Upgrading: UK film and television industry makes progress in tackling skills shortage | Characteristics


That the UK’s premium film and television production landscape has never been so busy is a phrase often heard, but it has never been truer.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact global affairs, the UK’s rapid implementation of industry-wide safe working practices means filming in the UK continued at a steady pace and remains an attractive destination for inbound productions. (The document Working Safely during Covid-19 in Film and High-End TV Drama Production Guidance was first published by the British Film Commission (BFC) in June 2020 and is continuously revised.) In recent months alone, the UK has set up shoots for the likes the last Impossible mission movies, the new Indiana Jones film and series 5 of The crown.

In recognition of this growing interest, BFC has received additional government funding of £ 4.8million over three years to expand its work promoting and facilitating the development of studio spaces and attracting an increased number of major productions. international in the UK. To this end, the BFC has hired studio veteran Jeremy Pelzer as a stage space strategist and supports major studio developments across the UK, such as Barking and Dagenham in East London, The Bottle Yard Studios from Bristol and Dragon Studios in South Wales.

But as space grows, so does the need for talented UK crews to nurture the productions that fill them. The British Film Institute (BFI) is currently undertaking a major strategic skills review on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, which will develop long-term solutions to meet the skills needs of the film industries. screen.

Fill gaps

BFC is already focusing on vocational training, working alongside industry and education partners to ensure UK teams can meet the needs of inbound and domestic productions. Earlier this year, BFC announced a partnership with the Production Guild of Great Britain (PGGB) to increase access to a diverse and experienced team across the UK, by investing £ 100,000 in the inclusion program of PGGB’s mission and offering training programs for a number of roles in the production team. , as well as a new accredited Covid supervisor training program.

“With the constant demand for production, the need for skills training is one of the most pressing issues facing our industry today,” notes Gareth Kirkman, who heads UK business and industrial development for BFC. . “It’s not just about numbers; crews must be helped to access the right training and they must be supported to receive it. The concern of customers in the UK and US is that they need more staff, but they want to make sure they are properly qualified.

“The strength of the UK talent pool has always attracted clients who may be considering bringing their productions in,” adds Sorrel Geddes, senior vice president of US production and events at BFC, who works closely. collaboration with North American studios. and producers looking to film in the UK.

“Fostering relationships between our clients and training initiatives in the UK is essential to continue the growth of qualified teams,” continues Geddes. “We are working with our customers to make sure they are connected to the relevant organizations and in some cases we are helping to develop specific training to address the differences between UK and US production practices. Many companies make training and skills development part of their business philosophy and are excited to support current UK initiatives.

Netflix, for example, has just signed a long-term lease at Longcross Studios and has committed £ 1.2million to the new ‘Grow Creative UK’ training program, which will support the training of up to 1,000 people. across the UK through its own productions, partners and educational institutions, with an additional £ 1.5million set aside to support the training of talent from under-represented groups.

“Netflix’s long-term ambition is to be the studio with the most training opportunities,” says Alison Small, director of Grow Creative UK, who notes that it makes sense for Netflix to invest in the UK because it is the streamer’s biggest partner. production center outside the United States. “The reason why so many of our productions are based in the UK is its tradition of world-renowned creative genius, its state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure and its highly skilled and versatile workforce. “

The demand for teams is not limited to physical production roles. “The [Covid-19] pandemic has accelerated the adoption of virtual production techniques, and it became clear that the industry was struggling to fulfill some key roles, ”notes Alex Hope, former joint managing director of multi-award-winning DNEG and vice president of ScreenSkills , which heads a ScreenSkills Steering Group around this issue. “It is necessary to establish and share best practices in this new field, and to sustain the sector by planning a greater use of this technology. “

“We have commissioned sessions covering ‘Introduction to Virtual Production’, ‘The Vice President’s Impact on Art Departments’ and Unreal Training,” Hope continues. “We have an exciting seminar program scheduled for October through February next year, which will allow industry professionals to understand the end-to-end virtual production process.”

Crucially, not only the BFC and its partners are working to address vocational training across the spectrum of industry roles, but also across the UK.


In the north of England, Screen Yorkshire launched the Beyond Brontes program, to tackle under-representation by offering young people of diverse ethnic backgrounds masterclasses, training and mentoring, as well as hands-on experience on productions. , notably All creatures big and small, The syndicate and Mr. Jacques.

And in the capital, Film London’s Equal Access Network (EAN) runs specialized programs and programs to support new entrants, returns and under-represented talent in the industry. The latest edition of EAN of the Breaking the Glass Ceiling program, organized in partnership with Bectu, will help 10 mid-level professionals from diverse backgrounds to become future leaders and heads of departments. With funding from BFC, Film London will also invest in skills and training and look to the fashion industry especially for people with transferable skills.


With Scotland a base for productions including Vigil, Outlaw king, The platform and the next Apple TV Tetris Characteristically, it is not surprising that there are many vocational training programs north of the border.

From the hit series by Sony Pictures and Starz Foreigner started filming in Scotland in 2014, the production co-financed with Screen Scotland and ScreenSkills an internship program allowing around 20 interns to work on serial production. Screen Scotland has also worked directly with Amazon Studios and BBC Studios to recruit interns for the upcoming Good Omens Series 2.

Elsewhere, Screen NETS, which is funded by Screen Scotland in partnership with Screen Academy Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University, is a six-month apprenticeship program providing on-the-job training in technical, production and design roles. And the BECTU Vision project offers targeted short courses and a program of drama training activities to support the skills development of Scottish crews. In addition, BFC funded the role of an independent skills consultant to support the provision of BTL training in Scotland.


Netflx sex education

In Wales, which has hosted productions including the hit Netflix show Sex education, the next streamer feature Ravaged and HBO / BBC / Bad Wolf / Lucasfilm’s Willow, development is to ensure that every part of the country’s industry has access to a talented crew. With this in mind, the Step Across program, funded by BFC with Screen Alliance Wales, Ffilm Cymru Wales, Sgil Cymru and Creative Wales, aims to help professionals in the creative sector to make their transferable skills known and meet demands in different cinema sectors. , television, theater and live events. The program connects individuals with businesses that can use their skills and meet all retraining needs.

North Ireland

Northern Ireland Screen takes an equally proactive approach, placing between 80 and 120 interns per year on NI Screen-funded projects and supporting them with scholarships for training courses.

One of these courses is the Production Craft and Technical Skills program, which provides training opportunities in a variety of roles and is open to crews of all skill levels. Another, Stepping Up, is available in movies, TV series, factual entertainment, and games, and provides participants with the support they need to take their careers to the next level. There is also a major advantage for local businesses as they are increasingly able to recruit the skilled people they need in Northern Ireland, thus strengthening the local screen industry.

Diversity and inclusion

In all of these programs, diversity and inclusion are crucial. “It’s about having as much engagement with as many different partners who are as representative of the whole of the UK as possible,” says Kirkman of BFC. “There are so many great organizations, from regional film agencies to ones with a specific focus, like people with disabilities working in television. The bottom line for BFC is to reach out to these organizations and make sure they are aware of what we can do to support them.

And the UK’s ability to offer skilled and diverse crews is also key to attracting US customers.

“It’s important to our customers, and to BFC, that they can tackle their corporate social responsibility goals globally,” notes BFC’s Sorrel. “Our team makes sure that we are aware of the brilliant work being done in the UK and that our clients have access to that work. We listen and learn; if our customers face challenges, we can help create additional support programs with the appropriate organizations, share information with our partners and government, and generally help ensure the UK remains a leading production center .

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