Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

Keynote: From the ground up: a new infrastructure for the UK documentary film industry (Dr Steve Presence)

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Location Festival Hub, Date  Thu 08 Sep, 15:30

In 2020, researchers at UWE Bristol published Keeping It Real, a report based on the findings of the largest survey ever conducted of UK feature-doc producers and directors. The findings evidenced what many of those working in the field already knew: that the UK is no longer supporting a fully functioning documentary ecosystem, and that much of the independent documentary community is in a state of crisis. Keeping it Real was followed by an extensive consultation process that generated a range of ideas about how to address the fundamental problems in the sector and build a sustainable, inclusive and innovative UK documentary industry. This keynote draws on this work. It will explore some of the reasons we got into this mess in the first place and propose some concrete ideas for ways out of it. These ideas were co-created by the documentary sector and provide a roadmap to a more transparent, equitable, better funded and democratically organised UK documentary sector in the future.


Dr Steve Presence is an Associate Professor in Film Studies at UWE Bristol. Most of his work focuses on the film and television industries or on activist film culture and he has led several large research projects in these fields. Recent publications include Go West 2! Bristol’s Film and Television Industries (2022); the Making it Real (2021) and Keeping it Real (2020) reports on UK documentary; and the edited collection, Contemporary Radical Film Culture: Networks, Organisations and Activists (2020). Steve sits on the AHRC Peer Review College and is the founder of the Radical Film Network, the largest network for alternative film culture in the world.

Respondent: Dr Clive Nwonka (UCL)

Dr Clive Nwonka is Associate Professor in Lecturer in Film, Culture and Society at UCL. Nwonka is the co-editor of the book Black Film/British Cinema II and is the author of the forthcoming book Black Boys: The Aesthetics of British Urban Film (Bloomsbury Academic). Nwonka is the Principal Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project The Colour of Diversity: A Longitudinal Analysis of the BFI Diversity Standards Data and Racial Inequality in the UK Film Industry (2021-2024), a major study of race and racism in the UK film sector and the efficacy of cultural diversity policy.