Published on: 08 January 2020 in Directors UK

A New Year’s message from Directors UK Chair Steve Smith

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Directors UK Chair Steve Smith has written a New Year’s message for members, looking ahead to another busy year for Directors UK.

Like many of you, one of the early highlights of my Christmas is getting that envelope from Directors UK with news of the distribution payments I’ll be receiving in January. Around £9.5 million will be hitting members’ accounts throughout this month, processed by our hard-working distribution team. It’s that - along with the mammoth December Review of the Year - that reinforces just how much Directors UK accomplishes as an organisation. 

As we enter a new decade, we’ll need to take that hard work and apply it to new challenges, as our industry faces disruptions on a wider scale. This time last year I was busy, as Directors UK Chair, lobbying MEPs over the EU copyright directive, and now it’s under threat again as the UK prepares to leave the EU on 31 January. We have to work hard with other stakeholders to persuade the new government to bring this into UK legislation. Meanwhile, as Brexit progresses, we will be making the case for maintaining the ability to move around for work and for creative partnerships, and keeping legal protections for freelancers’ working conditions.  

SVODs continue to present opportunities and challenges for our industry. A recent report showed that the UK spent a record £3bn on streaming music, films and TV in 2019. As our industry continues to fluctuate, we’ll be keen to ensure that UK public service broadcasting is not put at risk in 2020, and will be working to strike fair deals for directors. 

Like many others all over the world, I was heartbroken by the images of catastrophic bush fires emerging from Australia. The planet is in a state of emergency, and what we do in the next few years will affect the living conditions of all future generations. As storytellers, the directing community must wake up to this fact and be part of the solution. We have an enormous role to play in confronting the climate emergency facing the world, and at Directors UK we’ll be pursuing this reality into the new decade. 

In order to effect change on a meaningful scale, it’s vital we work closely with other organisations that represent creatives. But it shouldn’t stop there – we need to work together within Directors UK too. In 2020, we want to make sure that every member feels like they have a voice, whatever genre they work in, and wherever they are based. We’ll be addressing this by establishing three new committees: for access and inclusion, pay and working conditions, and nations and regions. These committees will have a renewed focus on practical results and getting things done, with a cross-genre approach that we hope will help all members to get involved. We have already taken applications for the access and inclusion committee, and I encourage you to stay tuned for news about the others in the coming weeks.  

Of course, we’ll also be continuing to campaign on the issues that matter to directors. Last year our new guidelines on directing nudity and simulated sex made headlines around the world. This year our campaigning for directors will continue, with a focus on mental health and wellbeing amongst other issues.

Finally, I wanted to say a quick word about Andrew Chowns, who will be leaving us this year with Andy Harrower taking over as CEO. There will be time for proper tributes later on, but for now I wanted to thank Andrew for his outstanding leadership over the past decade – for the role he has played in transforming Directors UK into the highly respected organisation it is today. Because of Andrew’s work directors have a strong and powerful voice in the industry. When Directors UK speak up, the broadcasters, regulators and government all listen to what we have to say. Our campaigns are changing working conditions and improving working lives for all, and we are helping to ensure directors have the new skills required for the future. For this, all directors owe Andrew a debt of gratitude.

On behalf of the Board, I’d like to wish all members of Directors UK a very happy new year.  


To start the year, we’re asking members to share the changes you’d like to see in the screen industries in 2020, plus your suggestions for how we can go about achieving them. Let us know at communications@directors.uk.com.

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