A ground-breaking national research project, co-led by the University of Southampton, has been launched to uncover the overlooked contributions of UK women to the filmmaking industry.

The scheme, Women’s Screen Work in the Archives Made Visible, will shed light on the hidden histories of women who worked in roles often overshadowed by high-profile directors and producers.

The study is backed by a £1.49m grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and carried out by a partnership comprising the University of Exeter, University of Southampton, Swansea University, the British Film Institute (BFI), and The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.

Spearheaded by Professors Shelley Cobb and Linda Ruth Williams from Southampton and Exeter respectively, along with Dr Lisa Smithstead from Swansea, Wendy Russell from the BFI, and Dr Phil Wickham from The Bill Douglas Museum, the team will primarily work at the BFI’s Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted and The Bill Douglas Museum.

Professor Cobb said: "I’m looking forward to hearing from filmmakers about their experience of depositing items in archives and from the archivists themselves about the process of developing feminist archival practices.

"We hope to shine new light on the role of women in film over the past decades – establishing new ways of evidencing this and documenting future contributions.

"Thousands of women have contributed to shaping British filmmaking and its vibrant history over the past century,” says Professor Helen Hanson, Project Lead and Associate Professor in Film History at the University of Exeter.

"Their creative contributions, however, are largely absent from public knowledge of that history, because evidence documenting their work is often buried and invisible in major film-related archives and museums."

The team plans to interview notable female directors and develop case studies centred around collections of Gurinder Chadha, best known for Bend It Like Beckham, and Tina Gharavi, director of I Am Nasrine.

These will delve into their extensive materials such as unrealised projects elements, manuscripts, storyboards, notes, photos, and publicity materials, preserved by the BFI National Archive's Special Collections team.

The four-year project is set to culminate in a major exhibition and a published book that enhance the visibility of women’s work in the film industry.