Gareth Ellis-Unwin reflects on another year as Head of Film & Animation

As we head towards the holiday season, at ScreenSkills we are already preparing for another busy time in 2020.

The production boom continues unabated and with this boom comes opportunity. The opportunity is that government is recognising the value of the creative industries and the importance of those industries having a skilled workforce. Film and television played a major part in stopping the UK slipping into recession in the last official figures. The pressure on skills and the workforce, as evidenced in the work of our Skills Forecasting Service, also means we have to act on opening up the industry to new talent. Diversity and inclusion isn’t just about doing the right thing – though it is – it’s mission critical when we have widespread skills shortages.

Our own work is funded both by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funds, and industry contributions to the Film Skills Fund. We have implemented a rise in the cap on Film Skills Fund contributions to £55,000, which is helping resource our work with new entrants and existing industry professionals.

Yet it remains a constant frustration that only half of the films made in the UK chose to contribute this year. It amazes me that a low-budget short filmmaker paid in the princely sum of £7.50 as she “wanted to do her bit” when others refuse to play their part. While 355 films received final certification in the year to September with a UK spend of £2.11 billion, contributions to the Film Skills Fund to train the workforce who are critical to that success was a little over £700,000. Frankly, that is shocking.

Regardless, we continue to find and develop the behind-the-camera talent. The summer saw the roll-out of Find Your Future, a campaign online, social media and in cinemas where the ads dropped UK-wide alongside Secret Life of Pets, Aladdin and Rocketman, showing 1.8 million film-goers the opportunities that exist in the industry. The campaign complemented an overhaul of all the careers information on our website. We also delivered the screen sector component of Discover! Creative Careers Week where around 5,500 young people visited more than 90 screen businesses to see the industry from the inside.

I am incredibly proud of the launch of both our new bursary provision, where we have revised the rules to make sure we can create opportunities for those who have historically struggled to make progress in our industry, and of the ScreenSkills Mentoring Network, built on best practice guidelines which were developed with partners.

ScreenSkills Select, our new system of endorsing college and university courses identified by experts as relevant to a career in film or television, is now open, as are applications for new craft and tech courses under the banner of the Centre of Screen Excellence: Yorkshire, delivered with NFTS and Screen Yorkshire.

Any celebration of success, even partial, has to recognise the strength of partnership and the collective endeavour between industry, peer organisations and the individuals working in this amazing business. It’s complex work and success is only achievable by working together. The past year has seen the ScreenSkills team renew relationships with companies such as Paramount and Universal, whilst maintaining an extremely healthy partnership with long-standing colleagues at Disney and Warner Bros. We remain grateful to them all, not least for offering paid work placement opportunities to ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder trainees.

I extend my thanks to everyone who has collaborated with us and look forward to working with y’all again through 2020.

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