Spotlight on...the North West

ScreenSkills has collaborated with a wide range of productions and partners across film, high-end TV (HETV), animation and children’s TV to offer training opportunities in the North West.

Cobra © Sky UK Limited

You can’t make great film, TV and animation without investing in the people. This is why ScreenSkills is committed to deliver training, resources and opportunities across the whole of the UK. This month our focus is the North West.

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills CEO, said: “We are proud to support the screen industries in the North West, collaborating with partners such as Red, BBC, ITV and SharpFutures. Thanks to the contributions of productions that contribute to our skills funds and funding from the BFI, who award us National Lottery funds, we can run training for professionals at all career stages.”

Productions and placements

ScreenSkills has collaborated with a wide range of productions across film, high-end TV (HETV), animation and children’s TV to offer training opportunities in the North West.

More than 20 high-end TV productions in the last year have contributed to ScreenSkills’ HETV Skills Fund, including Ridley Road, Peaky Blinders Series 6; Cobra Series 2; Help; Brassic 3 and The Bay 3.

Both new entrants and established professionals have been able to develop their skills on productions via ScreenSkills training programmes such as Trainee Finder, Make a Move, the three-year HETV Leaders of Tomorrow programme, giving mid-career professionals the tools to progress, and the Co-producer Programme, which enables heads of department to take their next step into producing high-end TV drama.

The Leaders of Tomorrow include Charlotte Van Der Haer Richardson who is currently working in the costume department on a drama which is being shot in Liverpool where she is based. Location manager, Cory Townsend was born in Crewe, Cheshire, and is currently based in Scotland.

Barrington Paul Robinson took part in ScreenSkills’ Co-producer Programme, which enabled him to work on and receive a co-producer credit on police drama, The Responder, which was shot in Liverpool and stars Martin Freeman. Barrington said: “The Liverpool Film Office told me about the ScreenSkills’ High-end TV Co-producer Programme and I got an interview with the producer, Rebecca Ferguson and exec producers and the production company, Dancing Ledge. The rest has since become history. It was a perfect match, particularly as The Responder was being made in my home city of Liverpool.“ 

The Responder was written by Liverpool writer Tony Schumacher while he was being mentored by Jimmy McGovern on the HETV New Writers Programme, delivered by Dancing Ledge. Manchester-based Sharma Walfall  was mentored on the same programme by Jack Thorne.

Ursula Haworth has recently come full circle by returning to her hometown, Bacup in Lancashire to step up to line producer with the help of ScreenSkills’ High-end TV Make a Move programme on Sky comedy series, Brassic which is shot in the area.

ScreenSkills’ high-end TV social mobility programme, First Break, helped Manchester-based Trisha Mistry get into the industry and work in the production office in her local area. After completing her placement, she was offered a full-time role as a runner at the same production company. The inaugural First Break programme, which launched in 2020 in partnership with ITV enabled new entrants to gain experience on Coronation Street, in  Manchester and Emmerdale, whose studios are based in Leeds.

Earlier in the year, 12 trainee script editors from the North West were given the opportunity to take part in a 12-week programme called Flip The Script which included paid placements. Launched by social enterprise SharpFutures with the support of Sky Studios and ScreenSkills, the aim was to inspire and encourage a new generation of scripted professionals, preparing them to apply for positions as researchers, script editors, assistant story editors and dramaturgs. 

Among recent productions contributing to the Film Skills Fund and offering film trainee opportunities in the North West were Medusa Deluxe, shot in Preston, and Supernova, filmed in the Lake District. Film Trainees on Medusa Deluxe, a murder mystery set in a competitive hairdressing salon, included Dylan Howell, assistant director trainee, Celine Woodburn, in sound and Joseph Slocombe (camera).

There were five ScreenSkills’ film trainees on Supernova, which stars Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci: Ruby Victor and Kyle Graham-Rainford, both assistant director trainees, Ruby Asare-Brown, art department, Elsie Allen, costume, and Aimee Sampson, in hair and make-up.

Bury-born gaffer Andy Lowe, who has worked on all series of The Crown, invested in his own personal development by completing Leadership and Management for Film Professionals, a course funded by ScreenSkills using National Lottery funds awarded by the BFI as part of the Future Film Skills programme. He said: “I’ve done reading up on leadership and how to manage a team, but it’s not something that I’ve previously seen offered as a course to our industry. So, when I saw the ScreenSkills one promoted, I jumped at the chance and it proved great, especially talking to other HoDs about their own leadership skills, experiences and opinions.”

ScreenSkills also works closely with the children’s TV sector in the North West. It is an active region for children’s content production and location filming in no small part thanks to BBC’s in-house children’s TV production based in Salford who are a key partner in the Children’s TV Skills Fund. We also work closely with local indies such as Three Arrows Media and Channel X North.

ScreenSkills’ animation team is working with Manchester Animation Festival (MAF) by partnering on a survey to explore accessibility in animation. The Animation Skills Fund is also sponsoring two events at the festival including In the Frame: Is Animation Accessible? presented in partnership with MAF and Visible in Visuals.

Contributors to the Animation Skills Fund in the area include BBC Children’s (Love Monster, JoJo & Gran Gran) and Fourth Wall Animation.

Pathways in for new talent

Paid placements and skills training are key to ensuring the screen industries thrive, but ScreenSkills’ work starts earlier with support for screen degrees, courses and apprenticeships.

ScreenSkills Select endorses screen courses that give students the best possible start to a career in the screen industries. The Select team recently created a regional industry hub group in Greater Manchester for industry and educators to explore critical issues around future skills and education needs. The first meeting was in November 2020 and was attended by employers including Red Productions, Realtime UK, Nine Lives Media, Channel 4, Kilogramme Studios, BBC Sport, ITV, Dock 10 and Thumbfood along with representation from educators at University of Salford, Manchester Film School, University of Bolton and Edge Hill University. The group will reconvene in the autumn.

In the North West, courses that have been endorsed include:

Recent work by the ScreenSkills careers team included a virtual panel event for Manchester Uni Media Club for students about to leave and Set Ready - Twin Cities, a programme that aims to equip the next generation of screen industry talent with the key skills for their first employment in production. Forty entry-level and emerging talent from a diversity of backgrounds took part from London and Liverpool. The course was delivered in collaboration with partner organisations Fully Focused, Liverpool Film Office, Toxteth TV and Everyman Theatre.

Upcoming events and training

There are plenty of activities coming up in the next few weeks and months in the region including an Open Doors event for the North West on 21 October; an online session for Manchester University Media Club as part of their careers day on 28 October; and careers events for schools in Liverpool in January.

Members of ScreenSkills accreditation and careers teams will also be attending UCAS Create Your Future in Manchester on 23 and 24 November 2021. Book now.

The Pipeline (Salford University) has been commissioned to deliver a regional step-up to production management programme for high-end TV. Twenty places will be offered on this competitive programme aimed at those working in high-end TV as PMAs or production coordinators, who are ready to step up into the role of production manager. Following the training, 18 participants will be offered a paid placement with a high-end TV production company. Apply by 5 November 2021. The Pipeline has also been selected to deliver two VFX courses for the disabled community who work in Film and HETV. Details and dates will be announced soon.

For more information on training opportunities and how ScreenSkills invests in off-screen talent across the UK, go to the ScreenSkills website.

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