Frequently Asked Questions
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The DFC originates from a project run by UWE Bristol academics from 2018-21, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). As part of that project’s ‘Industry Futures’ strand, stakeholders from across the documentary film industry participated in an extensive consultation on the problems facing the sector and how these might be addressed. The findings were published in two reports, Keeping it Real (2020) and Making it Real (2021), both of which can be downloaded from our Resources page.
Making it Real consists of seven sections of detailed policy recommendations designed to improve conditions in the UK documentary sector, including the creation of a new organisation to facilitate communication, enhance transparency and co-ordinate action across the industry. Since 2021, 60-70 people have worked together to build this organisation, led by a core team from UWE with seed funding from the AHRC. In Spring 2023, the DFC incorporated as a co-operative, with Emily Copley appointed as Operations Manager and Acting CEO (the first CEO will be recruited in Spring 2024). For more information please see the ‘Story so far’ section on our About page.
The DFC’s core work will be carried out by its Committees: groups of Members (and external specialists when needed) formed to represent different industry sub-sectors and/or to carry out specific work packages relating to the DFC’s strategic aims. Committees can be proposed by the Members or the Leadership Team, or appointed by the Board.
In this sense, the DFC will focus on two practices: listening and action. Through our annual Open Assembly at DocFest and other consultations with the Membership, we will listen to what the sector says it needs. We will then design and fundraise for targeted action, drawing in skills, expertise and energy from the community.
The two Committees seed-funded by the AHRC grant are good examples of the kind of work the DFC will do. The Talent Directory – led by the EDI Committee with support from FWD Doc: Filmmakers with Disabilities – is the first UK-wide database of documentary talent, and will help facilitate recruitment of marginalised people in the industry. The Mental Health Committee – led by Rebecca Day of Film in Mind – is working to increase the therapeutic capacity in the film industry. For more information, see our Committees page.
The Talent Directory is a resource exclusively for the UK’s independent documentary film industry. It is designed to raise the profile of the workforce in this sector and make it easier to recruit people from under-represented backgrounds, thus mitigating the negative impacts of word-of-mouth recruitment.
The Directory is for everyone who works, or wants to work in this sector, in whatever capacity, from producers, directors, editors, archivists and academics to distributors, exhibitors, curators, commissioners and executives. The only criteria are that you are UK-based and actively working or intending to work in the UK independent documentary industry. Create your profile when you join the DFC.
The Talent Directory has been created with support from FWD-Doc: Filmmakers with Disabilities.
Great! You can filter our Talent Directory by a range of categories – job title, gender, race & ethnicity, sexuality, location, experience level, and so on – to ensure you can find the people you are looking for and to help build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive UK documentary film sector.
The mental health crisis in the screen industries is particularly acute among documentary filmmakers because of the uniquely complex ethical and emotional demands of making films with and about real people. The DFC’s Mental Health Committee, led by Rebecca Day of Film in Mind, addresses the challenges facing documentary filmmakers’ mental health in two ways.
First, the Committee is developing the skills of three new mental health supervisors – all trained therapists with experience in the film industry – to amplify the supervision model created by Film in Mind and thus to support clients in managing the ethical and emotional challenges connected to their filmmaking and career development.
Second, the Committee is providing additional support to the ongoing research project, DocuMentality. With a report due for release later this year, DocuMentality aims to highlight the mental health crisis that the international documentary community currently faces, to bring together filmmakers, funders and industry reps for collaborative, solution-focused discussions, and to advocate for systemic change.
Our focus in 2023 is on establishing the DFC and preparing it for its first three-year term, from 2024-26. After the launch event at DocFest, we will be working to raise funds, develop our Membership base, and organise the election for the DFC’s first Board later this year. For more information on this process, see below and our ‘Election Process’ document in our Resources page (please note that the latter is a working draft and subject to change). We are going to need all the help we can get, so please join the DFC and support this work.
The DFC is a co-operative comprising four principal elements: Members, Board, Leadership Team and Committees. The Members elect the Board and help shape the DFC’s strategic agenda via an annual Open Assembly at DocFest in June, at General Meetings throughout the year and an AGM in December. The Board develops the strategic agenda based on consultations with the Membership, and funds Member-led Committees to carry out work packages relating to the strategic agenda. The Leadership Team runs the day-to-day business of the DFC, organising the consultations and supporting the Committees.
The DFC incorporated as a co-operative in May 2023, following two rounds of research and consultation in the autumn/winter of 2022. A co-operative governance model was chosen for several reasons. There are different kinds of co-operative, but all share an explicit commitment to the co-operative Values and Principles as laid down by the International Co-operative Alliance. All co-ops are independent, democratic organisations that are run by and for their Members according to the principle of one-member, one-vote.
The DFC is a specific type of co-operative known as a Community Benefit Society (CBS). This structure was felt to be particularly appropriate because it means that the Members must run the organisation in the interests of a broader constituency – in this case the UK documentary community.
Furthermore, as a charitable CBS, the DFC benefits from all the financial advantages available to charities without the heavy demands of being regulated by the Charities Commission (as a co-op, the DFC is regulated by the FCA). Perhaps more importantly, the DFC’s charitable status means it explicitly exists ‘for the public benefit’. Promoting documentary film as a public good was a key Making It Real recommendation. You can find out more about the DFC’s governance structure below and in our Resources section. The DFC is also a member of Co-ops UK, which has lots of information about co-operatives on its website.
Our co-operative governance model ensures the most critical decisions are taken by our Members at General Meetings or the AGM, on a one-member one-vote basis. We will also run consultation processes to feed into the Board’s decision-making.
The Board works with the Leadership Team to develop the DFC’s strategic aims in response to consultations. They delegate everyday decision-making to the Leadership Team (the CEO and their support staff).
Not necessarily. The DFC’s organisational structure is intended to strike a balance between accountability and empowering the organisation to get on and do the work it was set up to do. Refining and maintaining that balance will be an ongoing process, but there is nothing inherent in the co-operative model that means all decisions will be made slowly. It is also worth remembering that some decisions should be made more slowly, with the democratic input of the Membership, and that taking the time to get that right is a good thing.
The Board is made up of elected Members, who form a majority; and non-elected Directors, appointed by the Board. An election process takes place annually to elect the Member Directors. The maximum term a Director can serve is three years, which will ensure both continuity and fresh ideas.
In the lead-up to the AGM, the DFC will run an election process, open to all members. Any member can self-nominate to be considered for election. We have drafted guidelines to explain the process here.
No. In April 2023, the DFC’s four Founder Members appointed fourteen people to the Interim Board – the maximum number allowed within the DFC’s governing document (its Primary Rules) – to spread the work of establishing the DFC and ensure that a wide spectrum of people and industry sectors were represented (i.e, producers and directors, distributors and exhibitors, representatives of the nations and regions, and so on).
The DFC’s first elected Board will be smaller (the preferred figure mentioned in the consultation was seven). For each election, the Board will specify the number of vacancies to be elected and communicate their reasoning to the Members (to be ratified, if needed, at a General Meeting).
The DFC will elect its Board members every year. However, because the DFC’s work will unfold over a series of three-year terms, Board members will ideally seek to serve for three years (i.e. they will stand and be elected three years in a row). That said, Board members may choose to stand down at any time. This would create a casual vacancy to be filled via a by-election subject to approval of the Board.
The three-year term is designed to ensure continuity of management while tracking the progress of the DFC’s work.
The DFC’s Board is accountable to its Members via two main mechanisms. First, the Board is elected by the Members, and the DFC’s Primary Rules stipulate that a majority of the Board of Directors must be Members of the DFC (other Directors may be appointed from outside the organisation based on skills or expertise, for example, or appointed from international organisations such as the Documentary Association of Europe (DAE) or the International Documentary Association (IDA)).
Second, if Members are unhappy with the Board – for example, if they feel that the Board is not representing their interests or is behaving inappropriately – they can call a General Meeting so long as that call is supported by one tenth of the total number of Members. If any member of the Board is deemed to be behaving in ways detrimental to the interests of the DFC, that Director may be suspended. More information about meetings, voting, quoracy and other governance protocols is available in the DFC’s Primary Rules.
Committees may form in response to consultations with members, allies and the wider sector.
Supported by the Board, the leadership team design, recruit and resource committees and hold them to account, based on the strategic priorities as agreed by the Members.
Ideas for committees can be proposed by DFC Members by sending an Expression of Interest to the leadership team.
In a variety of ways. DFC is designed around participation, online and in person. The DFC launch event at Sheffield DocFest 2023 will be our first Open Assembly, an annual facilitated consultation exercise at the festival in which members of the documentary community help shape the DFC’s strategic priorities. We will also set-up a sector-wide Mailing List (coming soon!). DFC Members will also be invited to General Meetings, be able to vote and stand for election, and to propose and lead Committees. Members will also be able to access our online consultation platform, Loomio.
Not at the moment. Although the charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS) was agreed as the best structure for the DFC, it is very unusual for a CCBS’s Board of Directors to be paid. This is obviously a problem for the DFC, because it disincentivises those on precarious incomes – i.e. the vast majority of producers and directors – from serving on the Board of an organisation designed to support them.
Fortunately, there are a couple of ways around this. In the short-term, we are establishing a paid Filmmakers’ group, the purpose of which will be to liaise with the Chair of the Board to ensure the views of filmmakers remain at the forefront of the DFC’s work. In the longer term and with the advice of Co-ops UK, we are working on getting special permission from the Charities Commission to pay our Directors (the General Medical Council has set a precedent for this but it will take a while).
Yes! People in this sector are often under-paid and we want the DFC to be as accessible as possible. You can access a variety of content on this site for free, and the Basic (free) subscription allows you to add your profile to the Talent Directory, sign up to our newsletter, explore our Resources and find out about the work supported by our Committees.
However, for just £12 per year you can become a DFC Ally, and for £24 per year you can become a Member. Find out more about our three subscription tiers here.
As an Ally, you will directly support our work and have access to resources, events and a variety of incentives and benefits, including discounted passes to festivals subscriptions and streaming platforms (TBC!).
As a Member, you can help shape the DFC’s strategic priorities, elect its Board, stand for election, and attend Member-only General Meetings. You can also propose and lead DFC Committees. This option involves an extra level of commitment and responsibility as you will become a joint-owner of the DFC.
You cannot become a full Member of the DFC or create a profile for the Directory unless you are based and work within the UK. However, there are no restrictions to become an Ally. If you are based outside of the UK, for just £12 per year you can show your support, join the community and benefit from access to resources and industry discounts (TBC!).
Both Ally and Member subscriptions must be renewed annually.
When you become a Member, you are entered onto a register of Members and become a joint-owner of the DFC along with all the other Members of the co-operative. Membership runs for one year and is renewable one year from the date you sign up. As a Member, you are responsible for shaping the DFC’s work. You elect the board, help make decisions at General Meetings and the AGM, and run the Committees we need to build a better future for independent documentary in the UK.
The Members who propose a Committee will decide how that Committee is set up, how many people are on it, and how much money is requested to run it and who will get paid. Using the AHRC seed-funding grant as a template, we anticipate funding Committees with anywhere from £1,000-£10,000, but it will be up to Committee proposers to decide on the budget they need.
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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.