It has been an extraordinary and challenging year for our industry, but Directors UK has continued to focus on supporting our members, campaigning on issues affecting directors, and paying distributions to eligible members.
Scroll below to read an overview of Directors UK’s financial performance, distributions, member services and more — alongside a message from our outgoing Chair, Steve Smith.
Statement from the Chair
It is fair to say that this annual report covers an exceptional year – not just for Directors UK, but for our industry, and for everyone across the world.
Directors UK was set up by directors, for directors. And throughout this global pandemic, I have been heartened by the strength of our community. Without our committee meetings, without members responses to surveys and callouts, without their engagement in calling for better, safer, fairer working environments, without their tenacity to keep working, our community wouldn’t have been able to navigate the most unusual twelve months.
As a Collective Management Organisation and membership organisation, our immediate priorities at the outbreak of the pandemic were to keep distributions on schedule despite the physical disruption to our team, and to lobby for COVID protection and support for freelancers. As the year progressed, we advocated for safe working environments and robust procedures for directors working under COVID, and we delivered craft focused guidance for directors creating in under restricted conditions. We’re proud of how the team have been able to adapt and that we have been able to continue to offer a full range of benefits, services and support to our members.
Following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests to protect Black lives in the summer, we’ve seen many renewed commitments across the industry to make positive strides toward change. It is our duty to ensure that these commitments are enacted and are robust enough to result in meaningful change. No one should experience racism, bullying, harassment or unfair treatment because of who they are. The problems are deep rooted and systemic, and we know that there is a very long way to go before everyone is treated fairly and equally. Directors UK will continue to work to ensure an equal opportunity industry for all.
The past year has undoubtedly been challenging for our community, on both a professional and personal level. But in many ways, it has allowed us to embrace new and exciting ways of connecting. In moving our activities online, our offering is accessible to more members than ever before and we are exploring how we can build on this beyond lockdown to best serve our members across the UK. It’s also enabled us to continue our political and lobbying activity remotely to ensure that directors are at the heart of industry conversations online.
Like many organisations across the country, we’ve taken a cautious approach to securing the business and reducing costs during this unprecedented time, to ensure we are fit for the future. Unfortunately, this means that there are some activities that we had hoped to undertake this year that we have had to put on hold. However, thanks to careful management throughout the years, we find ourselves in a strong position to weather the storm.
Gratitude must be given to Andy Harrower, who joined us as CEO in May 2020 and has expertly led us through a challenging year. I must also extend thanks to Andrew Chowns who delayed his retirement to support us through the early stages of the pandemic.
Finally, this has been my last year as Chair of Directors UK. It has been a privilege to represent my colleagues.
Chief Executive’s Report
Another steady financial performance through the turbulent year to 28th February 2021 has generated a surplus after tax of £55,107.
Moderate growth in both management fees and membership income enabled revenues to close marginally ahead of the previous year. However interest receivable declined by 20% in the face of record low interest rates.
Administration expenses were 10% higher, largely due to increases in staff costs and other fees, whilst establishment costs finished some 8% lower, benefitting from reduced operating costs during lockdown. The switch from physical events to online delivery resulted in Member Services department costs reducing by 66% and Communications, Campaigns and Public Affairs expenses closed 8% below the previous year.
During the year £75k was released from our non-distributable creditor to match a donation of the same amount to the Directors’ Charitable Foundation. The non-distributable creditor has reduced by a net £47k to £435k.
Our balance sheet remains strong, with retained earnings having increased to £554k
Rights and Royalty Distribution
In the 2020/21 financial year, we distributed £10.9m in UK payments and £6.9m in foreign payments to directors. This is the largest foreign distribution yet, processing more than double the volume of individual payments compared to the last financial year.
|AMOUNTS PAID £000s
|INCR. / (DECR.)
|UK Rights Agreement
|Total UK Royalties
The move to remote working due to the pandemic meant that we had to shift our entire distribution operation online, adapt processes and ensure that staff had access to the tools, equipment and systems required to continue to distribute payments to members.
We held the first remote distribution under lockdown conditions in April 2020, and have since held another four large distributions, in total distributing £17.8million to directors.
Response to COVID-19
Directors UK has spent the majority of the 2020/2021 financial year navigating COVID-19; both ensuring the organisation continues to operate effectively, and supporting our members in response to the issues that have arisen due to the pandemic.
As well as prioritising distributions to our members and fielding enquiries, we’ve supported directors in finding financial aid and have continued to lobby government to address the gaps in support affecting directors excluded from help under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
We have collaborated with our colleagues across the industry to deliver a framework for safe working conditions for the production sector – ensuring that the director’s voice was heard and considered, with contributions to all top level industry safety guidelines. Where gaps for director-specific advice remained, we filled them with bespoke guidance designed to protect directors – whether that was by enabling directors to make safe decisions in Working Under COVID: Advice for Factual Directors or in finding creative solutions to shooting intimate scenes in Intimacy in the Time of COVID-19.
Our London offices closed in mid-March 2020 and the Directors UK team have been working remotely since then.
Our membership continues to grow, with a total of 7,850 members.
Having launched the new collection agreement online in September 2019, we were well placed to avoid any major disruption from the shift to remote working because members could already complete their registration with us digitally. With the processes and systems already in place, we were able to continue registering directors and uniting them with their rights payments throughout the year.
With the lockdowns and the impact of the pandemic on work for directors , the importance of royalties as a vital source of income for our members has been highlighted more than ever.
The flexibility of membership options has ensured that directors can continue to receive payments from us through Distribution-Only membership during this tough year. We also saw an uptake of new member sign-ups due to peer-to-peer sharing of our trace list in January 2021, a method of tracing we are looking to engage with further to connect more directors with their money.
Copyright and Collective Rights Management
Now that we have left the EU, the European Copyright Directive will not be implemented in UK law. However, we continue to engage with the UK Government on the issue of copyright and the importance of ensuring fair remuneration for directors. In March 2020, we presented the Directors UK Best Direction Award at the Film the House awards held at the House of Commons. The event engages with many parliamentarians and industry representatives on the importance of copyright and IP. We also attended a roundtable with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the Minster responsible for IP; we continue to engage with them, making the case that the Government must protect and enhance the UK copyright regime, and ensure that creators and authors receive fair and proportionate remuneration.
We are continuing the next phase of our work to negotiate for directors to be compensated for the use of their work on channels and platforms that are not part of our current UK rights deal. The pandemic has caused some delays to these negotiations, but we are in the early stages of discussions with these non-signatory broadcasters and streaming services and they remain a priority for the coming year.
Member Services and Benefits
In response to the lockdowns imposed by COVID-19, our events offering was moved entirely online. This move has allowed more members than ever to engage with our events programming, wherever they are in the country.
Despite the added challenges of adapting to new technology, we managed to deliver an extensive series of ‘in conversation’ events with acclaimed directors, covering 7 of the 8 films nominated for Best Picture at the 2021 Academy Awards. Directors have included Aaron Sorkin, Amma Asante, Antonio Campos, Barry Jenkins, Beeban Kidron, Ben Wheatley, Billie Piper, Charlie Kaufman, Coky Geidroyc, Darcia Martin, Edgar Wright, Emerald Fennell, George C. Wolfe, George Clooney, Gurinder Chadha, J Blakeson, James Hawes, Jessica Hobbs, Jim Loach, Lisa Cortés, Liz Garbus, Marc Munden, Mike Leigh, Paul Greengrass, Phillipa Lowthorpe, Ramin Bahrani, Regina King, Remi Weekes, Richard Curtis, Rose Glass, Sally Potter, Sam Mendes, Shaka King, Spike Lee and Stephen Daldry.
Our members continue to connect and network through open meetings and committee meetings, as well as discussions (such as a mental health awareness talk) organised by the events team.
Skills and Career Development
Like our events offering, lots of our career development opportunities have successfully moved online. We have hosted an array of skills webinars with topics including directing actors, directing intimacy, storytelling for factual directors, pitching and online coaching.
We’ve curated a week-long series of sessions for multi-camera and entertainment directors in partnership with ScreenSkills, and collaborated with Stage Directors UK. We’ve also hosted online masterclasses with factual director Marcus Plowright about his work on In Cold Blood and with John Strickland focused on his work on Line of Duty and Bodyguard.
As production tentatively resumed under COVID restrictions during the summer, we were able to facilitate placements for underrepresented drama directors on Slow Horses, Midsomer Murders and The Long Call. We also organised a placement on Silent Witness as part of the High-End Drama Directors Programme funded by ScreenSkills.
As well as completing our Back on Track scheme, a mentoring programme for directors returning to work, we’ve also been able to continue to offer peer-to-peer mentoring support via our Inspire programme, connecting over 40 directors across all genres.
This year has seen the formation of three member groups which advise and support the work of the campaigns team: the Access and Inclusion Committee, the Directors of Colour Committee and the Disabled Directors Working Group.
We launched two new pieces of work to support directors as they navigate the pandemic. In response to gaps in high level industry guidance, we worked with members to produce Working under COVID: Advice for Factual Directors, which acts as a useful tool to empower directors to make safe decisions under COVID restrictions. Intimacy in the Time of COVID-19 is an update to our celebrated guidance Directing Nudity and Simulated Sex, which explores how to safely tell stories of intimacy, nudity and sex when cast and crew are working with social distancing restrictions and possible risks of infection though physical contact.
We continue to work with other industry organisations to make positive change. We contributed to the BAFTA 2020 Review to ensure that voting processes at BAFTA reflect the wealth of talent that exists in our industry. We have been proactively participating in the collective accountability work of the Film & TV Charity to address bullying and harassment and poor working culture, as well as being part of the core industry group championing the BAFTA/BFI bullying and harassment principles for the film industry. We have been actively working with pan-industry group Coalition for Change, and are involved in the working group that is developing a freelancer charter that aims to improve the working conditions, work-life balance and treatment of freelancers in TV.
Representation and Profile
We have continued to represent directors, the craft of directing and our organisation in both the mainstream and trade press. Our public profile continues to increase as we are called upon for trusted industry comment.
We’ve secured coverage in the trade press including Broadcast, Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen International, TBI, Televisual and Variety. Mainstream and entertainment media coverage including the Daily Mail, Entertainment Weekly, the Evening Standard, the Daily Express, Forbes, Glamour, The Guardian, the I, The Independent, IndieWire, Sky News, The Telegraph and Yahoo! News. Broadcast coverage including the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC Radio Leicester and Times Radio.
We’ve continued to build strong relationships with the media, hosting virtual meet and greets with contacts to share the key areas of interest for directors and the focus of Directors UK’s work. These meetings have generated strong rapport and coverage and have served to raise the profile of Directors UK, as well as position Andy Harrower as a key industry figure to the press.
Our Public Affairs work has continued to increase. Throughout the pandemic we have lobbied for better financial support for self-employed and creative freelancers and for safe working environments. Despite continued lobbying efforts to the Chancellor, the Treasury and DCMS, and submitting evidence to the various Treasury, DCMS and BEIS select committees inquiries and House of Lords inquiries, we are disappointed that many of the gaps in support have yet to be resolved.
We have ensured that directors have also been represented in industry and government conversations by responding to numerous consultations, inquiries and round tables on a broad range of issues, ranging from the pandemic to the future of Public Service Broadcasting; including regulation and funding of the BBC; UK copyright; protecting participants in TV; and ethnic disparities and inequality in the UK.
Our political outreach work during the pandemic has created new contacts with cross-party politicians who we continue to build relationships with to ensure directors are represented at government level. We have also been connecting with other industry organisations to join up our lobbying efforts and strengthen the position of directors and creatives.
Digital and Member Communications
Our online activity this year has made a point of celebrating the craft of directing in all its forms, highlighting how creativity has endured despite the challenges and setbacks brought about by the pandemic. We have published articles and interviews with our members and we have featured stories from directors who have taken part in our various career development programmes. We have also continued to develop the website behind the scenes so that it best serves members.
The Directors UK Podcast has been particularly successful over the last year, with listens, subscribers and shares continuing to grow as we release new episodes featuring our director-on-director in-conversation events, which allows us to share and promote the craft of directing with a wider global audience.
Our newsletter has maintained an exceptional open rate and was a vital source of information and reassurance to members in the early days of the pandemic. It has since continued to engage members with updates, event announcements, content from the website and other industry news.
Social media has remained a key method for communicating and sharing our messaging with our members and followers. We often share first reaction and comment on industry issues directly through social media generating wider interaction and discussion.
Our legal team have been exceptionally busy, supporting our members with contract vetting requests and continuing to offer member support on dispute queries, including disputes related to COVID–19 and other issues that our members have faced.
We also provided new guidance and updated existing advice via the Directors UK website, contributing legal insight to the added complexities of life as a freelance director in light of the pandemic.
Responding to the needs of our membership, a Directors of Colour Committee has been formed. We now have six member committees:
- Access and Inclusion
- Directors of Colour
- Nations and Regions
- Pay and Working Conditions
The member committees’ work and discussions are a sounding board for the issues that are important to directors. Through our committees, the insight of working directors drives our agenda and feeds directly into the work Directors UK does.
We have been exploring how to better support our underrepresented members and better serve members who live and work in the nations and regions. This work has faced challenges due to the pandemic but remains a priority for Directors UK.
As a number of our current Board Members are coming to the end of their terms, the Nominations Committee has been supporting the management team in preparing for the upcoming election.
Directors UK works with organisations all over the world to protect creators’ rights and lobby for protection for creative freelancers.
We have been working collaboratively with our colleagues internationally, attending regular meetings with CISAC and working closely with FERA. We were invited by the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) to present to other international collecting societies on how they might support greater diversity in TV and film.