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The DFC: Developing nonfiction policy frameworks after COVID

Presence, Steve



Dafydd Sills-Jones

Pietari Kaapa


This chapter is based on research conducted under the aegis of the UK Feature Docs research project (2018-20,, a three-year study of the UK’s feature-length documentary film industry funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. As part of the policy-focused strand of the project, in June 2019 the research team launched what became the largest survey ever conducted of UK feature doc producers and directors, in an effort to address the significant lack of data on this part of the film and television industries. The findings – published in the report, Keeping it Real: Towards A Nonfiction Film Policy for the UK (2020) – revealed a sector that was in dire straits even before the COVID-19 pandemic: chronically under-funded, under-valued and often poorly understood by policymakers, and with significant problems with regards to equality and diversity and sector co-ordination.

The report ended with a set of fifteen preliminary policy recommendations based on the findings. While the data was collected prior to the pandemic and the report was published in the midst of it, the research team has subsequently carried out a major consultation with the sector on those preliminary findings. The consultation included various written submissions from stakeholders; a panel session at Sheffield Doc/Fest; twelve sub-sector specific focus groups ranging from sales and distribution to exhibition and archives; private conversations with filmmakers, creative sector tax relief specialists and policymakers including the BBC, BFI, Doc Society and Ofcom; and a video conference of European and US broadcasters.

This chapter is based on the findings of this consultation process. It explores what a coherent post-COVID policy framework for docs should look like, the reasons why that framework needed now more than ever, and the challenges involved in making it a reality.


Presence, S. (in press). The DFC: Developing nonfiction policy frameworks after COVID. In D. Sills-Jones, & P. Kaapa (Eds.), Documentary film cultures in the age of COVID-19 (177-199). (1). Oxford: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers

Acceptance Date Aug 2, 2022
Deposit Date Nov 23, 2022
Publisher Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
Pages 177-199
Series Title Documentary Film Cultures
Series ISSN 2504-4834
Edition 1
Book Title Documentary film cultures in the age of COVID-19
Chapter Number 8
Keywords Film; Documentary; Policy, COVID 19, COVID 19 Pandemic
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