Published on: 11 May 2021 in Directors UK
What’s it really like being on the Directors UK Board?
Reading time: 12 minutes and 4 seconds
Nominations are now open for members to put themselves forward for the Directors UK Board.
But what’s it really like being on the Board, and what skills do you need? Why should you think about joining, and what do you get out of it?
Below, we spoke to six board members representing different genres and perspectives: Steve Smith, Susanna White, Bill Anderson, Nic Guttridge, Jan Genesis and Dan Zeff. Together, they gave us their answers to all of the above and more.
What made you want to stand for the Directors UK Board?
Nic Guttridge: I first got involved as a relatively young director who had some concerns about what I was observing in the industry, and I didn’t know what to do about that. Directors UK heard me and made me feel like my voice mattered. The more I got involved, the more I realised that my voice could actually make a difference.
Steve Smith: I’d never considered standing for the board of Directors UK, in fact I’d never really considered being on the board of any company. But I remember having an impassioned conversation with our then CEO Andrew Chowns and the former Chair Charles Sturridge about representation for multi-camera directing, and they encouraged me to stand. Before I joined the Board, as a director I never really worked with any other directors. But I jumped in at the deep end and I found it very exciting and very creative, very quickly.
“The more I got involved, the more I realised that my voice could actually make a difference.”
Dan Zeff: Directing is a very collaborative role – but it can also be a quite an isolating one at times. What I found as I got more involved with Directors UK was a real sense of connection with other directors – and that connection really drew me in.
Bill Anderson: I was ready to roll up my sleeves.
Jan Genesis: I joined the Board because I felt it could use a different perspective. I also felt that I could learn a lot about how corporations run and build a better understanding of the work that happens in the background that nobody sees.
Susanna White: I wasn’t sure about standing initially. I thought board meetings would be the opposite of me. I thought they’d be bureaucratic, with a focus on things that didn’t interest me. But then I saw how much I could contribute by campaigning on things that really concerned me, like diversity, fair pay for directors, protecting people and raising professionalism.
“Our industry promotes a survival of the fittest mentality – but joining the Board shows you the power of solidarity.”
Why should Directors UK members stand for election?
Nic Guttridge: If you care about your craft and your art, if you care about your future in the industry, if you care about being fairly remunerated, if you care about working under decent conditions, Directors UK is the place that is going to fight for you - and it’s great to be a part of that.
Steve Smith: Standing for the Board can be a way of raising your profile within the industry. One of the things about being on the board of Directors UK is that you do get invited to get involved with broadcasters and other stakeholders, and to have an opportunity to engage with regulators like Ofcom, and sometimes even politicians. So, there is an opportunity for you to expand your network.
Bill Anderson: We need the best directors to direct our organisation.
Jan Genesis: To gain a better understanding as to what Directors UK is and the processes involved in making decisions. It’s also an excellent way to build a broader understanding of the challenges that other directors are facing.
Susanna White: Our industry promotes a survival of the fittest mentality – but joining the Board shows you the power of solidarity. You can be like a single tiger trying to defend your own territory of 60 square miles. But if you get 7,000 tigers in that patch of jungle, and you’re all in there together, protecting it, you’re not only going to preserve your environment, you’re going to expand it. It’s not jungle politics, it’s about people looking out for each other.
What challenges do you think the Board will still have to tackle?
Dan Zeff: There’s a lot of areas that we need to work in with SVODs, Netflix, and various organisations. And it’s really important that board members tune into that, and we push for our creative rights.
Nic Guttridge: There has never been a more important time to get involved, because we cannot let people off the hook in the areas where we’ve been making progress, whether that comes down to rights deals or working practices.
“The status of the director both creatively, professionally and financially has never been under greater threat.”
Steve Smith: Directors UK has an opportunity to work with others and steer government policy over working conditions for freelancers. We are in a position where our voice is heard, and it’s important that the new Board take a role in shaping the future of the freelance industry.
Jan Genesis: We are in an ever evolving society, so the work never stops. I think the key areas include new rights deals and the ever increasing demand for streaming and video on demand, and also how we can be better within the organisation regarding diversity and inclusion. All of these things I think are where the Board will play a key role in shaping how we move forward.
Bill Anderson: The status of the director both creatively, professionally and financially has never been under greater threat. We need to help people understand what we do to be able to negotiate its value.
Susanna White: I’ve been involved with Directors UK since the day it was founded, and we’ve achieved a huge amount over the years. But really, I see all that as just the beginning. We’ve raised the profile of directors. We’ve taken some measures to try and overcome systemic bias in the industry. But there’s still so far to go. I really look forward to seeing what the next generation do with Directors UK.
What skills do you need to serve on the Board?
Susanna White: What the Board needs is people who are engaged, who are enthusiastic. You don’t even have to be the most confident person, you just have to have ideas and want to share them, and a sense of something you want to contribute to the industry. And that’s what’s so fantastic about being on the board of Directors UK, we really can make things change.
Bill Anderson: You need to be a committed listener and a fighter.
Jan Genesis: The Board needs people who are engaged, who are forward thinking. We need positive people with a can-do attitude, and solution-driven people who embrace change. We also need people from all walks of life. So we’re talking race, age, gender, sexuality, and from all across the UK, working in all genres.
Dan Zeff: A combination of passion with the realism and the ability to collaborate is really key to anyone who wants to be on the Board.
“One of the great things about being on the Board is that Directors UK will ensure that you get the training you need.”
Nic Guttridge: To stand on the Board you need to care, it needs to matter to you. You need to have that passion for the industry and for the craft of directing, in order to really want to fight for it. If you’re someone who is working the way up the ladder, it’s really important you stand for the Board, because you actually represent the experiences of the majority of our members. And those voices need to be heard in order to make a difference. So stand. It’s worth your while.
Steve Smith: What’s really important is the Board needs a whole variety of skill sets – but don’t worry if you think you don’t have the necessary governance skills or finance skills. One of the great things about being on the Board is that Directors UK will ensure that you get the training you need to support you in those areas. If there’s any doubts, then talk to somebody who’s currently on the Board. Ask us questions about what it involves, and we can reassure you that it’s an incredibly supportive place to be. And of course remember that you get support from the Directors UK management team as well. I wouldn’t hesitate.
What have you taken from your time on the Board?
Nic Guttridge: Being on the Board takes you out of the bubble of being a director working on your own in the industry and puts you in an arena where you are sitting around the table with people across all genres, with all different levels of experience and backgrounds. You get a really good insight into what the television industry feels like, and what it means to everybody.
Jan Genesis: Being on the Board definitely had a positive effect on my organisational skills and communication skills. And particularly in a formal environment. Whether it’s chairing or moderating a meeting, or even just being involved in interacting in a meeting, keeping things on time and setting an agenda, it’s helped me develop a deeper understanding of how organisations operate.
“What’s been really fascinating is learning some of the corporate skills that go with being on a Board: understanding governance skills, understanding legal matters, and understanding finance.”
Bill Anderson: Being on the Board has given me a sharper focus on three things. Firstly, on outcomes in any situation – what is it you want to achieve, and how to achieve it. Secondly: listening, and listening is the basis of all negotiation, personal, professional and financial. Finally, learning how to manage spreadsheets and budgets, which is completely vital, and which I was useless at before I joined the Board.
Steve Smith: What’s been really fascinating is learning some of the corporate skills that go with being on a board: understanding governance skills, understanding legal matters, and understanding finance.
Dan Zeff: I’ve gone into areas that aren’t necessarily part of my directing work at all. I’ve learned a lot, whether it’s about brands, strategy or campaigns - or the minutiae of the distribution, rules and regulations, copyright…and that’s what makes it exciting: stretching yourself and learning new skills.
Susanna White: For me, one of the great joys of Directors UK has been the fellowship with my board members. It’s a space where you can really share problems and help each other out.
And finally, why do you think Directors UK matters?
Steve Smith: At a time when our industry is going through so much change, we need an organisation on our side that advocates for directors. But as a membership organisation, we can only be as good as the support we have from our members – so get involved!
“Directors UK matters because directors matter.”
Susanna White: Directors UK has really put the craft of directing on the map. I think, now, people realise there’s no single thing that a director looks like, the optics of how people perceive a director have really changed. But there’s more than that. Directors UK matters because it’s about protecting directors through the tough times as well as the good times. It’s the most brilliant career anyone could wish for. But by its very nature, it’s also a very harsh one.
Nic Guttridge: What Directors UK does really well is identify a problem and find the resources and the means to fix it.
Dan Zeff: Without Directors UK, we’re all flying solo. We’re all individuals, fighting the same battles —but separately. Coming together through Directors UK means we become a voice that can be heard and that can be respected. It’s a real home for directors.
Jan Genesis: Directors UK is the one organisation within the UK where the vast majority of screen directors are connected. It’s so important that there can be a collective voice in rooms where decisions are being made that affect us.
Bill Anderson: Directors UK matters because directors matter.