Published on: 19 December 2017 in Campaigning

2017: Review of the Year

Reading time: 25 minutes and 22 seconds

In many ways 2017 has been another...interesting year, but also a very busy one for us here at Directors UK. So before the year ends please join us as we take a look back at everything we’ve been up to, with links to all the great videos, podcasts, live-tweets and more that you may have missed along the way.


The year began as it so often does with a nice, big distribution payment, with members rushing to their letterboxes to discover what their share was of the £7.8 million we distributed for UK secondary use from July 2015 to June 2016.

In sadder news, we’d lost two distinguished members of the directing community at the tail end of 2016 and so in January we paid tribute to them and their work. Granada stalwart Ken Grieve died in November, and fellow directors Julian Farino and Jonny Campbell led the tributes in our remembrance piece (ARTICLE). Philip Saville, known for Boys from the Blackstuff and Hamlet at Elsinore, died in December, and he was similarly honoured by Directors UK members Renny Rye and John Bruce (ARTICLE). Meanwhile, the government had rolled out some changes to the way pensions would be managed from now on, which had important ramifications for freelancers. Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns took us through the changes and outlined what directors need to do to opt-in to their various employers’ auto-enrolment pension schemes (ARTICLE).


Our events programme was back with a bang in February. Our popular ‘Meet the Commissioners’ strand returned as we played host to the commissioning team behind the BBC’s documentary output (LIVE-TWEETS). And our screening programme started up again with the Jessica Chastain-starring political thriller Miss Sloane. The screening was followed by an illuminating Q&A with the film’s director John Madden.


Remember when budget announcements stood out as major political events? Well it happened in March, and our Head of Campaigns Ali Bailey responded to the proposed (and then un-proposed) changes to National Insurance contributions for freelancers (ARTICLE). Our members didn’t need a little red briefcase to make their voices heard: film Chair Susanna White gave a stirring Fulbright Lecture at Oxford University, on the subject of equal opportunity in film (ARTICLE), Charles Sturridge spoke to the European Parliament about fair remuneration (ARTICLE) and Steve Smith wrote about climate change for Broadcast (ARTICLE).

But of course, our members were also lighting up the screen. We had a wonderful screening of Viceroy’s House (LIVE-TWEETS) followed by a Q&A with Gurinder Chadha OBE, as well as an ‘in conversation’ event with Jessica Hobbs, director of the much-discussed Apple Tree Yard. The awards began to roll in, with members picking up RTS West of England and Empire Awards (ARTICLE). We hosted networking drinks at BFI Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival. We spoke to F-rating creator Holly Tarquini (ARTICLE), and remembered the career of director Robert Day who sadly passed away this month (ARTICLE). Ever feel like you’re missing out on industry news? In March we launched Directors Digest, our weekly roundup of industry affairs, so you no longer had to miss a thing.


In April, Theresa May announced a snap election for the Summer – news which was completely overshadowed by the appointment of strong and stable Steve Smith to the position of Directors UK Chair. Steve took over from the amazing Beryl Richards, who accomplished a huge amount during her two-and-a-half-year tenure (ARTICLE). Spring also saw the launch of some great new Training and Career development schemes: Directors UK Inspire, which we kicked off with an interview with directors Christine Lalla and Lotus Hannon (ARTICLE), has since become a huge hit. We also launched an emerging directors scheme with Lime Productions (ARTICLE), taught people that Life’s A Pitch…Then You Cry, and had a chat with the directors of Challenge ALEXA 2017 (ARTICLE). Already far from being the cruellest month, April also saw the birth of our Directing Factual series of events, which began with an online docs seminar with The Guardian’s Charlie Phillips (LIVE-TWEETS). New creative partnerships were forged at our Directors UK and British Cinematographers networking evening, and our members continued to make waves as several directors picked up BAFTA TV Craft Awards (ARTICLE). Steve Smith implored us to join the renewable energy revolution (ARTICLE). And there was also time to remember those who’d left us, as we celebrated the careers of Mike Beckham (ARTICLE) and Christopher Morahan (ARTICLE).


In May we began to outline our plans for the future of Directors UK and the way we manage and protect our members’ rights in a changing digital world. You’ll be hearing A LOT more about this in 2018, but members can get a heads up here in our handy explainer (ARTICLE). FERA also addressed the subject of rights this month, issuing a call for a unified stance on copyright – one which was supported by many of our members (ARTICLE).

May was also the month of elections: voting began in our own Board elections, with the campaigns blissfully free of fake news and the online polls stubbornly resistant to cyber hacking. There was time for reflection, too, as we remembered the career of Roger Moore. A Directors UK member as well as a celebrated actor, director John Glen shared his memories of working with Roger on a classic run of Bond movies (ARTICLE). And My Cousin Rachel director Roger Michell provided an appreciation of Michael Wearing, who also passed away this month (ARTICLE). Careers programmes were a hot topic as we announced our candidates for the 2017 High End Training Programme (ARTICLE), and launched our Children’s Drama initiative with Channel X North (ARTICLE). Meanwhile, several Directors UK members attended the Cannes Film Festival to promote their films, network and top up their tans – not necessarily in that order (ARTICLE). But that wasn’t all: erstwhile Diversity Committee Chair Menhaj Huda stepped down, and he looked back on a successful tenure in post (ARTICLE); we hosted a screening of the Challenge ALEXA 2017 films; we spoke to the directors who took part in our Stage and Screen talent initiative (ARTICLE); and charity began at home as the Directors Support Scheme launched (PAGE).

This month also saw the paying out of £2.8 million in foreign distributions to members, making it arguably the most successful May of the year.


It was jelly and cake all round in June as Directors UK celebrated its birthday. Having begun life as the Directors and Producers Rights Society way back in 1992, when television was still in black and white [please factcheck – ed.], we kicked off the celebrations in this our 25th anniversary year with a look back at the history of Directors UK (ARTICLE). One man who’s been there right from the very beginning is Piers Haggard OBE, and we held a special evening in honour of his work and achievements over the years. In the words of host Sir Alan Parker: “No other director has done more for his fellow directors over the last 40 years than this man here” (ARTICLE).

Also this month, voting closed in the latest Directors UK Board elections. Thankfully there were no populists promising to Make DUK Great Again (what’s that? We’re still great? Aww, thanks guys. You’re far too kind), just lots of dedicated directors willing to give up their time and effort to oversee and guide Directors UK over the next two years. The brand-new Board was then announced and introduced to members at the AGM on Monday 12 June, where we also discussed and voted on our proposal for the future of your rights – a lot more on that in the coming year (REPORT). We were also extremely pleased to announce a new two-year pay deal for directors working on the BBC’s five continuing drama series: CasualtyHolby CityEastEndersFather Brown and Doctors (ARTICLE). 

Our events programme continued, starting with a screening of Daphne du Maurier adaptation My Cousin Rachel, followed by a Q&A with the film’s director Roger Michell (LIVE-TWEETS). Next we were in Sheffield for this year’s Doc/Fest, hosting a group of brilliant documentary directors for a panel discussion on the director’s voice in factual TV (LIVE-TWEETS). Back in London, we presented three fascinating sessions across two days of the Media Production Show. On the first day we held a panel discussion exploring the director’s role on fixed-rig productions, featuring directors from shows such as One Born Every MinuteThe Tribe and 24 Hours in A&E (LIVE-TWEETS). While on the second day, we had Lee Sheward give us a crash course (geddit?) in stunts and second unit directing (LIVE-TWEETS). And later that afternoon, directors Bill AndersonUdayan Prasad and Tim Fywell gave attendees a directing masterclass (LIVE-TWEETS).

Meanwhile, we also published a couple of interesting articles and interviews. Director Matt Harlock wrote the first in a series of articles for us about his crowdfunding film project, Deep Clean (spoiler alert: they got funded – hurrah!) (ARTICLE). And we also interviewed Richard Jeffs, a director himself and now founder of the freelancer-booking app FreelanceDiary (ARTICLE).


July is a many-splendored month. A time of Wimbledon, World Cup Finals, approximately five promising days of sunshine and – most importantly – The Directors Festival (ROUND UP). Taking place in our new venue, the QEII Centre in the heart of Westminster, The Directors Festival 2017 started in excellent fashion as the legendary Roger Graef talked to us about the power of visual storytelling (LIVE-TWEETS). In Directing Live, moderator Suri Krishnamma, director Aisling Walsh, producer Jen Handorf, casting director Karmel Cochrane and DoP Florian Hoffmeister handled obstacle after obstacle on a hypothetical calamity-ridden production (LIVE-TWEETS). We spoke to Paul Mitchell and Norma Percy, maybe among the last people to film a functioning White House, about Political Access Docs (LIVE-TWEETS). Then we harked back to the glory days of Erasure and Boyz II Men as a panel of Piers Haggard, Tom Roberts, Moira Armstrong and Geoff Posner discussed what directing was like in the year of our birth: 1992 (LIVE-TWEETS). One thing that it definitely didn’t involve was making films on your mobile, but Dougal Shaw was on hand(held) to keep us in the loop (LIVE-TWEETS). Burt Caesar and a panel of actors including Ellora Torchia, Hugh Quarshie and Felicity J Dean, gave us a different perspective on getting that performance (LIVE-TWEETS). As the afternoon rolled on, directors Jane Handa and Zoe Hines spoke to Toral Dixit about the mental challenges and hostile environments that come with being an embedded director (LIVE-TWEETS). High end drama came next, with Samantha Harrie and Syd Macartney talking to Bill Anderson about the High End TV Drama Placement scheme on Call the Midwife (LIVE-TWEETS). Finally, the day ended with a bang as Con Air director Simon West talked to us about his high-flying career in film (LIVE-TWEETS). A festival isn’t a festival without a few drinks and nibbles, and together we toasted 25 years as an organisation as the sun set behind Big Ben. 

But July didn’t stop with the Festival: Fergus O’Brien joined us for a screening of Against the Law (LIVE-TWEETS); we announced the first participants of Directors UK Inspire (ARTICLE); producer Mara Manzolini spoke to us about her short documentary Shifting Focus, which featured several Directors UK members (ARTICLE); and we heard of the passing of Jonathan Ingrams (ARTICLE). Meanwhile, on a wider stage, our Head of Communications and Public Affairs Victoria Morris reported from the European Parliament as a number of committees voted in favour of an unwaivable right to remuneration for the online use of an author’s work (ARTICLE). We also submitted a response to the DCMS consultation on the relocation of Channel 4, supporting the move alongside an upping of regional quotas and commissioning. Steve Smith, in an article for Broadcast, tackled the role of the director in a changing world (ARTICLE), and was officially reappointed as Chair a week later. No hung parliaments here, the decision was unanimous – and the Board was also happy to appoint Bill Anderson, Philippa Collie Cousins and Susanna White as Vice Chairs, Dan Zeff as Chair of the Distribution Committee and Ed Bye as the new Chair of the Entertainment and Multi-Camera Committee (ARTICLE). On top of all that, we also paid out £1.3 million in UK distributions covering the July 2014 - June 2015 period. Phew! 


August brought us some fascinating insights into the directing world. We had an eye-opening interview with the august (sorry) live sports director Simon Brooke (ARTICLE), and we heard from Steve Smith and Jan Genesis about the BAME mentoring scheme on Cheap Cheap Cheap (ARTICLE). We raised the curtains on another round of our Stage and Screen initiative with the Park Theatre (ARTICLE), and encouraged our members to get involved in the Forward Focus scheme, in aid of those affected by the Grenfell tower fire (ARTICLE). 


The events came thick and fast as we moved in to Autumn, taking in both factual and fiction directing. Director Simon Curtis helped our members see the Hundred Acre Wood for the trees at a screening of Goodbye Christopher Robin (LIVE-TWEETS, PODCAST), and we also heard from the brilliant Lone Scherfig at a screening of Their Finest (LIVE-TWEETS). We partnered with The Actors Centre to set up a Working with Actors workshop, and mingled with writers and producers in association with Film London at the second annual Creative Partnerships Day (LIVE-TWEETS). We had some great news on the career front, too, as a further four directors were selected for our High End TV Drama Directors Career Development Programme (ARTICLE), and we launched another year of our Continuing Drama Directors Training Scheme in partnership with the BBC Drama (ARTICLE). Sad news came with the good, however, as we learned of the passing of Sir Peter Hall and looked back at his remarkable career (ARTICLE). Things got factual as members met the Channel 4 Documentary commissioners (LIVE-TWEETS), and we held a Directing Factual matchmaker networking session for our members in Wales and the South West (ARTICLE). There was even more cause for celebration as the Grierson Award nominations were announced, including several of our talented members (ARTICLE).


October saw us hold our second big annual event: Directors Viewfinder. This was a really productive day of debate and discussion, and allowed members to share ideas and experiences, discuss where our focus should be for the year ahead and offer support to one another. Directors UK Chair Steve Smith wrote for the website afterwards, explaining why the day was so valuable (ARTICLE). Off the back of discussions at the Viewfinder event we also released a statement condemning the disturbing revelations about abuse, bullying and sexual harassment within the film industry (ARTICLE). In other campaigning news, we were proud to see that the BFI had committed to a 50:50 gender balance as part of changes it was making to its Film Fund – a target we recommended in our Cut Out of the Picture report last year (ARTICLE).

There was another round of distribution payments, with £2.1 million going out to members for foreign broadcasts. Following this, the distribution team also updated members on the record amount that’s been distributed this year plus all the hard work that goes into processing it all (ARTICLE).

Events included a very important discussion on mental health issues; ‘How to Stay Sane in an Insane Business’ was led by speaker Jeremy Thomas, and equipped members with techniques to help them support themselves and others when the going gets tough. Director John Maclean and a panel of producers and casting directors joined us for a session on casting at the BFI London Film Festival. We held a screening of Battle of the Sexes plus a Q&A with the film’s co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (LIVE-TWEETSPODCAST). Covering a rather more literal battle, we also screened the visually-arresting documentary Mosul, and spoke afterwards to another set of co-directors, Olivier Sarbil and James Jones (LIVE-TWEETSPODCAST). And we fought them on the beaches with a screening of Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour.

There was a lot of success for Directors UK members in October – both new and established. Our former president Paul Greengrass received the BFI Fellowship (ARTICLE), while newcomers Rubika Shah and Kat Wood were named as some of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow (ARTICLE), and Oscar Hudson won the Directors UK-sponsored Best Director Award at the UK Music Video Awards. Future success was on offer as we launched Challenge ALEXA 2018, our annual competition held in conjunction with ARRI, which offers members the chance to make a short film using a free two-day ALEXA shooting package (ARTICLE). We also hosted a special drinks reception for members of the vibrant Facebook-based community, Viva la PD. Viva la PD have made a lot of noise this year representing and supporting the humble factual producer-director, and we look forward to working with them more in 2018. In related news, we reminded members of the safety guidelines that have been established for self-shooting directors (ARTICLE).


This year had seen the film and TV industry reeling from a string of high-profile allegations of harassment and bullying, and so a director wrote for us about the responsibilities directors have in this regard, and why they need to speak out (ARTICLE). This most serious of subjects dominated much of the news agenda across many industries, but there were a few rays of light too. November was studded with awards successes for our members, earning nominations at the BIFAs (ARTICLE) and RTS Craft and Design Awards (ARTICLE), and winning Griersons (ARTICLE) and BAFTA Scotland Awards (ARTICLE). The ARRI Doc Challenge also launched – and is still open for applications until 2 January! (ARTICLE)

We had some great events, too, as Dee Rees joined us to talk about her film Mudbound (LIVE-TWEETS), which you can catch now on Netflix, and we also welcomed director Saul Dibb for a screening of the forthcoming Journey’s End (LIVE-TWEETS). We put on a panel at the Televisual Factual Festival about looking after your contributors, chaired by Alicky Sussman and featuring Sophie Robinson, Kirsty Cunningham and Ashok Prasad (LIVE-TWEETS). Ashok also joined the Directors UK Board in November, as did director Toral Dixit – we were thrilled to welcome them both!

Pay was another one of this month’s themes, as our CEO Andrew Chowns and Head of Legal Donna Thomas wrote up their 15 Pay Tips to Keep You Sane (ARTICLE), and Directors UK figures signed an open letter calling for a resolution to the Picturehouse pay dispute (ARTICLE). Andrew travelled to Vienna to take part in the Writers & Directors Worldwide Conference, before joining Victoria Morris in Brussels to lobby MEPs on copyright and fair reward for directors and the use of their work online – a topic that we will continue to lobby on and cover next year. We also learned of the passing of director Paddy Russell, and took a moment to study a trailblazing career that saw her become – among other things – the first ever female director of Doctor Who (ARTICLE). The end of November saw us launch the Directors UK Podcast – and if you’re hitting the gym before all the holiday indulgences, or you need something to listen to while wrapping your gifts, why not switch off the Slade and give it a listen? (LINK)


As always, December was an absolutely huge month for screenings and Q&As. Across the month we had five director Q&As, not to mention a Documentary Development Workshop with Story & Script Coach Hazel Marshall, and Christmas drinks for our members in Scotland, the latter two both taking place in Glasgow. And all of this in the space of thirteen days. That’s an event every 1.86 days, fact fans.

After a screening of his new movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriMartin McDonagh told us all about his opinion on improvisation (basically: fine for tortoises, not for actors) (LIVE-TWEETS). While Greta Gerwig told us about dressing up and revealing her karaoke song to make cast and crew feel comfortable on the set of Lady Bird (LIVE-TWEETS). As if having one great actor turned director wasn’t enough we then played host to Paddy Considine a few days later, who joined us for a screening of his new boxing drama Journeyman (LIVE-TWEETS). Following a screening of The Party, her new middle-class dinner party black comedy (is there any other kind of middle-class dinner party?), celebrated director Sally Potter took us through her career and explained her working relationship with actors (LIVE-TWEETS). And finally, we were incredibly proud to bring you multiple Oscar-nominee Paul Thomas Anderson for a screening of his latest, Phantom Thread, followed by a fantastic onstage conversation with the one and only Sir Alan Parker (LIVE-TWEETS). Expect all these films to feature heavily come awards season, and you either being able to humblebrag about seeing them first or else having to pretend you were there. Or you can just read the live-tweets and see the photos at the links above. Look out for videos and podcasts from all these fascinating Q&As in the new year.

But events weren’t all we had to talk about in December (after all, we needed something to fill those 1.859 days’ worth of downtime); in fact, we kicked off the month with a big announcement about our long-gestating Creative Rights Minimum Terms for Fiction Feature film (ARTICLE). The brainchild of the Directors UK Film Committee, and spearheaded by directors Iain SoftleyRoger Michell and Jim Gillespie, these terms are designed so they can be added to every film director’s contract and help them protect their creative rights, improve their working conditions and prevent the erosion of the director’s role. The terms received support from a who’s who of UK directing talent, including Amma Asante, Danny Boyle, Sarah Gavron, Paul Greengrass, Tom Hooper, Mike Leigh, Kevin Macdonald, Lynne Ramsay, Guy Ritchie, David Yates and many, many more. Meanwhile, in a continuation of perhaps the biggest story of the year, we updated our members on the work Directors UK and other organisations are doing to develop an industry-wide response to revelations concerning sexual harassment and bullying in the film and television industries (ARTICLE). Discussion of this topic is only just beginning, so expect further announcements and an all-member meeting early next year.

So 2017 is over and done with and it’s now time to look forward to a very exciting 2018! We’ll be back with more money to distribute, more campaigning, more fantastic events, more career development opportunities, more incredible directors, more videos, podcasts, live-tweets, articles and other content, and also some very exciting developments around the future of our members’ rights. Stay tuned…

If you’d like to attend these kinds of events and take advantage of these opportunities in 2018 then why not join Directors UK or upgrade to Full Membership?