:

  • Hi @SharonHowe - he is saying “I won’t, I won’t! I’ll eat the camera first!” (mentioned in the previous step).

  • I agree. It's such an inventive film - you can read more about it here: and follow the links to learn about the filmmakers.