To understand what a sector needs to improve and flourish, it undoubtedly helps to have known its inner workings first-hand. Thankfully, ScreenSkills’ chair of the High-End TV Skills Council, Christine Healy, has experienced exactly that, having spent the bulk of her career working in all areas of production behind the camera.
Starting off as a Producer’s Assistant, Healy worked her way up through the ranks to become a Production Consultant before making the leap to Head of Production at New Pictures. Cut to today, and you’ll find her working as a COO of production company alongside sitting on the ScreenSkills board and ensuring the High-End TV sector and its workforce has everything it needs to service ever-growing content demands as its chair and overseer of the High-End TV skills fund.
Healy’s time on the ground in the High-End TV world gave her the expertise on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to training the talent of tomorrow. However, as she’s quick to point out, much has changed since she first started. As such, helping people to discover what opportunities are out there and how to forge a rewarding career path has become an integral part of her role as HETV chair.
“It felt a bit like you had more time to learn on the job,” says Healy, remembering what life was like when she first entered the industry. “The risks were equally as high but I always felt that I was able to get the time to ask questions if I didn’t understand something. I was particularly fortunate with the people I worked alongside who gave me opportunities and nurtured my growth so it didn’t feel like I was taking a career leap without a safety net there,” she adds. “Production was very much focused within the broadcasters like BBC and ITV back then, so you were working within a structure that afforded you the opportunities to get training. Now the industry operates more independently as a thriving indie sector and with that, indies had to try and come up with the answers ourselves.”
After attending an HETV Skills Fund meeting on behalf of a colleague, Healy spied a way to put her “inner teacher” qualities to good use and help facilitate some real change in the way the sector helps new recruits as well as supporting people to progress. Joining the HETV Council shortly afterwards, she got to work trying to make people aware of the tools and training resources available for those looking to progress in their careers in all areas of production. “I always felt like it was right that we as a sector were supporting our freelance community because they are its beating heart,” she attests. “The demand for content is so immense at the moment and there are so many newer players making productions in the country - which is brilliant - but at the same time, it’s important we are focused on the long term.”
The High-End TV sector is experiencing a production boom from domestic and international projects, which is driving a skills shortage. Throw rules-and-regulation red tape in new media formats into the mix, and knowing what information or training is available can be a professional minefield for new freelancers. It’s this area that Healy is hoping the High-end TV Skills Fund can help to simplify and fix. “It’s so important to ensure everyone is being serviced in the progression of their career because otherwise, it’s down to the individual but if you don’t know what opportunities are out there, you can’t move forward,” says Healy. “When I stop to think about the wonders of the High-End TV fund within ScreenSkills, it’s this one big brilliant place where people can go and access leadership and management training and support for stepping up,” she smiles. “It’s de-risking things for both individuals on the ground but also for the production companies hiring new people.”
What’s more, it even allows newcomers to have a safety net to help them learn on the job, similar to the one Healy herself had back when she was starting out. “The industry is more fragmented for sure,” she argues, “and people could potentially fall through the cracks because it’s so fast and furious. I often worry that people don’t want to ask questions -- but you can’t know everything,” she adds. “It’s okay if you don’t know X, Y or Z because you can find it all out by doing all of these different courses.”
In addition to highlighting that there are a wide variety of roles within the sector beyond the more well-publicised positions like director or producer, Healy’s work with the HETV Skills Fund also helps ensure jobs and training are made available to those all over the UK and not just in London. Ultimately, it’s something that’s reflective of the sector itself.
“ScreenSkills HETV Fund team have always been delivering across the UK and we’ve now got people based in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure the message is getting out there about our training and the pathways into TV as a career,” she tells us. “As production companies, we film all over the place so there’s very much a push to ensure that wherever you go, there’s a footprint of training going on too delivered by the Skills Fund. The world of Zoom has really opened this up for people because there isn’t any training that can’t be done via Zoom. It’s made things really accessible for everybody.”
Of course, while ensuring that all High-End TV careers funding is being spent on developing the HETV workforce, it’s also useful for Healy to have access to her fellow chairs for Film, Unscripted TV, Animation and Children’s TV to compare notes regarding best practices that are worth sharing and collaborate on training where it makes sense. “That’s been one of the great things about all of these funds being under one roof in ScreenSkills,” says Healy. “Each fund can see what works well in another fund and adopt it or work together to maximise the funding.”
As for what the future holds? Healy hopes the High-End TV sector continues to attract new blood and train them in a way that helps cultivate a healthy industry environment with lots of variety and progression. “Just continuing to grow is my dream scenario,” she smiles. “Also that it’s a really safe and inviting environment to come and work in and that people don’t feel that it’s too high pressure for them. I hope we continue to bring out some amazing high-end TV drama and continue to be world leaders in our sector.”
Find out more
Read more about the High-end TV Skills Fund and how to contribute