Trainee Finder alumni share experiences at LFF panel

ScreenSkills Film Trainee Finder alumni explained how the scheme works during a London Film Festival panel today. Costume trainee Lucy Porter and edit trainee Nicola Matiwone shared their experiences on the set of Mike Leigh’s new film, Peterloo.

Peterloo © Entertainment One

The Trainee Finder scheme matches new talent with productions that pay into the Film Skills Fund, and supports them with mentoring and masterclasses, as well as paying a percentage of their salary to productions they work on.

“I was an ex-student hungry to work in film,” Nicola told the audience at the ScreenSkills panel, ‘The Film Skills Fund and how it works: A Peterloo Case Study’.

“I was doing everything right, listening to all the advice, going to lots of networking events…” Eventually, she found Trainee Finder, applied successfully and made it on to the set of Peterloo – her first time working on a feature film.

Both she and Lucy think they benefited from the mentoring and training provided by the scheme, both on-and-off set. “The designer on set was amazing,” Lucy said. “She made sure I had a really broad experience”.

Georgina Lowe, producer of Peterloo, described how the “ongoing relationships” between her and her trainees mean that she has been able to bring past trainees back onto her productions in more senior roles. “It’s really joyous to be able to do that,” she said.

Both trainees shared her belief in the importance of paying it forward and supporting the growth of the people entering film. Lucy described her frustration with a culture in film that made some unwilling to work together. For example, she “noticed how some people in film are so precious about their contacts – I don’t have time for that. I started a WhatsApp group for us costume trainees so we can ask questions, share contacts and help each other”.

Her drive to help support others early in their film career comes from personal experience.  “I have a little boy and I was told I would never have a job in film because there was no job security. That’s what held me back.

“But with this scheme, I haven’t stopped working since I started. That’s why I want to pay it back, so that other people in that situation know that they can do it.”

For Nicola, a big barrier to entry was being based outside of London. The nationwide nature of Trainee Finder allowed her to be confident relocating. “I didn’t want to come to London without any sort of work or security, so Trainee Finder was very helpful in letting me secure work while I was living in Dorset,” she said.

Since then, Nicola has moved “from job to job to job to job. I haven’t stopped working! I just finished Spiderman on Friday”.

Nicola said for her, paying it forward means being able to speak directly to other young people and reassure them that even though the first steps into the film industry can be nerve-wracking, “if I can do it – you can do it too”.

The real drivers for change are the young people coming through...

Gareth Ellis-Unwin, Head of Film and ScreenSkills

ScreenSkills’ Gareth Ellis-Unwin recognised the impact that young people like Nicola and Lucy are having on the film industry, saying that “the real drivers for change are the young people coming through. They are the ones saying actually it’s not acceptable to bully or harass on set, it’s not acceptable to not offer them opportunities.

“The upwards pressure that they are applying is making the whole industry behave better…It’s an evolution of what should be.”

As part of this evolution, Gareth urges film productions to see the Film Skills Fund as “not just the transaction of cash-in, trainee-out”, but to see the “wider ambition” behind it.

ScreenSkills has launched the Giving Back initiative, calling on the industry to play their part in ensuring the supply of skills and talent to the UK film industry. To see what your production could do to pay it forward, take a look at our Giving Back menu for screen professionals.

Next year’s Trainee Finder scheme opens for applications on Monday 12 November.

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