The ScreenSkills Hanna story

NBCUI Studios’ head of production Charlotte Bloxham and Hanna line producer Rachael Cole talk about the importance of Make a Move and Trainee Finder crew on the NBC Universal and Amazon Prime Video show Hanna.

Hanna © NBCUniversal

In the face of rising demand for skilled production staff, NBCUniversal International Studios is among those taking action by contributing to the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund on dramas it makes in the UK and offering training opportunities on its productions.

NBCUI Studios has taken on ScreenSkills HETV Trainee Finder Trainees for its high concept thriller and coming-of-age drama Hanna on Amazon Prime Video, which recently began filming for season two. It is also offering chances to talent wanting to step up into a more senior role, through the Make A Move (MaM) scheme.

Charlotte Bloxham, NBCUI Studios’ head of production, says that ScreenSkills’ schemes are “vital to enable a cross section of society a way into a business that historically has been incredibly difficult to get into without a personal contact”.

Think the duty of care you get through ScreenSkills is second to none.

Rachael Cole, Hanna line producer

She acknowledges how important such a contact can be. “I was lucky enough to have a family friend who employed me as both a floor runner and an office runner once I’d graduated. She was a real help to me and pushed me early on to get into production.”

However, now Charlotte and NBCUI Studios are doing all they can to give others who may not have such connections a leg up the ladder. “We encourage all departments to take on a trainee and we consider these trainees as much a part of the production as more established roles. We try to engage with ScreenSkills on all our shows when we’re shooting in the UK.”

As well as trying to build the next generation of TV talent through the Trainee Finder placement programme, ScreenSkills helps staff progress to a new or higher role via its Make a Move scheme.

“I’m a big fan of the Make a Move scheme as it gives a chance for those who are sometimes overlooked to have a voice and break through to the next level in their career,” Charlotte says. “I’ve suggested Make a Move to a number of colleagues and have always found it a great way to help individuals take the next step.”

Charlotte previously worked with one of the Make a Movers, Richard Todd, on the BBC drama London Spy and now Richard has stepped up on Hanna to the role of production manager. “I’m delighted he’s taking this step up. He’s a great example of someone who, with a little guidance, has quickly moved on to the next chapter of their career and won’t look back.” 

Read the stories of the Hanna crew

As Head of Production, Charlotte is not part of the day to day interaction with those supported through the ScreenSkills programmes. But she says: “I am always keen to find out how they are getting on however and can be there to support as and when required. I think the early weeks of a shoot can be daunting for a trainee or those on Make a Move. It’s great to watch them establish themselves and find their role and rhythm in a department and then it’s always really great to watch the teams work together.”

Hanna line producer Rachael Cole has been on ScreenSkills’ Make a Move scheme herself and now helps put candidates forward for it. She encouraged the production secretary on Hanna, Nicolas Motte, to take part. Stepping up from his previous role as clearances coordinator, Nicolas found it gave him the mandate to ask more questions

Rachael explains: “What I find is when we pick someone to go on to Make a Move, whether it’s someone in the technical department or production, it gives that person confidence to be able to ask for things they wouldn’t normally ask for; they say, ‘Can I learn this because it’s part of my Make a Move?’ or ‘In my training plan I’ve put down that I’d really like to experience this…’

“It gives them access to roles and jobs they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable asking for but they’ve got a reason to ask for it. They’re not necessarily getting so much responsibility, but they’re getting the access to learn why we do something.”

Rachael believes the whole production benefits. “I think it makes a more rounded team because everyone has more knowledge and they’re more understanding of each other’s jobs.

“I think it’s such a fantastic scheme, I’m a really big supporter of it. When I was on [BBC drama] Silent Witness and I did my second Make a Move up to production manager, we had quite a lot of people in our team who wanted to move up, move departments or gain more experience. I had one lady who was a costume standby and she desperately wanted to become an electrician, which is definitely unconventional. But I spoke to Nicky [Ball, senior high-end TV new entrant manager] at ScreenSkills and we made the scheme work so she could do it and now she’s a full-time spark.”

Rachael has also set up a Facebook group for those who have previously been put forward by her for MaM, so they can help each other out and find work. “I think, unfortunately, the industry is quite closed in terms of how people advertise available jobs and how fast people hire candidates.”

I’m a big fan of the Make a Move scheme as it gives a chance for those who are sometimes overlooked to have a voice and break through to the next level in their career

Charlotte Bloxham, NBCUI Studios' head of production

Born and brought up in Yorkshire, Rachael started her career after graduating from Hull University with a BA in English literature with creative writing. Following university, she went to the National Film & Television School. The first drama she worked on two-and-a-half years ago was hit Sky series Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which was produced by NBCUI Studios’ Carnival Films. She has also worked with Sony Pictures and Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel. On Hanna, she stepped into the role of line producer during the second week of shooting – and loved it. “It’s been such a good experience. There’s a high level of people management involved. You can really get a handle on processes and how the team’s functioning. It’s all about making sure we create the best environment on the show, within our budget and ultimately facilitating the show to get the best results on screen.”

ScreenSkills has been a valuable part of her on-production career progression. “ScreenSkills has put so much work into the schemes. I’ve had a great time as a mentor and as a mentee. They’ve also taken great care of those I’ve been looking after - that side of it is lovely to see. Everyone I’ve had on Trainee Finder has also had such good experiences. Coming from up north and knowing it’s so difficult to get into the industry, it’s great there’s now a way in for people to have that.”

Rachael, who aspires to become a producer, concludes: “The industry is very busy and crowded at the moment, so to anyone coming in I would really recommend them learning about the route they want to try and go down. Whether that’s meeting people for coffee beforehand or getting to grips with what each individual role is.

“I think the best part of being in this industry is the ability to move up; there isn’t a ceiling if your skill set can take you there. Make A Move allows people to increase their skill set at a much faster rate than if they were in just one role. And I think the duty of care you get through ScreenSkills is second to none.”

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