What is a film?

Published May 16, 2013

It wasn’t long into my Film Watch experiment that I faced the question of “What constitutes a film?” I had made notes on something that I watched via the iPlayer and then after a little bit of investigation, I found it was a made-for-TV movie. This made it less appealing to me in terms of Film Watch-ing it, and I decided not to publish it.

From then on, I decided that if in doubt, I would check IMDB and if it had a Box Office takings figure, then I would count it as a film. This worked fine until just recently, when I had a crisis of consciousness over the criteria.

It started because of our recent viewing of Mission to Lars (and subsequently Side by Side). I hadn’t intended to Film Watch it because, let’s be honest, I hadn’t intended to watch it at all. But, having now seen it, it would have made a good Film Watch subject. I double checked whether it had any Box Office takings and it does, but they are meagre.

That got me thinking that the cinema takings may not be the best way to decide if a film counts or not in the future - when the relevance of the cinema may change. It also made me realise I was being slightly hypocritical, seeing as I personally haven’t been to the cinema for something like a decade. I’m not sure I should be judging my own Film Watch preferences on a medium that I don’t actually buy into.

In discussion with Mr C, we pondered whether to use iTunes as a benchmark. Most of our film viewing comes via the iTunes store, and they have a Film section which could be used as the definition. However, they also put things like concerts in there which I wouldn’t really count as a film, so I’m not sure it’s completely trustworthy in that sense. I briefly wondered whether length could be a factor, but discounted that quickly. Taking ninety minutes as an example cutoff, some films are only eighty, some TV can be two hours.

We meandered around some other potential ideas but ultimately nothing quite worked. So, for now, it is IMDB and the Box Office takings until I can answer the ultimate question - what is a film?

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