New high-end TV skills research

New research released today by Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the screen-based creative industries, reveals the impact on the UK’s High-end TV production sector from the recent growth in FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) and increased home grown production activity.

Last Post © Coco van Oppens, Bonafide Films 2017

The research shows that the UK production sector is enjoying a boom - driven by recent SVOD demand as well as increased high-end drama commissions from traditional broadcasters and fuelled by the tax credits. However, there is widespread industry concern that future growth is unsustainable without increased investment in skills and training at every level, from trainees up to professional development for heads of department, writers, producers and directors.

Based on a survey of senior high-end TV production roles across the UK, the research backs Creative Skillset’s experience and activities over the last two years. It reveals a shortage in talent and skills across the whole of the UK, with some respondents saying infrastructure and crew levels in London are becoming unsustainable while the Nations and Regions are suffering from a perceived or actual lack of available talent.

Particular issues raised in the survey include:

  • Widespread skills and talent shortages leading to delays in crewing up and much longer start up times for productions.
  • An increase in “show jumping” practices, with individuals leaving productions early to take up another job, or in some cases leaving before they’ve even begun work on a production – creating serious difficulties for the original production.
  • Significant pay inflation, particularly in some areas/job roles across the industry, making it more difficult for productions on lower budgets.
  • A lack of movement on diversity in the industry, with hard-pressed productions focused more on trying to find available crew than source diverse talent.
  • Some suggestions that the increased cost of paying crew was affecting “on-screen spend”

Creative Skillset’s research confirms what our experience over the last few years has shown - that if we want to maintain and grow our international competitiveness we need to further step up our work together as an industry.

Seetha Kumar, CEO of Creative Skillset

Seetha Kumar, CEO of Creative Skillset said: “The increase in commissioning of high-end television content from UK producers, and in particular by newer players such as Netflix and Amazon, has provided a welcome boost to the industry and demonstrated that we are world leaders in creating and delivering ambitious, much loved programming that resonates globally.

"Creative Skillset’s research confirms what our experience over the last few years has shown - that if we want to maintain and grow our international competitiveness we need to further step up our work together as an industry to urgently address the skills and talent shortages and knock on effects, that this boom is causing and the lack of inclusivity that as a sector we need to tackle.”

The growth in HETV production, including international commissioning and investment from FAANG companies, has been driven in part by the government’s UK High-end Television Tax Relief for productions located in the UK. In return for receiving this tax credit, HETV producers pay a voluntary levy, administered by Creative Skillset, which funds skills training and professional development at all levels within the industry to enable sustainable growth.

Through its HETV Council and industry led working groups Creative Skillset has been working closely for the last two years with more than 50 senior members of the HETV production community - from freelancers to companies and guilds - to ensure the levy continues to be used to meet the demand for more skilled workers.

With a particular focus on delivering new, diverse talent, it is running schemes and programmes including:  

  • Industry driven production courses, training, upskilling and continuing professional development - from new entrants to those at the top of their profession
  • A new Skills Passport scheme being launched in 2018 offering a host of industry quality-stamped short courses suitable for freelancers, to enable those moving up quickly in their careers to acquire the required training and skills.
  • Freelancer skills shortage bursaries to support training costs
  • Trainee Finder and Make a Move schemes

Creative Skillset's research in more detail

Widespread skills and talent shortages are leading to delays in crewing up and much longer start up times for productions.

90% of those interviewed named at least one role in short supply. Roles mentioned the most were: production accountant, production co-ordinator, location manager, line producer, grip, script supervisor and trainees.  As a result of these shortages, respondents said it is now more common to bring in crew from other areas, which can impact negatively on budgets; that they are increasingly compromising on skills and experience, for example taking the second or third best option.  Half of all respondents said that people are stepping up into more senior roles earlier than their experience should allow, which can impact on health and safety.

Crew are now much more readily jumping off productions early, and sometimes accepting a job and then leaving even before it’s started shooting. This seems to be nearly always a result of the chance of higher pay or longer contracts.  Where in the past it happened less often and only in particular trades, it is now happening across departments and up to Head of Department level.

Creative Skillset’s report can be found here.


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