Written evidence submitted by Dr Steve Presence


Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors: evidence submitted to DCMS, June 19 2020

Dr Steve Presence, Principal Investigator, UK Feature Docs

This evidence is drawn from the ongoing AHRC-funded research project on the UK feature-length documentary film sector (https://ukfd.org.uk/). Clearly, COVID-19 is extremely damaging across the creative and cultural industries. However, many of our sector-specific suggestions below may be relevant for other sectors in creative industries – particularly those at the independent end of the spectrum. 

Though the project has not yet investigated the impact of COVID-19 on the feature docs sector, we have recently completed the first major survey of the sector (published in the report, here: https://ukfd.org.uk/policy-report/) which shows that the feature docs sector is often poorly understood and rarely recognised as a distinct part of the UK’s screen sector. As such, the research has shown that the feature docs sector has been significantly under-supported by both film and television policymakers alike, which makes it particularly vulnerable – along with the rest of the UK’s independent film sector – to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Many of the problems facing the feature docs sector that we have identified in our report will persist in a post-COVID-19 world – indeed, many will have been exacerbated by the virus. Since the call the evidence asked how DCMS sectors might evolve after COVID-19 and how the DCMS could support those sectors to deal with future challenges, I wanted to note some of the key ways through which we believe the feature docs sector could be supported – these are outlined below. We are currently consulting with stakeholders in the feature docs industry on the recommendations in our report and aim to publish policy proposals in Autumn 2020.

I also wanted to note another UWE Bristol project I am working on – Go West 2: Bristol’s Film and Television Industries. As part of this project, I am undertaking, with my colleague, Professor Andrew Spicer, a series of interviews with leading production companies in the region. The interviews include detailed discussions of the impact of COVID-19 and we look forward to writing up the findings of those and submitting them to you next call for evidence in July.

Recommendations to support the UK feature docs sector (N.B These are in abridged form and adapted from our the Keeping It Real report):