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The ACTT Workshop Declaration provides financial security and new audiences for independent film and video workshops

The economic recession of the late 70's/early 80's threatened the productive existence of many independent and experimental film and video makers. Independent filmmakers and collectives were either unwaged or dependent on contract work - which made them ineligible for union representation.

The Independent Filmmakers' Association, founded in 1974 and composed of artists, film-makers and students, had been in discussion with the British Film Institute and ACTT (the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians, the main broadcast union, which at the time had a lot of bargaining power in the industry) for several years to try to make exceptions to union rules and provide financial security for the independent sector. The imminent arrival of Channel 4 television, with its remit to provide innovative broadcasting, gave the parties what they needed to seal an agreement to the benefit of the independent film and video sector. The channel, which otherwise commissioned programmes on a per-programme basis, agreed to provide continuing funding for selected workshops.

The resulting Workshop Declaration aimed to instigate a model of "integrative practice" - that is, workshops were required to include distribution, educational activities and the provision of film and video equipment, alongside producing work. It also provided full-time regular work for people working in each workshop.

Another of its requirements was that the franchised workshops should be drawn from outside the mainstream of film and television culture - with a particular focus on ethnic diversity and a commitment to local issues. As a result, the funding stream and support initiated by the Declaration helped many groups working on directly politically and socially engaged film-making to consolidate their activities and provide opportunities for others: Among the workshops that benefited from the Declaration were Black Audio Film Collective, the Newcastle-based Amber Films, Retake (an Asian film and video workshop) and Sankofa.

Tom Roberts

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Article in Broadcast magazine, August 1982

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