Directors UK is responsible for distributing payments to all eligible film and TV directors in the UK, which means that we sometimes receive and allocate money for directors who aren’t (yet) Directors UK members. However, we don’t just wait for those unfortunate souls to come to us.
As Distributions Assistant Eleanor Jest explains, we make it our mission to track down and contact any non-member director for whom we are holding money, so that we can register them as a member. But contacting these non-members is not as straightforward as you might think, and existing members play a crucial role in helping us do so...
We currently have over 7,500 members here at Directors UK, and we pride ourselves on the fact that we’ve already signed up a significant portion of the directing community, but we still put an awful lot of effort into trying to contact all those non-member directors who have money allocated to them.
On our website we publish a list of all the directors we’re currently looking for. We publicise this list through our social media channels and networks, and we send it directly to members in the hope that they’ll recognise some of the names and can personally recommend those individuals get in touch with us. If you’re a member, your participation in our search can make a big difference; word of mouth is one of the most successful methods we have for contacting and signing up non-members, so please have a look through our Unregistered Directors List for your friends and colleagues, and follow the steps in the boxout below.
We carry out our own searches for these non-member directors; searches that involve a creative approach from the staff here at Directors UK.
The hunt usually begins online using industry websites, social media and social networking sites. If these prove unsuccessful, we try to contact a third party, which could be a director’s agent, manager or lawyer. We may also contact a production company, producer, screenwriter, actor, or other Directors UK member that the director has worked with in the past. And for those directors who have passed away, we search for their will and probate using the probate service website, so that we can identify and reach out to their beneficiaries.
When searching for directors there are often challenges and some directors are, for a number of reasons, extremely difficult to track down — even the most well-known ones. A director may have retired, changed their name or have a limited online presence. They may have left the industry altogether.
Directors can respond cautiously when contacted out of the blue and informed that we’re holding money for them (“free money, eh? Have you also got a bridge to sell me?”).
We overcome this by introducing them to Directors UK, explaining that we’re a non-profit making organisation governed by a board of member directors, elected by our members, and that we’re a fully regulated collective management organisation. A personal recommendation from an existing member can usually break down any such reservations, which is why members can be such a huge help in tracking these directors down and encouraging them to sign up. For more information about how to do this, see the boxout below.
And even once we’ve managed to make contact with a director, the job is far from over. For many of the names on our Unregistered Directors List, it’s often the case that we have already made contact with them – we just haven’t been able to finish registering them as a member. This can be for a number of reasons, not least that directors are very busy people (when you have to make a quick jaunt to the Arctic to film a natural history series – true story – filling out paperwork can drop down the to-do list). But even when we know who a director is, we are still obliged to keep their name on the Unregistered Directors List until they’ve fully signed up as a Directors UK member. We regularly contact these directors to remind them about the money we’re holding for them, but a quick nudge from you is often the best way of getting us over the line.
Making a will
One of the biggest challenges we face are those instances where we’re holding payments on behalf of a director’s estate and we need to register their beneficiary. Unfortunately, not everyone leaves a will after their death, and even when they do copyright needs to be passed onto their beneficiary in the correct way. Complexities like this are another reason why, despite having some information about a director, a name may have to remain on our Unregistered Directors List.
It is extremely important for directors to make a will. A correctly-prepared will is the only way to ensure that your loved ones will continue to receive the money you’re owed after you’re gone.
If you’d like some advice now on which lawyers to approach about making a will, please contact [email protected].
What can existing members do to help?
Despite all of the work that we do to track down non-member directors we still want to do more. And that’s where you, our members, can help. If you recognise any of the directors on the list please do reach out to them and tell them about your experience of Directors UK and the work we do. If you’ve benefited from distribution payments, campaigns or events then let these directors know and encourage them to contact us. Your fellow directors could be benefiting too.