2023 in review: Film Skills Fund highlights

Image: Rye Lane (c) 20th Century Studios

The year in film was kick-started by an award season that saw big wins for productions that contributed to the Film Skills Fund. Having already collected seven BIFAs, Aftersun was awarded a BAFTA for outstanding British debut at a ceremony at which renowned designer and ScreenSkills patron Sandy Powell was presented with the BAFTA Fellowship.

More wins were to follow later in the year with Molly Manning Walker’s How to Have Sex collecting the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes and Charlotte Rogan’s debut Scrapper picking up the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

These were just some of the 46 productions that contributed to the Fund in 2023. In addition to highlighting the relationship between industry and the Fund, this trio of debut features helped showcase the exciting wave of new filmmaking talent in the UK. Support for new filmmakers continued in 2023 through Fund-supported programmes like Filmonomics, run with Reclaim the Frame. The initiative offers practical support and guidance to new filmmakers through a series of workshops, industry speakers and coaches. It provides vital links to film finances to help fund their projects, an integral step in seeing their films come to life.

Sheffield based filmmaker Meloni Poole was one of those on the programme who found the blend of business and creativity a key component in its success. She said: “The access to the advice and knowledge that all of the speakers really bring to the programme is inspiring. You feel that you can really reach out to them and ask questions. We were able to ask for help and just say ‘what do I do about x’. I think that we can all feel that we should have all of the answers and we don't, we need help and support and I think the programme helps bring a real sense of validation and confidence and belief in yourself as a filmmaker. As a result of doing the programme I have secured a sales agent for my feature.”

Read more about Meloni's time on the Filmonomics programme

The aims of the programme were mirrored in the Step up to First Time Filmmaking programme, run by 104 Films, that supported first time filmmakers with a disability. By providing expert creative support, project development and networking opportunities to those looking to make their first film, the targeted diversity initiative aimed to open up the sector to those of all abilities and help democratise the industry. 

New to the Film Fund’s training programmes this year was Make a Move, a mid-level programme that encourages on-the-job training of crew members identified by the production as ready to make the move to a more senior role. Six placements have been secured since the programme’s launch in April with positions in production management, coordination, accountancy, 2nd ADs and line producing.

At the end of July, 13 participants from marginalised and under-represented communities in Scotland graduated from Screen Start GMAC Film’s new screen sector employability programme supported by ScreenSkills and the Film Skills Fund alongside Screen Scotland and BBC Scotland. The trainee development programme aims to equip participants with the necessary skills, knowledge, network, kit and confidence to join the screen sector workforce at the end of the six-month training programme.

Read more about the Screen Start initiative

It was a year that saw big changes with endings and new beginnings. 2023 saw the end of the five year Future Film Skills programme, an initiative funded by the National Lottery, commissioned by the British Film Institute (BFI) and delivered by ScreenSkills. During that time it helped more than 119,000 people progress in their screen careers, 4,000 mentees have been partnered with industry mentors, 124,000 e-learning completions and 2,765 have received bursary grants totalling over £2m.

At an event held in March, members of the ScreenSkills team were joined by those whose careers have received support through the programme to celebrate the programme’s achievements and look forward to future opportunities.

Read more about five years of the Future Film Skills programme

There was the announcement of change in the skills council which oversees the delivery of the Film Skills Fund’s strategy. The 11 new members represent the industry across the UK. It brings together experts from production companies, broadcasters, producers, visual effects and post production.

Anita Overland, chair of the Fund, said: “The new members will be crucial in identifying any skill gaps and supporting initiatives industry-wide to encourage training and mentorship. Their ongoing enthusiasm and inside knowledge will identify where things can be improved and streamlined and will help ensure the reputation of a world class workforce in the UK going forward.”

Two flagship programmes launched towards the end of the year. Film Forward, an inclusion initiative, supports Black and Asian professionals. The programme is an example of how the Fund aims to improve diversity and inclusion across the industry and in November welcomed eight participants on to the programme.

Trainee Finder, the new entrant programme, opened for applications in October, with 2,647 applying to take part. In the new year, successful candidates can look forward to industry mentors, paid production placements, networking opportunities and grade specific training.

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