Chat GPT generates an idea for the film shown in Bristol

On 21st May, Bristol Film & Video Society celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special screening for an invited audience. Among the films offered was the premiere of The Crossing, about which we can tell you little, except that it is “the story of a rock band that shows up for a concert in an unusual place.” And that the idea for the story was generated by artificial intelligence.

There are some clubs and societies around Bristol that have been around as long or longer than the Bristol Film & Video Society (BFVS), but few, if any, have seen so much technological and social change. In their time, the members have made documentaries, some of them on heavy, serious subjects, as well as dramas, comedies, animated films and more. Many went silent long after talkies hit the local cinema, but many were shot in color from the start surprisingly.

Some have been lost, although many are in safe hands at Bristol Archives. And you can view many of them through the BFVS website. Here you can find images of Bristol celebrating the Golden Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935, visit Long Ashton Agricultural Research Station in 1936, watch a shocking drama about a nuclear attack on Bristol in 1954 and more , many more, to more recent projects.

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The pleasure of watching them will, for many readers, be to see footage of Bristol from days gone by. Two may be of particular interest; Western Gateway, made in 1956 and a potted history of Bristol, used to be shown in local schools, while Bristol Through a Lens is a wonderful 24-minute compilation of clips from various BFVS films that simply show scenes of Bristol from yesteryear, including the spectacular demolition of the Canons Marsh tobacco warehouses in 1988. But don’t take our word for it. Go to, click on ‘Film Database’ and see for yourself.

Nowadays, thanks to digital technology, we can all be filmmakers, but it was very different in 1934 when the Bristol Fellowship of Amateur Cinematographers (Western Area Branch), as it was originally called, was founded at a meeting in The Royal Hotel, attended by the Mayor and the Mayoress.

“Yes, they were all men, I imagine,” Tim Smart, the Society’s current president, tells us. “It was a gentlemen’s film club and I suspect they had more influence than we do now. In an old photo we can see that the police are involved, for example. Can you imagine that happening today?”

It wasn’t just that these were wealthy citizens who had friends who could pull a few strings to get the local police to help. It’s that they all had healthy bank balances.

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