2003 has proved once for all that the UK post-production industry needs a trade body, says Will Strauss.
If 2003 has proved one thing - other than the fact that Sven Goran Eriksson is definitely the man to manage the England football team - it's that the UK's post-production community is in the most vulnerable position in its history.It is reliant on the regular supply of work from clients who work in irregular patterns and there are too many companies fighting for the work.It lacks protection and it needs a voice. This must come in the form of an all-encompassing trade body who will fight its corner.One incident from this year illustrates just how susceptible broadcast post-production companies are to the possibility that there might be too little pie to go round. And it all came down to one man: Andrew McKerlie, a BBC relationship manager for the factual and learning department. His job involved picking which of the independent post sector got out-sourced BBC work. When he left to join The Farm Group in the summer as general manager of the company's new west London facility, Uncle, all hell broke loose.Within hours of the announcement upwards of 25 Post facility bosses mobilized themselves to debate why this was such a problem. They blamed everyone from The Farm and the BBC to McKerlie himself. Apparently it wasn't fair because he was giving all his work to The Farm. It wasn't fair because he knew all the innermost secrets of his new competitors. It wasn't fair because the BBC shouldn't have allowed him to work any notice period and that any contracts that went to The Farm in the previous months should be investigated.There was much wailing but not one individual was in a position to do anything official about it. From the evidence I've seen nobody did much wrong. But that's not really the point. Nothing could be done. But things can be put in place to prevent it happening in the future.To make safe any agreements that do exist with major clients like the BBC and encourage new ones that maintain fair play, the UK's post-production sector should put aside any petty rivalries and back the UK Film Council's proposed trade association. Combined efforts could inspire large-scale change that will safeguard the future of the market in a way that the individual voices of a few cannot. Simply, the whole of post-production will always be far greater than the sum of its parts.