The ScreenSkills Killing Eve story

Now in its third series, Killing Eve is a ratings smash hit and has won multiple awards, including BAFTAs and Golden Globes. It is paving the way for future TV success by giving opportunities to emerging talent with support from the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund.

Killing Eve © Sid Gentle Productions

Series producers Sid Gentle had spotted the talent of writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before she found acclaim with Fleabag and nabbed her to work on their adaptation of Luke Jennings’ novellas early on.  

“We all gave ourselves a collective pat on the back that we’d spotted a talent,” says Lee Morris, executive producer of Killing Eve and Sid Gentle managing director.

From a business sense, the schemes are a necessity. But it’s also a great way to empower people who wouldn’t necessarily be in the industry.

Chrissie Broadway, head of production at Sid Gentle

There was a noticeable buzz on the set of series one as everyone from trainee costume assistants to the director, Damon Thomas, pulled together, believing in the project and its impressive cast, led by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer.

Comer wasn’t the only one getting a big break.  Anna Alcock joined the terrific costume team under supervisor Gayle Woodsend. “I was brought on to Killing Eve as part of ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme and was immediately rushed out to Italy for the filming of the opening scene. It was epic. I was straight away hands-on with the costumes,” Anna.

Screenskills’ Trainee Finder Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the High-End TV Skills Fund funded by contributions from productions like Killing Eve. It invests in the longevity and quality of crew and talent through training for new entrants and career development.

“The fund is vitally important and necessary and the trainees we’ve used have been incredible on Killing Eve,” enthuses Morris. “You quickly forget who is a trainee and who isn’t because they’re doing the job and making themselves busy. They’re like every other crew member. That is testament to the schemes and quality of trainees.”

Speaking more broadly about the importance of the fund, Morris points to the fact there is virtually 100% employment in the TV industry due to the huge number of productions, but as a result there are some shortages of talent.

“This is why the fund’s schemes are so important because they give you the financial incentive to look at alternative people and give them opportunities, whether it’s someone super new or shadowing. This is vital if we’re going to sustain the level of success in the industry and expand,” explains Morris. “We have to bring people through and train them up or we’ll end up with a load of untrained, incompetent people running shows.”

Killing Eve is a poster production for the work of the Fund, having taken on people not only from Trainee Finder, but also through the  Make a Move programme, which supports individuals to step up into a more senior role, and the Drama Directors programme delivered by Directors UK. You can read some of their stories in more detail in the case studies below/attached.

Read the stories of the Killing Eve crew:

As Roisin Lee Edwards, an art department trainee on series two of Killing Eve, points out: “The Trainee Finder scheme works at both ends. The production are getting people they can work with and train up, and in the future will come back for more jobs. And the trainees (like myself) get great experience.”

Another fan of the schemes is Chrissie Broadway, head of production at Sid Gentle, who previously went through the Make a Move scheme herself and loved it.

“We use the schemes all the time. There are so many films wanting to shoot here and simply not enough crew. So from a business sense, the schemes are a necessity. But it’s also a great way to empower people who wouldn’t necessarily be in the industry. We’ve used trainees on Killing Eve, but also previous trainees on other productions were brought on as crew, such as Nicola Holter in the costume department. It’s great to see them being given a leg up.”

The Fund’s schemes are so important because they give you the financial incentive to look at alternative people and give them opportunities

Lee Morris, executive

Following the huge success of both series one and two, the production and crew are back for the filming of series three, and the family and nurturing environment has returned. “Everyone is pulling together for each other,” says Broadway.

Morris agrees: “There’s a real excitement on set. We start with a blank sheet. We didn’t have discussions in series two about what what’s going to happen in series three. Everyone has to be on their toes as something is written and then quickly realised on the show. It’s a tribute to the great crew, dependent on the quality training discussed, that they deal impressively with such an environment.”    

About Trainee Finder

ScreenSkills’ High-end TV Trainee Finder supports the depth and quality of the infrastructure of the UK’s production crew, through on-the-job training on big-budget TV drama productions. Trainee Finder trainees become part of an industry-recognised group of trainees, receiving exclusive access to training placements. Each trainee has been interviewed by an industry professional working in their chosen area, and will have completed a three-day induction course to prepare them for their placements.

Production companies can request up to four trainees per production for placements of between four to 20 weeks each – up to a maximum of 40 trainee weeks in total, although there is some flexibility within the overall scheme. Once productions identify their trainees, and agree placement dates and crew contracts, ScreenSkills issues a training agreement contract between itself and the production company. ScreenSkills reimburses the production £300 a week per trainee.

At the start of the placement, trainees and their supervisor within the production company, agree a training plan, logging existing skills and learning objectives, for developing their craft on-the-job. This provides a benchmark for evaluation of the success of the placement, at its end. Numerous productions and trainees have benefitted from the scheme. In 2018, ScreenSkills recruited 80 new trainees committed to building a career in high-end TV drama. Click here to read more about Trainee Finder.

About Make a Move

Make a Move replaces the former high-end TV levy-funded programmes managed by ScreenSkills - the Challenge Fund, and the Stepping Up scheme. It offers productions and production companies the opportunity to support the professional development of their middle to senior level staff with on-the-job training. The aim is to enable them to support their employees to make the next move in their career – for the benefit of their productions and the industry as a whole. All job roles on a production are currently eligible - other than entry-level positions.

The rationale behind the scheme is that the productions and companies with whom people work are best-placed to know who is ready to move up into a more senior role. For this reason, it is for productions to identify the person or people they wish to nominate, and to then submit applications to ScreenSkills. Individuals interested in the scheme need to speak to their employer and win the support of their production, to be proposed for the scheme. Successful candidates are assigned a mentor to oversee their training and development.

Productions and production companies can apply for up to around £15,000 to support one or more people. Funding goes towards supporting the cost of training. Its use is flexible to respond to specific needs – and ranges from salaries, travel and accommodation expenses, to mentoring and participating in training courses. Click here if your production is interested in making use of Make a Move funds.

The goals and objectives of the High-end TV Skills Fund

 The TV drama industry set up a voluntary scheme, the High-end TV Skills Fund in July 2013, to invest in the development of the skills of the next generation of high-end TV talent to support UK drama’s renowned global position in production.

The idea came about at the time of the consultations with government on high-end TV tax relief. Now, all high-end TV drama productions with a core expenditure of £1 million per broadcast hour that hope to benefit from that tax relief (worth 25% of qualifying spend), are expected to contribute to the ‘skills levy’.  The fund is governed by the High-end TV Council, and managed by ScreenSkills. The Council and ScreenSkills’ high-end TV team are supported by industry-led working groups and the high-end TV sub-committee. They work together to identify key training needs, determine priorities, and develop innovative training programmes and training partnerships that provide diversity of opportunity and are relevant to the industry’s practical needs. Click here to find out more about contributing to the High-end TV Skills Fund.

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