About the Documentary Film Council
The Documentary Film Council is a new sector-wide organisation for the UK's independent documentary film industry. Designed in collaboration with filmmakers and organisations across the documentary sector, the DFC is a charitable co-operative run by and for its members on behalf of the documentary community.
Our Mission is to:
- Build a democratic organisation with the remit and resources to represent the UK’s independent documentary film sector within the wider screen industries at home and abroad.
- Facilitate transparent communication within the documentary community, both between different sub-sectors in the industry and across the nations and regions of the UK.
- Enable effective, coordinated action to address the key issues facing the independent documentary industry.
An important part of the DFC’s remit is to work with colleagues across the sector to develop a set of collectively-held policy priorities for UK independent documentary. These will build on the work done so far (see below) and will provide the foundation for the coordinated, targeted interventions we will fund via our member-led committees, the engines of change within our co-op.
We need documentaries. Documentary films captivate, inspire, educate and entertain audiences all over the world. Their ability to challenge our assumptions and help us understand the past, present and future of the world is vital to our culture and democracy.
Yet now, more than ever before, documentaries need us. The extraordinary disruption of the global screen industries in the first two decades of this century has transformed the sector, resulting in significant opportunities but also serious challenges. Despite the success of some high-profile nonfiction films and series, the reality is that the space for independent, creative nonfiction filmmaking is shrinking, and many filmmakers are struggling to survive.
Addressing these challenges is urgent and requires detailed, coordinated and ambitious interventions across the value chain. The DFC has been co-created for that very purpose. Together, we can build a brighter future for the UK documentary community.
Our vision is of a sustainable independent documentary film industry characterised by diversity of people, films, audiences, and revenue streams. We want to build a grassroots, accountable organisation that will listen to the community, amplify its views and take action. In this way, we can build a world-leading documentary film culture in the UK, one that maximises the potential of this vibrant and vital cultural form for our economy, our culture and our democracy.
The Story So Far
The DFC developed from the UK Feature Docs research project, which was funded by the Art and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and led by academics at UWE Bristol from 2018-2021. The research evidenced the extent to which the independent documentary sector had ‘fallen through the cracks’ of UK screen industry policy. The value, characteristics and needs of independent documentary are unique but often poorly understood by those operating outside the field. As a result, independent documentary in the UK has been under-valued and under-funded, and the challenges posed by an increasingly commercial screen sector have been largely unchecked.
As part of the ‘Industry Futures’ strand of the project, the research team worked with filmmakers and organisations across the sector on a major process of policy research and development, the findings of which were published in two reports: Keeping it Real (2020), based on a large survey of the independent production sector; and Making it Real (2021), a policy programme based on the consultation that followed the previous report. You can find both reports in our Resources section.
The DFC was at the heart of the Making it Real policy programme. It has been co-created in collaboration with stakeholders across the sector in recognition of the fact that the problems facing independent documentary require long-term, sector-wide coordination by a national body with the remit and resources to do that work.
In 2022, the AHRC provided a seed-funding grant to support the establishment of the DFC. The grant covered set-up costs in 2023 – including the consultation on the DFC’s governance structure – and supported the DFC’s first two committees, the proposals for which were recommended in the Making it Real policy programme.
Owned and run by and for its members, the DFC is the first democratic, sector-wide organisation for the UK's independent documentary film industry.