A new sector-wide body for the UK’s independent documentary film industry will be unveiled at Sheffield DocFest on Saturday June 17.
The Documentary Film Council (DFC) is described as a nationwide participatory initiative that has been co-designed by filmmakers and executives from across the industry working in partnership with researchers at UWE Bristol. As a co-operative, the DFC will be legally owned and run by and for its members on behalf of the UK’s documentary community.
The DFC’s launch event will present the initiative publicly for the first time and will be the first in an annual series of participatory ‘Open Assemblies’ at DocFest, in which members can help steer the DFC’s strategic direction and shape the future of the field together.
DFC has three membership tiers: Basic (free, includes access to the DFC talent directory); Ally (an annual donation of £12 to support the DFC’s work and access its benefits and discounts); and Member (for £24 per year, Members are able to participate in the DFC’s decision-making structures and elect its board.
According to the DFC’s mission statement, the new body will “seek to represent the UK’s independent documentary community, facilitate transparent communication within the sector and take effective, coordinated action to address the key issues facing the sector.”
Emily Copley, appointed as DFC Operations Manager and Acting CEO from The Whickers in Feb 2023 said: ‘There is an unprecedented level of cross-sector support for the DFC and I’m delighted to be shepherding this much-needed organisation into existence. A lot of people have put in a lot of work to get to this stage, 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.’
Paul Sng, a member of the DFC Interim Board and director of Tish, DocFest’s opening night film said: ‘The Documentary Film Council exists to provide an opportunity for filmmakers of all levels of experience to collaborate, learn and support the craft of documentary. I’m very honoured to be involved in this initiative and hope it will open doors and elevate anyone in the documentary community whose voice is in need of amplification.’
Sandra Whipham, Doc Society Director and member of DFC Interim Board said: ‘The DFC is so exciting because it brings together all voices of the UK independent documentary sector for the first time around shared challenges and opportunities. The unique importance of independent documentary to culture, society and democracy has never been more needed and yet the sector faces external barriers that stop it reaching its full potential, getting films to audiences and maximising impact. The DFC is the first step to addressing sector needs in an inclusive, joined up way and we can’t wait to get started’
Two of the DFC’s first committees have already started work on two urgent priorities. To mitigate the impact of word-of-mouth recruitment on workforce diversity, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee (led by Lindsey Dryden and Shanida Scotland) is building the UK’s first directory for documentary talent and crew. The Mental Health committee (led by Rebecca Day) is training therapists to work with nonfiction filmmakers as part of ongoing efforts to address the mental health crisis in the screen industries – especially pronounced among documentarians working with vulnerable people and/or in traumatic or dangerous situations.
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