First UK documentary film trade body set up with AHRC funding

Digital Camera and sound recording equipment on the lawn

The Documentary Film Council (DFC) will launch at Sheffield DocFest 2023 on 17 June with the aim of representing the UK’s independent documentary community.

Established as a cooperative, DFC was set up using funding provided by AHRC in October 2022 and was developed as a direct result of the AHRC-funded UK Feature Docs research project.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Executive Chair Christopher Smith said:

Some of the most innovative, enlightening and engaging films of recent years have been independently produced documentaries, yet the sector faces numerous challenges that threaten its long-term viability.

Establishing a body to represent professionals working in UK feature documentaries was a logical next step following AHRC-funded research into the sector.

Addressing challenges

DFC will be run democratically by and for its membership. According to its mission statement, the new organisation will:

  • seek to represent the UK’s independent documentary community
  • facilitate transparent communication within the sector
  • take effective, coordinated action to address the key issues facing the sector

Actions DFC is already taking include:

  • building the UK’s first directory for documentary talent and crew to reduce the damaging effects of word-of-mouth recruitment on workforce diversity
  • training therapists to address the mental health crisis in the screen industries, especially among documentarians working with vulnerable people or in traumatic or dangerous situations

The UK Feature Docs Project

The concept of DFC stems from the UK Feature Docs research project, which was funded by AHRC from 2018 to 2021. Funds to establish the new body were provided by AHRC’s follow-on funding for impact and engagement scheme.

Led by Dr Steve Presence at University of the West of England Bristol, the UK Feature Docs research team worked with freelancers and organisations across the industry on a major process of policy research and development as part of the project’s ‘industry futures’ strand.

The project’s findings were published in two reports:

  • ‘Keeping it Real’ (2020), based on a survey of independent producers and directors
  • ‘Making it Real’ (2021), a 68-page policy programme developed following an extensive consultation process

Heart of the policy proposals

Dr Steve Presence said:

The DFC is at the heart of the policy proposals because so many of the challenges facing the documentary industry require long-term, sector-wide coordination by a national body with the remit and resources to do that work.

It’s been such a privilege to work with everyone to bring the DFC together and it’s really exciting to finally see it in the world, but this is just the beginning. We’re really hoping everyone in the UK docs community will join the DFC and help shape the future of the field together.

DFC will officially launch at an event at Sheffield DocFest on 17 June 2023, where it will host the first in an annual series of participatory ‘Open Assemblies’ for its members.

Top image:  Credit: bombermoon, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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