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Building a brighter future for documentary in the UK

As a Supporter of the Documentary Film Council, we are happy to congratulate its first-ever elected board of trustees, as follows:

Olu Adaeze (Independent Director/Producer - Ikenga Creative Lab)

Flore Cosquer (Scottish Documentary Institute)

Fiona Fletcher (British Council)

Roisín Geraghty (Independent Producer/Head of Industry & Marketplace - Docs Ireland)

Jessi Gutch (Independent Filmmaker - Fig Films

Emma Hindley (BBC Storyville)

Andy Mundy-Castle (Independent Filmmaker - Doc Hearts Limited)

Sandra Whipham (Doc Society)

8 images of peoples heads on a yellow background
New DFC Board of Trustees

Filmmaker Andy Mundy-Castle, whose film, White Nanny Black Child won a BAFTA in February, said: “At a time when the independent documentary community faces grave challenges industry wide, it is vitally important to have a council that represents our overlooked and marginalised community. It is a great honour to be elected to a historic board of trustees and I look forward to pushing our collective agenda forward.”

Roisín Geraghty, Independent Producer and Head of Industry & Marketplace at Docs Ireland, who served on the Interim Board as Chair of the DFC, said: “I am delighted to continue my role as a board member for the Documentary Film Council. I feel passionately about the important work of the DFC, and the organisation’s collective approach in engaging with independent documentary makers; setting an agenda for change and advancing solutions on the serious, and often existential, issues facing the industry.“

The challenges facing the documentary film sector are well-documented. The DFC emerged following an academic research project that found the sector to be chronically under-funded and lacking coherent policy support, and in October 2023 over 500 filmmakers and executives signed an open letter drafted by the DFC’s interim board calling for ‘urgent, coordinated interventions across the sector’. While the problems facing independent documentary are acutely felt in the UK, they are compounded by a similarly vexed international landscape. This year has already seen the closure of Participant Media, the US studio responsible for titles from An Inconvenient Truth (2006) to All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022) while Hot Docs, Canada’s leading documentary festivals and one of the largest in the world, has been hit by mass resignations. Former Sundance Institute CEO, Keri Putnam, Writing for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, noted that streaming platforms are, despite a few exceptions, no longer acquiring independent documentaries and called for ‘a new PBS for the digital age’, arguing that streamers’ dominance is having ‘real ramifications for our culture and democracy’.

In the UK, the DFC itself has struggled to find financial support for its work. Seed-funded in 2023 with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the DFC has so far failed to secure funding and is currently run by volunteers. Nevertheless, its two Joint Acting CEOs, Emily Copley and Steve Presence, remain optimistic: “We all know there’s a need for a national membership organisation to represent UK documentary and this election demonstrates that. Though only 8 people could be elected, the calibre of all 31 candidates was outstanding and we want to thank everyone who put themselves forward. We’re confident we’ll find the backing we need to run the DFC this year. There’s a real energy for change in this sector and a belief in what can be achieved when we work collectively, and as a co-operative, the DFC enables exactly that. We can’t wait to start working with our new board to build a brighter future for documentary in the UK.”

room full of people meeting round tables
Mor Media Director Louise Fox at The first Open Assembly, Sheffield Doc Fest

Images: Mor Media Director Louise Fox at The first Open Assembly, Sheffield Doc Fest, DFC new Board

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