Major study to investigate UK feature documentary film industry

Issue date: 28 June 2017

Pictured is Dr Steve Presence left and Professor Andrew Spicer

A major AHRC-funded research project on the UK's booming feature documentary film industry will begin at UWE in December.

The research will be led by Dr Steve Presence and Professor Andrew Spicer in the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), and will be carried out in collaboration with the British Film Institute, Creative England and The Grierson Trust, as well as several industry partners.

The project will map the operation and interaction of key players across the industry, historicise their development and explore the manifold challenges involved in the finance, production, distribution and exhibition of feature documentary films in the UK.

Principal Investigator, Dr Steve Presence, said, “The UK's feature documentary film industry is now an established part of the broader film and television industries. Feature docs have experienced a major upsurge in popularity in recent years and as a result have become a potentially significant box-office attraction.

“Yet several key challenges remain, including issues of low pay for documentary filmmakers and crews, poor industry diversity and changing modes of finance, production, distribution and exhibition brought about by digital technologies.

“This is the first project to analyse the documentary industry as a totality, from finance and production through to theatrical, broadcast and online exhibition. The research will map each of these subsectors, explore their interrelationships and study their historical development.

“In doing so, the project will result in an industry that is better understood and better able to address its weaknesses and play to its strengths. This is essential if we are to capitalise on the success of recent films such as Citizen Four (2014) and The Look of Silence (2015), and maximise feature docs' potential to contribute to an informed and critical public.”

The project begins in December 2017 and will report in three years' time. The work is funded with a £250,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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