Christopher Hird

Founder and Managing Director

Christopher Hird is a leading figure in UK independent documentary making. He is a former chair of the Sheffield International Documentary Foundation, was the founding chair of the Channel Four BRITDOC Foundation and is a trustee of the Grierson Trust (www.griersontrust.org) and the Wincott Foundation (www.wincott.co.uk).

His career started in The City as a stockbroker but when he got bored by this, he became a journalist working on The Economist, the New Statesman (of which he was deputy editor) and the Sunday Times, where he was editor of the investigative section, Insight. A casualty of the Murdoch regime, he moved into television starting as a reporter on Channel Four’s current affairs programme before co-founding Fulcrum TV, of which he was joint managing director for more than 20 years before it closed in 2007.

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He started Dartmouth Films in 2008, of which he writes:
In 2006 I was lucky enough to be the executive producer of Marc and Nick Francis’s award winning film Black Gold, about the coffee trade, which proved to be a great boost for the Fair Trade campaign. (www.blackgoldmovie.com). This experience convinced me that there was an appetite for documentaries which tell people things they don’t know and which can stir them to action. The challenge was to find a way of funding them and to devise a different way of distributing them rather than just relying on a television broadcast.

Since Dartmouth started we have produced films which have been funded by private investors, grants from foundations, pre-sales to broadcasters, crowd funding via the web and commissions from television. And we have distributed our films via cinemas, semi-theatric screenings, on-line, on DVD and on television.

Without doubt our greatest success has been Rupert Murray’s film the End of the Line, based on Charles Clover’s book of the same name, which revealed that the world will run out of fish by the middle of this century unless we do something about it. The film has been shown all over the world and in the UK it has had a major impact on government policy and on the purchasing policies of supermarkets, pushing them to increase their sourcing of fish from sustainable stocks. Funded largely by foundations and distributed with the support of a broad alliance of supporters – ranging from supermarket group Waitrose to Greenpeace to Surfers Against Sewage - the film is a case study of how an independent documentary can be a success. And although it is not a model which can be mindlessly copied, many of the things we learnt from this can be applied and adapted to the other films in which Dartmouth is involved.

In the noisy media world in which we live, one or two showings of a film on television are rarely going to be enough to get noticed. So we believe each film needs a strategy of outreach and community engagement in which we work in partnership with those who share the film’s interests and who can use it in their work. There are plenty of people who moan about the dumbing down of television and popular culture but we believe that the people are not dumbed down – all that film producers have to do is use their ingenuity to fund films which appeal to them and use the digital revolution to reach them.