Published on: 18 December 2019 in Directors UK
Review of the Year 2019
Reading time: 24 minutes and 52 seconds
It’s that time again when we look back on a year’s worth of dealings in the world of Directors UK. We’ve got news, videos, podcasts, articles, live-tweets and more for you, and there’s such a wealth of stuff in here that there’s guaranteed to be something you’ve missed during the rollercoaster that was 2019. So sit back and join us for the Directors UK Review of the Year.
Things kicked off in January, as they have a habit of doing, and we all woke up to a year that we were sure couldn’t be as mad as the last one. Someone bought a bluefin tuna for $3.1 million in Japan, Fiona Bruce chaired her first episode of Question Time, and Theresa May won a vote of confidence in the Conservative Party — surely securing her place at the top for many years to come... And, at Directors UK, things were already in full flow: we hosted a screening of our Challenge TRINITY-winning films, released a podcast of our Vice Q&A with Adam McKay and Stephen Merchant (PODCAST), and held an open meeting for members in Scotland. We also took the time to remember the life and works of Directors UK member Haldane Duncan, who passed away at the end of the previous year (ARTICLE). Our Multi-Camera and Entertainment Committee Chair Ed Bye issued a rallying cry for the importance of director credits (ARTICLE), and we called for an end to intrusive insurer practices (ARTICLE).
But most importantly, January saw us distributing a whopping £9.5 million to members for UK sales and transmissions. Hurrah!
February may be the shortest month, but goodness was it long on content this year. Where better to start than with some beautiful writing from our members Gillies Mackinnon (ARTICLE) and Suri Krishnamma (ARTICLE), who both shared their memories of fellow member Albert Finney, who sadly passed away this month.
We put some relationships to the test by hosting a special Meet the Film Exhibitors event on Valentine’s Day (LIVE-TWEETS), kicked off a new round of career consultancy sessions with Cynthia De Souza, opened applications for a new multi-camera directing workshop with ITV Studios, hosted a fantastic career development workshop with David Keating, and topped it all off with our annual conference event, Viewfinder — which this year brought us together to discuss climate change, director credits, and making s**t happen (ARTICLE).
And s**t did indeed happen. We released a podcast with Paweł Pawlikowski, director of Cold War (PODCAST), and the Challenge TRINITY winners spoke at the BSC Expo. And it wasn’t all events and career development: we also responded to Ofcom’s iPlayer consultation and their annual work plan (ARTICLE) — the first of a whopping fourteen industry and government consultations we responded to on behalf of directors in 2019 — and Factual Chair Nic Guttridge called for the protection of director credits in factual (ARTICLE). All of that in just 28 days? Imagine what we’d have done with 30.
In March, the Queen shared her first ever Instagram post — and yet all these months later, she still hasn’t followed us. Never mind, we had stuff to do. We put on a workshop with David Keating at the Glasgow Film Festival, supported networking drinks at BFI Flare, and hosted a drop-in session for BAME members.
Above all, March was a great month for amplifying our members’ voices: we spoke to Louise Hooper about directing Cheat (ARTICLE), to Laura Smith about making Curfew as part of the High-End TV Drama Directors Career Development Programme (ARTICLE), and to Vicki Kisner and Ian Curtis about mentoring on the set of Hollyoaks (ARTICLE). Finally, a fantastic group of 27 female directors shared their advice on International Women’s Day (ARTICLE).
March saw two major crossovers take place, as the Disney/Fox merger finally went through, while Casualty and Holby City became Casualty/Holby City for two episodes. And at Directors UK, we were also bringing talent together at two documentary screenings: first up was Maiden, which was followed by a Q&A with director Alex Holmes and producer Victoria Gregory (LIVE-TWEETS), then came The Ghost of Peter Sellers, which we watched and discussed with director Peter Medak, editor Joby Gee, and producer Paul Iacovou, all moderated by Piers Haggard, who was able to tell us about his own attempts to direct the ever-unpredictable Sellers (LIVE-TWEETS). On top of that, we released a podcast with First Man director Damien Chazelle (PODCAST).
Of course, like much of the country, our attentions were frequently on Europe (*ED: do we have any Brexit jokes we can re-use from Review of the Year 2018?). But this wasn’t just about Brexit: finally, after a lot of work from Directors UK, our members, and our sister organisations across Europe, the EU adopted the new Copyright Directive (ARTICLE). In the face of huge anti-lobbying efforts and unhelpful interjections from obscure MPs, this was a huge step towards securing fairness for creators in Europe.
In April, our minds were on the future of our existence: Extinction Rebellion shut down bridges in London and across the UK, the first ever photo of a black hole made us contemplate our place in the universe, and what on Earth would we do once Game of Thrones was over?! When we weren’t busy pondering those big questions, there were plenty of other things to be cracking on with, including a screening of the Challenge TRINITY-winning films at LIFF, as well as a film and TV tax reliefs talk for members (LIVE-TWEETS). Adding to the joys of spring, we outlined the top five reasons to visit our members’ spaces (ARTICLE), and we were thrilled to pay out £870,000 to members in the UK DVD and late reports distribution.
But the industry never sleeps, and we kept fighting for the things that matter to directors. We championed Directors’ Rights on World IP Day (ARTICLE), welcomed the launch of albert’s Planet Placement initiative (ARTICLE), and held an open meeting on directing intimacy and nudity for directors (ARTICLE) — a lot more on that one later.
May was a month for competitions: no, not the Premier League, the FA Cup, or even Eurovision — we’re talking Challenge ALEXA, the annual filming competition we hold in partnership with ARRI. We screened the winning films at a special London event this month, which was accompanied by a bumper interview with all the directors (ARTICLE). What’s more, we also spoke to the first ever winners of our other ARRI filming competition, Challenge TRINITY, which tasks directors with shooting a short in one shot (try saying that when you’re sober) (ARTICLE). It wasn’t all challenges and contests though. Remember that ITV multi-camera directing workshop back in February? We were thrilled to bring you a report on the progress our members had made because of it (ARTICLE). And, as ever, our members were taking a ton of fantastic projects to Cannes and we helped to spread the word via our site (ARTICLE).
In other news, we beat the drum for beat sheets (ARTICLE), signed-off on our new Before You Sign page (ARTICLE) — a new way of checking your employer is up to scratch — and our CEO Andrew Chowns went to the House of Lords to deliver a wake-up call on the future of public service broadcasting in the age of the SVOD (ARTICLE). Finally, we took the time to remember the life and works of John Llewellyn Moxey, who sadly passed away this year (ARTICLE).
Ah, halfway through the year, and only half of this epic review left for you to read. Grab a hot drink and settle in though, because things are about to get even busier. June was a bumper month for acronyms, so let’s start with the big one: The Directors UK AGM1 (ARTICLE). Directors UK Chair Steve Smith welcomed our newest Board member Morgan Hopkins, and thanked those who had stepped down over the past months, including Karen Kelly, Philippa Collie Cousins and Otto Bathurst, who stood down in May (ARTICLE). Piers Haggard talked us through the fine work of the DCF2 and offered a neat suggestion for members (“Remember us in your will!”), while Dan Zeff and Guy Gibbons took us through the year in distributions and accounts. A number of motions were debated and overwhelmingly carried, and then we all retired for a mingle and something to drink. AGMs: more fun than they sound. AGM aside, we were also pleased to host great events with AMPS3 (LIVE-TWEETS) and DCU4.
Abbreviated or otherwise, the events just kept on coming. From our session on director wellbeing at Sheffield Doc/Fest (ARTICLE) to our Good Omens screening and Q&A with Douglas Mackinnon (PODCAST, LIVE-TWEETS). Elsewhere, we spoke to member Claire Tailyour about directing second unit on Wild Bill as part of the High-End TV Drama Directors Career Development Programme (ARTICLE), paid tribute to the remarkable, compassionate documentary filmmaker Peter Gordon (ARTICLE), organised a fantastic Directing Actors workshop, and issued a response to the BBC on their license fee plans (ARTICLE).
Finally, we paid out a very nice £2.45 million in our foreign distribution — and that was just the first of some outrageous figures we collected (ARTICLE). For example, did you know it would take 6,614,934 minutes to watch the whole of that foreign distribution back to back? That’s over twelve years. You could start now, and finish by the time our Review of the Year 2031 is published. So that’s something to look forward to.
In previous years, July was always dominated by our annual directors’ festival, but following a rebranding and change of date (to November, if you want to peek ahead), the month was free instead for lots of other significant events and opportunities.
The biggest of these was our UK supplementary distribution, covering work broadcast between July 2016 and June 2017, which saw our team give out £1.6 million to members.
A very special gala event was hosted in conjunction with our sister organisation, The Directors Charitable Foundation. Renowned theatre and film director Phyllida Lloyd appeared in conversation with DCF Vice-Chair Piers Haggard, and they discussed an extraordinary career that’s taken her from the Royal Court Theatre to the musical phenomenon Mamma Mia! (LIVE-TWEETS).
We screened Dominic Savage’s powerful improvised drama I Am Kirsty (LIVE-TWEETS). And we also held two open meetings for our women’s working group, later summarising the five main issues that were raised by members (MEMBER-ONLY REPORT).
In career development news we caught up with director Katherine Churcher, who directed second unit on Killing Eve as part of our High-End TV Drama Directors Career Development Programme (ARTICLE). While director Abdullai Adejumo told us all about her experience shadowing fellow member Steve Kelly on the set of Doctors for Directors UK Inspire, our structured mentoring scheme (ARTICLE).
July also saw the loss of respected theatre director Ivor Benjamin, who had been a tireless campaigner for directors’ rights through his involvement in the Directors Guild of Great Britain and the aforementioned Directors Charitable Foundation. DCF Chair Vladimir Mirodan wrote for us about his formidable life and works. (ARTICLE).
Ah, sleepy August. Where we all get to sit back and enjoy this year’s surprisingly seasonal weather, right? Err, well. First of all, we had some big news to impart as we were able to announce that we’d struck a brand-new UK rights deal with the public service broadcasters, Sky UK, Pact and TAC. This was a major step forward for our Future Rights campaign and we hope to have more news about the other stages in 2020 (MEMBER-ONLY ARTICLE). If you’re a Directors UK member and you’re yet to sign our latest contract – taking into account the new UK rights deal – then please do so here (LINK).
Time for a rest now? Well, not quite, because we also had a number of interesting articles from our members to present to you. One was a very important piece from an anonymous director, telling us about the culture of box-ticking they’ve found within the industry when trying to find work as a BAME director (ARTICLE). Meanwhile, director Olly Blackburn told us about his experience on the ITV show Sanditon, and detailed how he went from “the vilest film ever seen” (Donkey Punch if you’re wondering, not The Emoji Movie) to adapting the work of the none-more-respectable Jane Austen (ARTICLE).
And rela— Hold it right there! Time to announce the next round of our Continuing Drama New Directors’ Training Scheme, held in conjunction with BBC Writersroom. This time we were looking for directors to take on EastEnders and Holby City. And directors Emma Edwards and Luke Bradford told us all about what it was like to take part in our ARRI directing challenges (ARTICLE). So, if you’re a member and feel inspired, be sure to look out for the next iterations of Challenge ALEXA and Challenge TRINITY in 2020.
Awards season seems to start earlier and earlier every year, and accordingly September was chock-a-block with some brilliant screenings and Q&As with talented directors. Chiwetel Ejiofor joined us for a screening of his debut as a feature film director, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (LIVE-TWEETS). Directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts took us through the making of their visceral documentary, For Sama (PODCAST, LIVE-TWEETS). And Lulu Wang shared with us her very personal film, The Farewell (PODCAST, LIVE-TWEETS).
That wasn’t the only “farewell” (*ED: groan.) of the month, as we also said goodbye to Board members Toral Dixit, Darcia Martin, Geoff Posner, Ashok Prasad and Paul Unwin, as well as North West England Nations and Regions Representative Illy Hill and Successor Members’ Representative Michael Omer, all in support of a restructuring of our current Board setup (ARTICLE). We also bade a fond farewell to outgoing FERA Chair (and former Directors UK Board member) Dan Clifton, and so we spoke to him and incoming Executive Committee member (and current Directors UK Board Vice-Chair) Bill Anderson about FERA, the picture for directors in Europe, and what members can do to support FERA’s aims (ARTICLE).
Also this month, we interviewed the newly-promoted BFI CEO Ben Roberts in his previous guise as Deputy Chief Executive, where he spoke to us about the BFI Film Fund and how it aims to meet its targets for diversity and inclusion (PODCAST). While director Philippa Armsby-Ward wrote about her experience shadowing director Jamie Payne on the set of Outlander as part of the High-End TV Drama Directors Career Development Programme (ARTICLE).
Director Jermain Julien wrote for us about bringing creativity to directing continuing and returning drama, showcasing the fantastic bitesize director commentaries he does on social media (ARTICLE). And director Luke Bradford, winner of The Pitch film fund competition, shared his top 5 pitching tips (ARTICLE).
Challenge ALEXA travelled to Glasgow for a special screening of some of the winning short films, and we held another open meeting, this time for BAME directors, and our findings can be seen here (MEMBERS-ONLY REPORT).
October saw Directors UK take home the Partnership Award at the UK Television Diversity Awards for our Continuing Drama New Directors’ Training Scheme, held in conjunction with BBC Writersroom. We were very proud that this collaboration was recognised for making a real difference to the careers and lives of directors (ARTICLE). In a similar vein, there were a number of other opportunities launching in October, including 4Stories 2020, and Challenge ALEXA 2020 – look out for the resulting films from that very early in the new year.
We also detailed how members can make opportunities for themselves, by taking advantage of the many free databases that are available around the internet, including our very own Find a Director (ARTICLE). And if opportunities aren’t enough we also had cold, hard cash on offer in the form of a £2 million foreign distribution.
We took a look at the findings of the recent Occupational Distress in Factual TV report, laying out the contributions we made to the research and highlighting the practical support we offer to members working in this challenging environment (ARTICLE). Meanwhile, we were pleased to see the BBC take action on invasive insurance forms, following our call for reform earlier in the year (ARTICLE).
We hosted a very special screening of Marriage Story, followed by a Q&A with the film’s director Noah Baumbach, who, incredibly, appeared in conversation with his friend and collaborator Wes Anderson! (LIVE-TWEETS) We also spoke to director Laura Jean Healey about how she created a large-scale, multi-channel film installation called The (Un)Holy Trinity for International Women’s Day (ARTICLE).
And we were very sad to hear of the death of director James Cellan Jones. His friend and fellow director Alvin Rakoff wrote for us about James’s distinguished career (ARTICLE).
It’s the big one. Yes, November played host to the Directors UK event of the year: DIRECTOR’S CUT. Members came together from all across the country to descend on Fitzrovia’s Congress Centre, and it was a day so good it drop-kicked England’s Rugby World Cup Final defeat right into touch. Things kicked off in regal fashion as Benjamin Caron told us about his approach to directing actors on The Crown (LIVE-TWEETS). And the other sessions came thick and fast: master cinematographer Adam Suschitzky delivered a wide-ranging talk on lenses, formats and lighting (LIVE-TWEETS), we pondered the Rise of the Docudrama (LIVE-TWEETS), our guidelines on directing sex, nudity and intimacy got their first outing (ARTICLE), a fantastic panel roleplayed a pay dispute (special shout out to Benjamin Caron for his starring role as the evil producer) (ARTICLE), we dug deep into deepfakes (ARTICLE), talked about getting yourself out there in The Brand Identity (LIVE-TWEETS), and finished the day with a fascinating talk from The Aeronauts director Tom Harper (LIVE-TWEETS). A huge thank you to all the staff, members and panellists (ARTICLE) who helped make the day “a cut above”.
So how on earth do you follow up on a day like that? Well, fortunately, our events team were busy putting together a knockout screening programme. We were treated to a great screening of Joker followed by a Q&A with Todd Phillips (LIVE-TWEETS), and — we’re still pinching ourselves — a screening of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, followed by a Q&A with Quentin Tarantino himself, who was chatting to some guy called Danny Boyle (LIVE-TWEETS).
In other news, Matt Harlock’s Deep Clean Diary returned (ARTICLE). And November was a time for reflection, as we remembered our members Diarmuid Lawrence (ARTICLE), Paul Turner (ARTICLE), Julia Cave (ARTICLE) and Peter Adam (ARTICLE), who all sadly passed away this year.
And if all the above wasn’t enough, November also saw the launch of our guidelines for directing intimacy, nudity and simulated sex (ARTICLE). The guidelines were big news, becoming the BBC’s fourth most-read story of the day — even during a busy election season (no comment). Directors UK Vice-Chair Susanna White appeared twice on BBC radio to discuss the new guidance (Newshour from 18:30, and Up All Night from 24:09), and The Guardian spoke to Susanna and Vice-Chair Bill Anderson as part of their report, which appeared both online and in print (ARTICLE). Add to that print coverage in The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sun and Metro, plus online coverage from The Independent, Radio Times, Sky News, The Stylist and more, and it’s fair to say that these guidelines made quite the splash. We also got a ton of great support from industry organisations and our members on social media — and you can still support our guidelines by sharing them using the hashtag #DUKintimacy, and of course by using them in your work.
And so this enthralling, 100mph blockbuster of a year reaches its conclusion. We kicked December off in fine style, announcing the winners of Challenge ALEXA 2020 (ARTICLE) and updating our members on the work of the Distribution Committee (ARTICLE).
But of course there was one thing that truly dominated December, the topic on everyone’s lips, the subject of intense anticipation and social media frenzy: the Directors UK screening season. This month felt like an advent calendar with a fantastic Q&A behind every window. We were treated to a Blinded by the Light Q&A with Gurinder Chadha (LIVE-TWEETS), talked all things The Lighthouse with Robert Eggers (LIVE-TWEETS), discussed Honey Boy with Alma Har’el (LIVE-TWEETS), spoke to the Safdie Brothers about Uncut Gems (LIVE-TWEETS), talked Dark Waters with the one and only Todd Haynes (LIVE-TWEETS), had a great time with Fernando Meirelles and The Two Popes, and — finally — saw the year off in perfect fashion, with a Little Women screening and Greta Gerwig Q&A, hosted by Mike Leigh (LIVE-TWEETS). Keep an eye (or rather ear) out for podcast recordings of these events in 2020.
And, like all great blockbusters, this year had one final post-credits reveal as we announced the appointment of Andy Harrower as the new Directors UK CEO (ARTICLE). Andy will be joining us from PRS in 2020, taking over from Andrew Chowns when he retires, and we look forward to him being a staple of many reviews of the year to come. Apologies to Andy in advance for all the terrible, terrible jokes.
And that’s a wrap on 2019!
But there’s already lots to look forward to in the new year. Directors UK Inspire is still open for applications, with the first deadline coming up on 10 January. Members can also get involved by putting themselves forward for our brand new Access and Inclusion Committee. In early January we’ll be announcing details of a special screening and drinks reception for the latest batch of Challenge TRINITY films. And we’ll be supporting the new Best Film Direction award at Film the House, Parliament’s annual cross-party film competition — so if you know a budding filmmaker, tell them to get their entry in by 2 January 2020.
Keep an eye out for news on all of the above, and so much more, in the impossibly futuristic-sounding 2020.