This is an exciting moment in the 84 year history of the Pioneers. We have a completely redesigned website and we have linked Facebook pages in each State. Communication between us all can now be much easier and faster.
In launching the redesigned website, I am using the opportunity to bring members up to date with some Society news which I hope will be of interest.
That news concerns this website and the Facebook pages, the retirement of our National Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Leonard and the welcome to Sandra Alexander who replaces him, information and results about the National Survey Questionnaire which was sent to members in February 2017, and some recommendations made by me to the National Executive Committee in May 2017 which were adopted.
The Website and Facebook pages
If you are reading this, or looking at one of Facebook pages, I hope you like the result. The idea of course is to improve communication for all members of the Society wherever they live. Information about all the Society’s events will be readily accessible and members will be able to suggest, plan, organise and confirm local area meetings of their own if they wish.
As well, articles of interest including profiles of members can be easily published along with photographs and other documents.
A big vote of thanks goes to former Victorian President and Society Webmaster Kevin Adams and his colleague Matthew Nock who have put all this together. Thanks also to Ross Entwhistle for running the Website up to now.
Kevin has written an article about how to make best use of the new Website and Facebook page(s) and I urge you to read it. Most importantly, please make use of these resources to keep yourself informed about Society activities generally and in your area and get in touch with former colleagues to arrange get togethers.
Farewell and welcome
Farewell to Bruce Leonard who has retired as our Secretary-Treasurer after 25 years of distinguished service to the Society. He is seen in this photograph receiving the 46th Pioneer of the Year Award in 2014 from Michael Selwyn. The membership of the Society doubled during Bruce’s time but its affairs were always kept in meticulous order and members far and wide given the utmost courtesy and assistance.
Bruce is remaining as Secretary-Treasurer of the NSW Branch of the Pioneers and of the Motion Picture Industry Benevolent Society (NSW).
Welcome to Sandra Alexander, our new Secretary-Treasurer. Sandra worked in the production side of our industry principally as a Line Producer and Production Manager. She consults for a number of State agencies and teaches at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.
She has a very fine reputation, is universally respected for her probity, and has been a committed advocate for our industry as a member of several guilds and associations over the years. She is a firm believer in the Society.
National Survey of Members February-March 2017-08-02
Many of you responded to the National Survey of Members which was sent out in February. Here is a summary of the report and some conclusions which can be drawn.
In general terms the objective of the questionnaire was to gather information about our members and their views in order to assist the National Executive Committee to make decisions about the future of the Society.
1,363 members received theirs by post and 360 of them or 26% responded. 1,285 members were emailed a link to the survey on-line and 556 of them or 43% responded. That is an overall response of 35%. which the survey company described as good.
- We now possess a clear profile of the membership. Here are some of the figures. We know for instance that 31% of our members are aged between 30 and 60 and 69% over 60. We know that 39% of all members are still working in the industry.We know that 34% attend the cinema using their card between 1-3 times a month and 51% always take a guest with them. When asked about what sort of events they would like, around 30% of respondents supported each of these options: film screenings, guest speakers at the screenings or lunches, and informal get-togethers. There is an even division between preference for daytime and evening/night events.The major responses to the question asking why members did not attend meetings were: the event was too far away and or cost was a factor; members were feeling their age or were disabled or in poor health. Only a small number said they weren’t interested.
Q7 asked the members ‘what’s important to you about being a Pioneer’ and asked them to rank the 4 reasons outlined from 1 to 4 with one being most important. ‘Recognition of my career in the film industry’ ranked ahead of having the ‘cinema admission card’- 51% to 26% – as the most important reason for becoming a Pioneer.So far as the website was concerned: 42% looked at it sometimes, 15% regularly and 43% not at all. For Facebook, 38% would look at it, 24% might look at it and 38% would not.
- Question 17 asked members to think about the future and suggest any activities or initiatives the Society should be taking. The 371 responses broadly grouped themselves as follows (and not listed in order of importance).
- Special screenings apart from, or combined with, lunch with speakers and Q&A sessions with critics, directors; trips to studios, productions, and visits to special historical sites such as old cinemas. More informal, flexible, inexpensive events.
- Specific industry sector functions. Regional centres used as meeting points.
- Support the MPIBS.
- Record oral histories – build an NFSA connection; identify historic cinema and production sites; put equipment into a museum
- Recruit more members, perhaps reduce the 20 year qualification.
- Utilise the web site better and initiate Facebook.
- Raise the profile of the Society, have a Hall of Fame, give an award at AACTA, lobby government on key issues.
- Have fund raising events, gold coin donations and consider an annual levy.
- Have more commitment to States, more communication from the National body.
- Link up with Movie Convention- travel concessions and bus trips.
- There was also a lot of satisfaction about the Pioneers expressed.
- Some conclusions flowing from the Survey.
- There is a wealth of information and opinion available to the NEC and State executives. This has been made available via PDF and an excel spreadsheet to State presidents and their committees so they can see exactly what their members think and want.
- Our website should be upgraded and a Facebook account opened containing appropriate access for members in states. If you are reading this then you know that this has already been done.
- There is a strong desire to record the historic achievements of Pioneers and significant sites. Suggestions for oral history recordings, establishing links to the NFSA and seeing if contributions can be made to museums all confirm this.
- Special screenings, lunches, Q&As, visits to interesting places should be programmed along with more informal and (in some cases) less expensive get togethers. Also at regional centres. It was often appreciatively acknowledged that some States are doing this already.
- Fund raising needs to be considered with suggestions for gold coin donations at special screenings and an annual subscription or levy being suggested. Touchingly, a few members sent in postage stamps and cheques to help finance the survey, obviously heeding the postal charges issue.
- A more active campaign to recruit new members and a higher profile for the Society itself needs to be considered.
- Consideration should be given to supporting the MPIBS more actively.It doesn’t end with these 7 broad conclusions. And the Survey is full of other ideas. Perhaps member forums are needed at the State level to follow through on the Survey.
I urge members to contact their State Committees and suggest ideas for functions, meetings, talks or whatever takes their interest.
President’s Report to the National Executive Committee May 2017
I had always intended that the National Survey should be the basis of whatever I wrote in my President’s Report. After all, it was going to provide a clear idea of what you, the Members, thought about how the Society was going and what changes might be worthwhile for the future.
Here is an extract from my Report. It is fairly long but if you want to know what I think and am proposing for the Society then please take the time to read it.
A Snapshot of the Society
Overall, the Society is in a healthy financial position at both the national office level and at the state levels with over $90,000 in the bank at 30 April 2017. And there is a lot of member satisfaction about the activities and benefits offered to them by their state organisations.
But for every expression of satisfaction in the survey responses, there are multiple positive suggestions for additional initiatives and changes to the way the Society operates.
As the Survey results show, 68% of our members are aged over 60 and of those 42% are over 70. 54% of the membership comes from Distribution and Exhibition and 36% from Production (10% said other). It is likely that new membership applications from Distribution and Exhibition are slowing as employment patterns in that part of the industry change whereas applications from Production are probably increasing.
Consequently, there are implications we need to take into account as we plan for the future.
Are we at a fork in the road? Yes, we are.
By co-incidence, my term of Presidency is two years, a first for the Society. As I understand it, the change from one year to two reflects an NEC view that a combination of a one year Presidency and basically a one meeting a year NEC has meant that very little change or renewal has taken place: the Society is where it was 10, 5, 2 years ago.
I am not criticizing this. Rather, I am suggesting we examine the possibility of constructive change or evolution. Is the Society still relevant to its members and keeping up with their wishes and expectations or is it at risk of staying the same and withering away?
Is the Society as attractive to new younger members as it should be? In 2017 applications dropped by 20%.
The Survey Report, which you have received, suggests that the membership wants a more diverse range of activities. And more of them. Other suggestions involve the Society adopting a higher profile, interacting with organizations such as the National Film and Sound Archive (oral histories) and the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, a Heritage site program and supporting internships.
My Personal Views
If the State branches are active and flourishing with strong membership involvement, then the Society overall is active and flourishing. It follows therefore that the policies decided upon by the NEC should be principally designed to benefit and strengthen the State branches. That being the case, while the accounts of the National Office should be kept strong, there is no need to keep funds in them that could be better spent on membership activities and initiatives run by the States.
And, equally, if the State branches were to receive a guaranteed share of national revenue each year rather than an amount dependent on the number of new members, then there would be no need for them to overly protect their capital base, which in the case of some States is considerable.
More activities could be undertaken and where appropriate a higher level of subsidy (or loss) accepted to increase the number of members attending.
The Survey results invite the NEC and the State Committees to add some initiatives to the Society’s activities and, without going overboard, be prepared to spend Society funds to do them.
Planning for the Future
I am therefore recommending that we should:
- create a wider range of activities for members with the objective of involving more of our 2,600 members more regularly, and that the engine room for this change should be the Society’s state organisations
- restructure payments to the states from the National Office so they are larger and more predictable, in order to pay for this wider range of activities. Also, we should have the National Office absorb the cost of the annual Bulletin instead of charging it to the states
- increase the membership fee immediately from $200 to $300, and for the foreseeable future not introduce an annual subscription for existing members at the national level
- become a significant and regular donor to our sister organisations, the Motion Picture Industry Benevolent Societies in the states
- create a drive for new members, especially as applications dropped unexpectedly in the year to 30 April 2017
- upgrade the Pioneer’s Website and introduce a Pioneers’ Facebook Page with the objective of improving our communication to members and of increasing their engagement with the society
- seek ways to reduce the losses on the annual dinner held in Sydney
- continue to review the proposal to adopt new Constitutions
- decide to increase the number of NEC meetings each year to 2, by adding a second meeting on the day and just before the Annual Dinner around November
The result of these considerable efforts will hopefully be:
- a larger and more engaged membership
- stronger and even more active state organisations providing a wider range of events for their members
- a simpler financial arrangement between the National Office and the state organisations
- a Society, at both the national and state levels, that redeploys its significant financial resources for the long term interests of the members, and that still remains in a strong financial position
- increased corporate support from our loyal and traditional benefactors, the Distribution and Exhibition companies, and from the Production entities.
Peter Fenton, National Cinema Pioneer of the Year 2016
Our 48th Cinema Pioneer of the Year, Peter Fenton gave a very amusing acceptance speech at the Annual Dinner held in Sydney in November 2016. Here is a brief biography which outlines his brilliant career which began in 1958 at Supreme Sound.
click to read his full profile
So there we are: Welcome to the new Website and Facebook pages. Please use these resources to increase your enjoyment as a Pioneer, get in touch with friends, organise get togethers and make your views known to your State Committee (and serve on a Committee if you can!)
Finally from me: please do everything you can to encourage any friends who could be members to become members.