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FOCAL Reports Another Good Year at AGM

19 June 2013

FOCAL International AGM, 23rd May 2013

The Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London was the venue for FOCAL International's recent AGM. Chair Sue Malden provided a positive annual report highlighting the organisation's main activities: the FOCAL International Awards which had just celebrated its tenth year; the FOCAL website which was now well bedded in; the journal Archive Zones which continues to lead the way as a mouthpiece for the industry; training initiatives including organising several conferences and attending trade and networking events. There was also praise for the Lobbying group which had put forward significant amendments which are now contained in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERR) Bill thereby protecting the audiovisual archive business from the serious harm that was threatening.  

FOCAL International membership fees have remained static for ten years, meanwhile the benefits of FOCAL membership have grown considerably. The Chair of the Finance Committee highlighted the recent decision concerning membership fees indicating that it was untenable to continue to absorb the rising costs (due to inflation and expansion of activities) of the last 10 years. The Finance Committee had proposed an initial increase to Company membership fees of £50 effective from June 2013 and this was approved by the executive in their May meeting. The situation would be reviewed after one year. Membership fees for Individual members would remain unchanged.

Thanks were given to Belinda Harris and Martin Rogers who had decided not to stand for re-election to the Executive and to Paul Sargent who had retired but would be replaced by Jane Fish representing the Imperial War Museum on the Executive. There had been no need for an election as there were places on the Executive for everyone who had put their names forward. The result was that Patrick Smith – Library Media Solutions; Linda Reeve – BBC Motion Gallery and Veronique Foucault – AP Archive were returned to the Executive, and new members welcomed were Cath Pick representing the Individual Members such as Researchers and Consultants, and Alf Penn of TKone representing the companies offering technical and post production services to the footage industry. (For full list of Members of the Executive, follow link)

After the formalities a light lunch and drinks were served, courtesy Stephen May (left), Abbot Datastore Limited in the library of the Royal Astronomical Society.

L-R Robert Dungate (BDFL), David Yeo (TKone), Gordon Craig (Fremantlemedia Sales), Martin Rogers (Prime Focus)





Another activity packed year has passed for FOCAL International!

We have gone on from strength to strength as the website has bedded down. – This is a key vehicle for promoting all members’ and FOCAL International activities, as is our magazine Archive Zones. Technology and economics are having an impact here – enabling us to do far more on the website. We have been exploring ways in which the FOCAL Int website can feature as part of the first phase of the UK’s Copyright Licensing Hub (The Digital Copyright Exchange) – a key very positive outcome of the Hargreaves report for the Government on changes in UK Copyright legislation. Richard Hooper is the leading light behind the Hub, James Lancaster is chairing the Hub Steering group and I have a place on this amazing gathering of UK expertise to ensure that the voice of audiovisual archives is heard.

Our magazine remains valued by readers across the world. 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. In the past year we carried details of the copyright legislation developments as well as some stimulating interviews with archive managers – a feature that will continue.

Now that the website is established, we urge our members to maximise the use of it to their best advantage correcting your contact and listing details, uploading showreels, press releases etc.

Rights has continued to be a very live issue throughout 2012. FOCAL International was actively lobbying on behalf of our members during the Labour government’s Digital Britain legislation. The momentum has been maintained under the current coalition government. FOCAL International is part of a wider lobbying group of archives and news agencies that have been lobbying MPs and the Lords. The recently passed Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act (ERR) Bill contains significant amendments put forward by our Lobbying group that will protect the audiovisual archive business from the serious harm that was threatening. There is still a long way to go .The Lobbying Committee and in particular myself and our legal expert Hubert Best have been kept very busy gathering data and the group has had some very positive meetings with Vince Cable, the Minister of State for Business and Lord Younger of Lechie, responsible for UK IP on behalf of the FOCAL membership.

The Jane Mercer Memorial Fund is now well established, offering support to individuals intending to pursue a career in the footage research business. The fund, built up by contributions from the FOCAL International Executive and other fund raising activities now stands at £8500. FOCAL International’s Training Committee is now responsible for all aspects of the administration of this fund. We have been able to give support to seven individuals in the past year.

No one in FOCAL International believes that training is an essential requirement in the industry more than Paul Sargent (ex Chair of the Training Committee). Paul has retired from the Imperial War Museum and therefore is no longer chair of the Training Committee or Company Secretary on the FOCAL International Executive. I would like to formally thank Paul for his enduringly reliable contribution to FOCAL International.

Our work with Skillset has continued with a project - gathering information on experts in the archive footage area – Skillsbank. We hope this will be launched in the summer. We now will be in discussions with Skillset regarding future training requirements of our industry, possibly in the form of apprenticeships.

During the year, FOCAL International attended a wide range of footage events, such as Sheffield DOC/FEST, Foto Fringe, CEPIC, FIAT/IFTA Conference and Impact Media (formerly History Makers).

The FOCAL International Training Week was held in November, rather than the summer due to the Olympics and included a well attended Technical Conference. FOCAL International also held a full day seminar “the Business of Archives” which was a well attended precursor to the FIAT/IFTA Conference held in London. Networking events included the summer party and the Christmas party at St Martin’s in the Field in the Crypt was another well attended event. Thanks go to all those who sponsored some of these events.

This year we marked the 10th anniversary of the FOCAL International Awards which is a huge achievement. During this period the growth and support that the FOCAL International Awards has sustained has been remarkable and there is no doubt that this has greatly raised the profile of FOCAL International and that of the industry it represents. We must give particular thanks to Julie Lewis for running the competition and managing this event from the start; to Anne Johnson for securing all sponsorship deals and managing the budget throughout; to AP Archive who has been the major sponsor for most of the period and to all the other regular sponsors; to Jerry Kuehl and the other regular jurors for their enduring voluntary support and finally to Susan Huxley who has joined the team in recent years searching out suitable submissions. We look forward to building on this success for many years to come.
We really appreciate the commitment from the members and other specialist volunteers who participated on the juries. And of course, all the sponsors of this event, which would never have happened without them.

The membership of FOCAL International has decreased slightly over the year, with some members leaving for reasons of company change – mergers etc. We need to make every effort to increase membership and satisfy members’ requirements as well as the level of income from the membership fee.

As part of our international reach we really appreciate the activities of executive board member, Elizabeth Klink from Canada. She has organised footage panels at Impact Media, HotDocs etc. She has also been very active organising a group of fellow researchers to meet regularly in Canada. Elizabeth is a great blogger and tweeter on behalf of FOCAL Int related issues. Similarly, USA based David Seevers is supporting our international spread thru his membership of the Executive and assistance with marketing and proposals for raising the international profile of FOCAL International.

As ever Anne Johnson and Julie Lewis, now assisted by Amanda Dantas, who we are pleased is now a permanent member of staff, have been working at a pace. There are many others to thank - part time book keeper - Jim Mullen keeps on top of the day-to-day finances; the team at Archive Zones – Mike Archer (editor) and designer Rob Linton do sterling work; and Pam Fisher is a vital part of our web presence; Paul Andersen leading the Skillsbank project for us; and of course the Executive Committee who give their services voluntarily; 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, etc.

In fact, thanks to everyone who has contributed to yet another successful year for FOCAL International.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the work of the committees is welcome to contact the individual Chairs whose details can be found on the website. At this time we are looking for a Chair of the Training Committee.

Sue Malden, May 2013