Film productions in the UK contributed just under £475,000 towards skills and training for nearly 450 new entrants and existing film workforce in the last financial year despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Productions including Jurassic World: Dominion, The Fantastic Flitcrofts and Mothering Sunday were among 34 productions which paid £474,337.33 into the ScreenSkills Film Skills Fund to support developing and retaining the skilled workforce who are the foundation stone of UK production success.
The figure is down from £1,081,352 in 2019/20, £703,483 from 72 productions a year earlier and £937,768, in 2017/18. The financial year runs to the end of March.
However, the commitment to training has bounced back in 2021 with contributions in the first quarter approaching the total of the previous 12 months. Seventeen productions including The Railway Children, Together, Persuasion and Downton Abbey 2 had paid in £437,165 by the end of June.
Similar support was demonstrated by animation with contributions to the Animation Skills Fund this year already more than half the total for 2020/21 when 16 productions contributed £161,064.
Gareth Ellis-Unwin, ScreenSkills Head of Film and Animation, said: “We are always grateful to those productions that play their part in supporting skills by paying into the Film Skills Fund and further thanks to those who also offer training opportunities on their productions.
“It is particularly gratifying that despite the additional costs and challenges created by Covid, our colleagues in the industry have kicked off the new financial year with such a strong endorsement of the work we are doing.
“Freelancers are the lifeblood of film production and enabling them to learn as well as maintaining or updating their skills underpins studio production as well as independent film.
“When demand for good crew is so strong and international competition for production is so fierce, investment in skills and training remains mission critical to the continued growth and creative and commercial success of filmmaking in the UK.”
Anita Overland, whose producing credits include Small Axe, The Iron Lady and Rush and is the chair of the Film Skills Fund, said: “In the last year, I have been contacted almost daily by my fellow colleagues asking for help to look for crew. They are unable to find teams for most departments. And if they find crew, often they are without the level of experience required for their roles. This is unfair to those teams and the HoDs who are having to work without their normal level of backup.
“But we have a golden opportunity to develop a stronger, more diverse and better equipped workforce by investing in the long-term sustainability of UK filmmaking. I urge my industry colleagues to help build a bigger and better skilled labour pool by contributing to the Film Skills Fund.”
Nearly 450 people were supported on training programmes during 2020-21 thanks to contributions to the Film Skills Fund from productions.
This included 138 people recruited from just under 2,000 applications to Trainee Finder, the flagship paid placement programme with paid placements due to start just as the UK went into first pandemic lockdown.
More than 70% of the recruits were women, three-fifths from outside London and the South East, 24% Black, Asian or minority ethnic, 17% LGBT, 9% disabled and 83% attended non-paid-for schools.
The usual one-year term was extended into this year given the hiatus in production. But all the cohort were offered other training and support over the last year and – even despite Covid - there were 48 placements on 11 productions including Men, The Batman, The Fantastic Flitcrofts and Jurassic World: Dominion.
A further 310 individuals were supported with continuing professional development and bursaries by the Film Skills Fund last year, three-quarters of them women, a fifth Black, Asian or minority ethnic, just under half from the nations and English regions and 11% LGBT with 83% having attended non-paid-for schooling.
Training supported by the Film Skills Fund in the last year included: Afro hair essentials, Elevate online: leadership programme for cinema professionals, data-driven marketing and training in the art department and in virtual production and virtual pre-production.
The Animation Skills Fund supported 1,093 beneficiaries with 28 activities including Harmony Animation, Harmony Rigging and Technical Direction, all with Toon Boom, the Animated Women UK Achieve programme and writing for children’s animation.
ScreenSkills is also supported by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funds to deliver its Future Film Skills strategy which is now in its final year, and by Arts Council England.