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FOCAL AGM and Annual Report, Plus New Members to the Executive

1 May 2004

FOCAL International Ltd Annual Report 2003-2004

Last year's Annual Report ran to the best part of 2000 words. This year I intend to make a much shorter report. Not because less has happened in the year under review but largely because, having weathered the storms of the post 9/11 financial downturn and completed several major changes in FOCAL's activities over the early years of this twenty-first century, we are now, if not on the sunlit uplands, at least in a period of relative calm and consolidation as an organisation.

Last year I had to report a trading loss of some £10,000. At the time I said that it was not the end of the world but that it could be if such a loss were to be repeated. I am pleased to be able to tell you that this has not happened. The organisation has done better than simply achieving a break-even situation and has made a small profit. This is exactly the situation in which a 'not for profit' body like FOCAL should aim to arrive at by the end of its financial year although, to be honest, a slightly better than 'small' profit would make both the administration and the Executive Committee a lot more comfortable.

I would like to be able to say that the reasons for this are that it has become easier for the administration to find sponsorship for our activities and that the financial situation generally has become easier. I think that, despite the start of an up-turn in the world economy, this is not the case. The fact that we are again in the black is due to three main factors; firstly, the magnificent efforts of our Commercial Manager, Anne Johnson, to raise sponsorship for our increasingly adventurous range of activities and to solicit advertising for the magazine, the web site and the Members Directory; secondly, the fact that the running of the FOCAL web site has been brought successfully in-house, after hours of extra labour by Julie Lewis, our General Manager, working in concert with the designers of the site, Clipstream; and thirdly that both Anne and Julie have been incredibly assiduous in selling FOCAL and its services at trade events around the world.

We now have BSkyB, CNN, British Telecom Electronic Media, Iron Mountain, ZDF (Germany) and World Backgrounds amongst others, as new members and invitations have been accepted for FOCAL to organise events and seminars at Sunnyside of the Doc in Marseilles in June, the World Congress of History Producers in Toronto in October and DocsBarcelona in November. The FOCAL Awards, to be held soon at the London Television Centre are yet further proof that FOCALÕs international profile is increasingly recognised and in addition to the number of submissions for each category and the interest the awards have generated, the streaming of the nominated productions by i2i Technology (also a new member company) have brought FOCAL to the forefront of users of new technology. Over the past year FOCAL has forged closer links with a number of affiliated organisations worldwide, such as BAPLA, Clear, IDA, IAMHIST, EDN, INNA etc., so together with PACT and PMA opens up a far wider contact list.

My thanks, and those of the organisation are due especially to Anne, Julie and Jim Mullen, our bookkeeper for their devoted service to FOCAL over the past year. I would also like to thank the members of the Executive Committee who give a great deal of their time and energy to structuring and supporting the policies, activities and general running of FOCAL. We gained a new Treasurer this year, John Richards, of TWI, and he has done sterling work in making our accounts clearer and more user-friendly. A great debt of thanks is also due to John Flewin who until last August managed the FOCAL web site. The decision to bring it in house was a purely financial one and we will always be grateful to John for setting us on the right road with his unique blend of professionalism and industry knowledge. Other debts of gratitude are due to Mike Archer, the editor of Archive Zones which simply gets better all the time and Barbara Linton who not only designs the magazine but also the Members Directory of which the second edition is now due. The first printing has been a tremendous success with copies disappearing like hot cakes at all the events to which the FOCAL team take the directories.

While we will continue to organise and enjoy such social events as the summer party on HMS Belfast, the ever-popular Quiz Evenings here in London, the Christmas Party and to run the annual Summer School in conjunction with FIAT, plans are afoot to extend our range somewhat. It has long been a cherished dream of the Executive that FOCAL should have its own Footage Fair - we are putting a toe in the water this summer with just such an event - on a relatively small scale - during the first week in July. Please support this event - if it is a success it will be yet another way for FOCAL to support and encourage its members.

Finally I would like to look forward a little, secure in the knowledge that, while life is not going to be easy for FOCAL along with all the other similar organisations that depend a good deal on sponsorship and member support, we have reached some kind of calmer waters where we can begin to consolidate the gains made over the past few years. The Awards are just a beginning of a new, higher profile for the organisation and the coming months will see continuing work by the Lobbying Group on a questionnaire which should result in our being able to have a better and fuller overview of the footage business in the UK as well as the development of a policy on education and training.

The Association of Accounting Technicians has a great motto - "Together We Count" - I think it is just as apt for FOCAL. The organisation can only be as strong and effective as it members enable it to be. FOCAL will be twenty years old next year. It has achieved a great deal in the past two decades and with your help it can achieve even greater things in the coming years.