Spotlight: ScreenSkills support in the South West

The Pursuit Of Love © Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Li

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

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills CEO, said: “We are proud to support the screen industries in the South West in close partnership with our regional partners in the area. 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 careers stages – mostly online at the moment but we are glad that we will be able to return to the South West in September for new face-to-face events to highlight the range of possible careers in screen.”

Productions, placements and partnerships

Laura Aviles, senior film manager, Bristol City Council says: "We're seeing an incredibly healthy number of productions filming in Bristol this year, both at The Bottle Yard Studios and on location supported by our Film Office team. With crew in such high demand, it's vital that we keep the flow of new entrants moving, and also that we ensure those local to Bristol are benefiting, especially young people from under-represented backgrounds who may not have previously thought that a production career was accessible for them… ScreenSkills offers excellent behind-the-camera training and mid-career progression on titles made in the South West."

Production is booming in the South West, which enables us to collaborate with productions to offer paid placement opportunities to talent. Feature film Persuasion, for example, has taken on 10 ScreenSkills Trainee Finder trainees across different department, giving them invaluable on-the-job training.

Training opportunities were offered to professionals on high-end TV productions such as The Pursuit of Love, Alex Rider and McDonald and Dodds. Assistant director Steve Crabtree was able to progress in his career in the area, thanks to a placement via the HETV step up programme Make a Move. “Since finishing on The Pursuit of Love, I have taken a position as a key 2nd AD and that is partly due to the experience gained on this job. I feel very confident moving forward that I can perform well and put all of that hard-won knowledge into place.”

Assistant director Comfort Arthur was similarly offered the chance to step up via Make a Move to the role of episodic director at Bristol based A Productions. Bristol is also home to Animation Skills Fund supporters such as Gutsy Animations UK, Wildseed Studios and Aardman Animations. The city is also home to Animation Skills Fund supporters such as Gutsy Animations UK, Wildseed Studios and Aardman Animations.

Bristol was also one of the hubs where ScreenSkills ran its Production Coordinator Training Programme which helps individuals in the early stages of their career and already working as a runner, production secretary, production coordinator or production management assistant develop their career in production management in unscripted television.

This August, ScreenSkills will collaborate with Red Planet Pictures to offer locals from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds a taste of working in screen. This iteration of our First Break programme gives participants the chance to talk with industry professionals, before ultimately offering paid placements to a few individuals on the high-end TV drama Sanditon.

Bursaries and mentoring support

Smaller-scale interventions can sometimes unlock doors for freelancers. Thanks to a bursary, Gloucester-based animator Kevin Barnes was able to transfer into screen from making animations for a gambling company.

“Every job I applied for I was being filtered out of the application process because I didn’t have that software experience. That led me to retraining myself. I went to an online animation school and started the first course. But it was quite expensive,” he says. “I was looking at doing the intermediate course, then my daughter, who worked in costume, sent me a link to ScreenSkills and suggested applying for a bursary.” He has since secured a paid internship at Framestore.

ScreenSkills support also helped Eloise Singer explore the world of VR when developing a game about the Opium Wars between Britain and the Chinese Qing Dynasty. The process of applying for the £2,000 she needed was quick and the fact the money was awarded gave the process additional cachet. “I think because ScreenSkills is so well established and quite a rock and well-known in the industry, just being able to say we have support from it for the project I think really helped,” she says.

Mentoring support can also help people take strides in their careers. Director of photography Piers Leigh, who is based in Gloucestershire, benefited from such support himself over the years, so when he had some time on hand during lockdown, he turned to the ScreenSkills Mentoring Programme to give back to the industry by sharing his expertise.

He said mentoring is mutually beneficial. “I got a fantastic amount from mentoring. It’s definitely a two-way street... I have vastly improved my own listening and communication skills. I have become much more aware of what constitutes good leadership. All of that will feed into my working life and make me a better boss and colleague."

Pathways in for new talent

Paid placements and skills training are key to ensuring the screen industries in the South West continue to thrive, but ScreenSkills’ work starts even before young people enter the industry, with information about the opportunities in screen and support for improving the quality of screen degrees, courses and apprenticeships.

ScreenSkills Select endorses and enhances screen courses that give students the best possible start to a career in the screen industries. In the South West, courses have been endorsed at Bournemouth University, Bridgwater & Taunton College, Cirencester College, Falmouth University, University of Gloucestershire, University of the West of England Bristol and Weston College.

FX artist Barbara Tucci is an alumna from a ScreenSkills Select course at Bournemouth University and found it the perfect stepping-stone into the industry. “I knew the university had a great reputation for animation and my lecturer pointed out that a lot of people in the British film industry who went to university attended Bournemouth,” she explains. “Plus, the fact it was a ScreenSkills Select course gave it even more credibility.”

To foster stronger connections between local employers and educators, ScreenSkills has established working groups across the UK. In early June, a meeting of the Bristol group stressed the need to demystify industry roles for young people, the shortages of production management staff and the need to secure a more diverse pipeline of local talent. The meeting was chaired by Kalpna Woolf, CEO of BeOnBoard, and attended by the BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol Film Office and Bottle Yard Studios, Aardman Animations, Channel 4, Axis Studios, Auroch Digital, Shunk Films and educators from UWE, Bristol, Boomsatsuma and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

ScreenSkills will also deliver employability sessions for universities and colleges in the South West. This includes a virtual panel on production roles for ScreenSkills Select students attending Cirencester College in Gloucestershire and set ready training for students from Bridgwater & Taunton College and Weston College in Somerset.

The careers team will also head to Cornwall for a one day, in-person set etiquette introduction for new entrants and transferrers in Truro, run in partnership with Screen Cornwall.


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