TV directors lament lack of respect

22 October, 2013 by Don Groves

Australian TV drama is being widely hailed for its excellence but many directors are being treated badly by networks and production companies, according to Australian Directors Guild executive director Kingston Anderson.

The perceived lack of respect for TV directors is one of the key issues to be addressed at the ADG’s conference Directing in the Digital Age next month. Among other topics to be canvassed are the demise of the one-off documentary, the ADG’s fight to ensure directors get a share of the copyright, and the need to train new directors in how to work with actors.


Anderson will moderate a plenary session with the provocative title Do We Really Need Directors? with producer Brian Rosen, director Michael Thornhill and transmedia director Michaela Ledwidge of Mod Productions.

“In the past two years we’ve seen a lack of respect for directors, particularly TV drama directors,” Anderson tells IF. “Many TV directors are badly treated and that’s reflected in their pay and conditions.

“They have less time and money to make projects. The money is there: the number of producers (per project) seems to go up exponentially.”

Anderson says there has been less recognition and support for directors from Screen Australia, with a few exceptions such as the ADG/Screen Australia Director’s Attachment Scheme.

Another session, The Morality of Rights- How well do you know your rights, will feature Screenrights CEO Simon Lake, lawyer Greg Duffy and writer-director Murray Fahey.

“We are fighting for directors’ copyright and are in discussions with SPAA,” says Anderson, who indicated this is an issue primarily for TV drama directors who tend to be guns-for-hire. He estimates only 50% of TV directors get a share of copyright.

Bob Connolly will moderate a session entitled Tell Us the Truth: The Demise of the One-Off Documentary, with panelists Tom Zubrycki, Jennifer Crone, Trevor Graham and Genevieve Bailey.

Anderson says that panel will explain why it’s increasingly difficult to get funding for single docus from the ABC and SBS, resulting in a loss of diversity of voices, and hopefully come up with some solutions.

Among other topics on the agenda are directing in Asia, the rise of the transmedia director, the art of film financing and the director/cinematographer relationship.

In the sidebar Meet the Producers attendees will have the chance for 15-minute meetings with network commissioning editors, producers and executive producers including reps from SBS, Goalpost Pictures, Hopscotch and Playmaker Media.

Fred Schepisi will deliver the opening keynote speech on November 7 and Alex Proyas will discuss sci-fi films and working on the world stage in the closing keynote on November 8. The venue is the Sebel Pier One at Walsh Bay.