Chair of the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Council looks back on 2019

Chair of the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Council, Tom Box, discusses the work of the council in 2019 and looks forward to 2020.  

Paddington © Studio Canal 2019

Season’s greetings! As another year ends it’s a perfect time to look back over the last 12 months and, more importantly, forwards to what 2020 brings. Last December the ScreenSkills Animation Skills Council was rebooted and I was honoured to be invited to join as Chair. If you are not familiar with the fund, it is administered by ScreenSkills to help boost careers across the UK’s animated industry and invests contributions from animated film and TV productions which benefit from the animation tax relief. 

The fund was introduced alongside the tax reliefs in 2013, but the council had a hiatus which resulted in the fund not being spent. Companies then stopped contributing, causing the initiative to grind to a halt.

So in January 2019, the newly formed council, made up of 16 animation industry experts from across the UK, grouped for the first time. The clock was ticking, as the fund had to get back up and running in a very visible and impactful way, so studios would see the tangible benefits and start paying back into it again.

The council agreed the fund should always be geographically inclusive, covering the whole UK. It should cover all animation disciplines and facilitate all parts of the talent pipeline, from career awareness for schoolchildren to additional training for experienced staff - no small task!

Straight away, the council approved funding of the Animated Women UK’s Helen North Achieve Programme, helping women at all career stages progress up the career ladder. The fund also enabled the Manimation conference in Manchester to take place this year and ran a business skills round-table discussion to share ideas on how the fund could help the smaller studios boost their business expertise.

We allocated funding to set up Blender 3D animation clubs for young people across the UK, led by 3Dami in collaboration with NextGen Skills Academy colleges. It also collaborated with Into Film to help the 25,000 schools across the UK run animation classes, with leaning materials based on the new TV special, The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

Work is underway planning bootcamps to take place inside studios using real-world projects so artists are more "studio-ready", starting off with a storyboarding course at Lupus Films. The format is designed so it can be repeated for more animation job roles at other studios in the future.

These examples are just the start of what the council has planned. Next year we will be collaborating with animation festivals to host freelancer workshops sharing vital knowledge to help with the stress of freelance life. We will hold talks with inspiring industry figures detailing how they got to where they are, with advice on how others can follow their footsteps. We will also roll out “Back To School,” an initiative supporting young entrants to go back to their home towns to inspire younger people that creative careers are a very real thing.

But to finance all of these initiatives we rely solely on the kind support of production companies, so we will be asking studios to pay in to the fund. We can achieve great things by working together, to assist people from all across the UK achieve their career goal. To win this support, we will be hosting a series of breakfast sessions with studio founders and execs to gain momentum. With the changing political landscape, it’s vital that our domestic skills pipeline is stronger than ever, so the UK can retain its cherished place as one of the best producers of animation in the world. 

Finally, an immense thanks to all the studios who have contributed, and the council members who have helped shape what the fund is now doing. Here’s to 2020!

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