This paper sets out the results from a review of the skills needs and challenges of the UK’s film and adjacent screen industries in 2017. It was commissioned by the British Film Institute (BFI) in response to growing anecdotal evidence of emerging skills gaps across the screen industries. Its initial intention was to explore craft and technical skills area, but a desire to ensure that the industry as a whole remains at the cutting edge of the technological developments that are redefining the sector, encouraged a review of the film industry as a whole.
While the focus of the review is the UK film industry, the scope of the research extends to adjacent screen industries (video games and animation), reflecting the commonality of job roles and skills needs. In addition to exploring employment and skills needs across the sector, the research similarly examines existing skills provision by identifying both good practice and areas that could benefit from further development. With an interest, too, in ensuring the ongoing vibrancy of the industry in future, the research has also focused on the issue of inclusion. This seeks to understand what needs to be done to support a young and diverse workforce that is representative of the society, and to pinpoint the barriers preventing people from entering and progressing in the industry. A key goal of the review has been to develop strategic objectives and to develop a blue print to ensure the success of these industries over the next decade.
The research is underpinned by a rigorous nine month programme of work. This includes data analysis, evidence assimilation, and a large-scale programme of consultation involving over 110 businesses, stakeholder groups and workers within the film industry. The work was guided by a Film Industry Task Force bringing together the BFI, Creative Skillset, and senior executives from across the sector, and a ‘Delphi Panel’ of a wider group of experts drawn from across the industry who face skills issues on a day-to-day basis. This approach provided invaluable insight, enabling the review to go beyond talking about occupations and skills in a generic sense, to truly understand the needs, challenges and opportunities of the industry.
The review identified a number of critical skills and employment issues that threaten to undermine the future success of the UK screen industries, unless addressed. This included a number of skills shortages and gaps in technical and industry-specific skills and general and transferable skills (such as problem solving, research and analytical skills, communication and teamwork), business skills (including marketing, negotiation, legal and finance) and management and leadership capability. They impact most departments and every part of the value chain, but are especially severe in the production office, art department, among construction teams and in all roles and at all levels in VFX, which has seen an explosion in its workforce and is at the vanguard of technological change.
A review of the pipeline that delivers new skills to the industry, and skills and training provision across the UK suggests a need for improvements. Many courses are general and although providing a broad overview of what is a considerable sector, these raises questions about the delivery of industry-specific skills needed, particularly for craft and technical roles. Furthermore, despite ongoing reforms in technical education very few people enter the industry via ‘earn while you learn’ programmes such as, Apprenticeships. Workforce development is also informal in nature, with employers citing a lack of high-quality, industry-relevant, modular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses as a key barrier to enhancing their skills and those of their workforce. Whilst there are more specialist courses such as in Higher Education, they are not widely available, with a more London-centric focus. Consultations conducted for the research with employers about the nature of education and training suggests that: provision is fragmented; limited consensus on the best courses; there is a failure to equip learners with the skills they need to be successful in the industry; and raises concerns that careers education inadequately captures the ‘business of film’ and the broad range of roles available within the industry.
The research also highlights challenges facing the UK screen industries around inclusion, with a pandemic lack of representation across the industry affecting all minority groups. Women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, those with disabilities and those from less advantaged backgrounds for example are amongst those significantly underrepresented. Unfortunately, despite past efforts to tackle the lack of representation in the industry, there has been little change in the make-up of the workforce and, in some cases, a worsening picture.
The research sets out some of the critical priorities that will be crucial to tackling these challenges and delivering the skills base to support the on-going growth of the screen industries, and to improve the diversity of the workforce moving forward.
1. Attract and cultivate new entrants: The sector must enhance awareness and understanding of education, training, employment and progression opportunities, building on the success of Into Film and its network of film clubs to draw new and diverse entrants.
2. Enhance skills provision: It is vital to simplify and build a more coherent, responsive skills infrastructure, supporting wider reforms to technical education and involving industry to ensure quality and trusted accreditation of courses.
3. Build bridges: The sector must build on and strengthen links between initiatives that support learners’ transition from education to work and shape the introduction of Apprenticeships in order to ‘open the door’ to the screen industries.
4. Support professional development: The research highlights a lack of clarity of the training and qualifications required for career progression and a shortage of professional, business and leadership skills. Strengthening the skills of workers and business leaders in the screen industries will be central to supporting growth of indigenous businesses.
5. Drive inclusion: It is essential the industry improves the recruitment, retention and advancement of under-represented groups to remain economically and creatively competitive. The BFI Diversity Standards was an important early initiative that signalled a commitment to achieve real change. They have already been adopted by BAFTA, Film 4 and BBC Films
The BFI has taken the critical factors identified within the review and developed them into a 10 point plan. This sets out the key actions required to resolve the challenges facing the industry and enable the screen industries to continue to flourish in the years to come.
Future Film Skills: an action plan
Heather Carey, Work Advance
Lizzie Crowley and Helen Sheldon, Work Foundation
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