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Focal AGM Reports on a Year of Many Highs, but One Very Significant Low

23 May 2006

For the first time in her new role as Chair of FOCAL International, Sue Malden, presented the footage trade organisation's annual report at the AGM held on 23 May 2006 at the London TV Centre.

(Left to right) Valerie Massignon, representing members in France, Veronique Foucault; AP Archive; Karena Smith, ITN Archive; Sue Malden, Chair FOCAL International

The results of the election to the FOCAL Executive were announced:

New faces to the FOCAL Executive

Representing Company Members:

Elizabeth Klinck

Adrian Wood

Other Company representatives re-elected to the FOCAL Executive were Paul Sargent, Imperial War Museum and Jeremy Kimberlin, C4. - the full Executive can be seen on

After the AGM, members enjoyed an informal reception followed by the screening of the newly restored Black Narcissus courtesy Granada International.

Researcher, Martin Leonard with Paul Sargent, IWM

Jenny Hammerton, Film Images with Robert Dungate BDFL

Researcher Angela Spindler-Brown with Gerry Weinbren, Index Stock Shos

Consultant, Barry Coward with Rob Lloyd of Clips & Footage and Researcher, Sheila Bailey

The past year has been one of many highs, but one very significant low for FOCAL International.

The low was the sad loss of Jane Mercer – the first Chair of FOCAL International, who died in September 2005. There have been many tributes to Jane and her enthusiastic contribution to FOCAL International, and the footage research business in general. FOCAL International has initiated a permanent tribute to Jane -The Jane Mercer Memorial Fund has been established to offer support to individuals intending to pursue a career in the footage research business. Jane was very committed to the professional reuse of archive footage and all the complexities that this involves. Income from the invested fund will be used, in time, to offer support in a variety of forms – a bursary for attendance at the FOCAL Footage Training Week, other training opportunities, publications, a memorial lecture etc.
I feel privileged to follow the fantastic performance that Jane had given as FOCAL International’s Chair.

Our Chair of Patrons, Lord (David) Puttnam, has been most supportive over the months since Jane’s death. His commitment to footage archives is well known, and his support for FOCAL International has been invaluable and we look forward to working closely with him in the future.

The highs - The FOCAL International Awards, started small but have now established themselves as a key in the FOCAL calendar. Last year we were honoured to have Lord Puttnam presenting the awards at BAFTA’s London headquarters. This year the ceremony, will be held at the Savoy Hotel, again attended by Lord Puttnam and the awards will be presented by Greg Dyke, former Director General of the BBC. With 200 entries from 19 countries, including first-time nominations from China, Finland and Israel, the total number of submissions showed an increase of 10 per cent over last year. There is no doubt that these awards have greatly raised the FOCAL International profile and that of the industry it represents. The jury short listing sessions earlier in the year were a great opportunity for FOCAL International members to sit down and really enjoy viewing programmes. We really appreciate the commitment from the members and other specialist volunteers who participated on the juries.

Another growing FOCAL International success is the website. A review of 2005 revealed that the highest number of unique visits ever had been achieved in October at 10,725. The average for the year was over 9,000 unique visits (more than double the rate for the previous year, and almost three times the rate in 2003). The average number of pages viewed was 4. There were a number of banners and buttons available to purchase up to the end of 2006.The web site is a key vehicle for promoting the Awards and all FOCAL International activities, truly emphasising the growing international reach of FOCAL.

Other aspects of the site which have grown and prospered are the use of the Footage Finder (130 libraries are now signed up to the service and they received 1135 requests for footage from researchers around the world – well up on the 684 in 2004). The Researcher Referral service, or Researcher Finder as it is now known, has shown a similar increase in use with 164 job vacancies posted in 2005.
We intend to review the style of Archive Zones in the coming year and continue with plans to for web publication. We want to ensure that Archive Zones plays a leading role in the major debates for both the commercial aspects of our archives, as well as the vital issues of the national archive debate, preservation and access to sources of archive material.

FOCAL International’s other major publication, the annual Members Directory, has again been improved, and continues to be a great marketing tool for both FOCAL International and all its members. It is widely distribution at national and international events at which we are represented (MIP, MIPCOM, Sunnyside of the Doc, World History Congress, etc.) and training courses.

The other major new projects - the Footage Fair, and the Footage Technical Fair. – proved popular and will continue this year.

FOCAL International will again be participating in the FOCAL International Footage Zone at Broadcast Live in June after its initial success in 2005.

FOCAL International’s attendance at the FIAT Conference in New York in September last year was a useful example of co-operation with a sister archive organisation – following confirmation of affiliate membership, as well as useful for raising the profile of FOCAL International – especially in the USA.

FOCAL International believes that training is an essential requirement in the industry – and to this end, led by Paul Sargent, we have been developing a major training initiative together with a number of key footage libraries, this is in addition to the FOCAL International Footage Training Week.

This is a great range of activities for our organisation; and the membership of FOCAL International continues to grow - at 16 Jan 2006 we had 331 members. This year our administrative team Anne Johnson & Julie Lewis have begun working on a fulltime basis and we hope this will continue so long as the volume of work demands it and the income to support it is being generated.

We have many people as well as Anne and Julie to thank for this – John Richards of TWI who as Treasurer supports us with tight budgetary procedures (John has kindly agreed to continue his work for FOCAL International); part time book keeper - Jim Mullen keeps on top of the day-to-day finances; the team at Archive Zones – Mike Archer(editor) and Barbara Linton(designer) continue to do sterling work. And of course the Executive Committee who volunteer their services and all our very positive, active members who support FOCAL International by generously giving their time, sponsoring events, writing articles, participating in committee work, sitting on the Award juries, who all help to make FOCAL International the successful organisation that we are all so proud of.
Sue Malden, May 2006