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The University of Southampton

‘Becoming bandit’: Doc Society’s origin story & the emergence of the UK’s feature documentary film industry Seminar

Centre for International Film Research
16:00 - 18:00
14 May 2019
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Huw Jones at .

Event details

Part of the Centre for International Film Research 2018/19 seminar programme. All welcome.


This paper is based on ‘UK Feature Docs’ (2018-20,, a three-year study of the UK’s feature documentary film industry funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Media industry studies is now an established field but the study of the industrial infrastructures, cultures and histories that underpin documentary production remain largely overlooked by both media industry studies and documentary studies. While there are some notable exceptions to this trend – especially the work of the Centre for Media & Social Impact (Chattoo and Harder 2018) – existing studies are generally limited to single articles (Haase 2016; Tzioumakis 2017; Vallejo 2014) or chapters (O’Sullivan 2017) and scattered across a range of territories, historical periods and industry sub-sectors. As a result, a coherent body of nonfiction industry scholarship has yet to emerge.

The UK Feature Docs project aims to address this gap by providing a comprehensive analysis of the history and contemporary structure of the UK’s feature documentary industry that spans finance, production, distribution and exhibition. This paper will begin with an overview of the project and its methodology, which is based on a series of case-studies of key organisations across the film value chain: Doc Society (finance), a series of production companies, Dogwoof (distribution), Doc/Fest and BBC Storyville (exhibition). The remainder of the paper will explore Doc Society and the ways in which its history illustrates the transformation of documentary’s place within the UK film and television over the past two decades. 

Speaker information

Dr Steve Presence. is a Senior Research Fellow in Film and Television in the Department of Arts and Cultural Industries at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). He has worked on several industry-facing research projects, including (with Professor Spicer) ‘Success in the Film and Television Industries (SiFTI)’ (2013-16), a study of small- to medium-sized film and television production companies in four European countries; and ‘Bristol Film and Television Industries’ (2016-17), which analysed the major cluster of film and television producers in the Bristol region. Steve is also Principal Investigator on two further research projects: ‘Sustaining Alternative Film Cultures’ (2015-18), which is also funded by the AHRC, focuses on global activist film culture in association with the Radical Film Network, an international network he convened in 2015; and ‘Understanding Watershed’ (2017-18), a study of Bristol’s flagship independent cinema funded by UWE Bristol.

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