Spotlight: ScreenSkills support in Wales

Doctor Who © BBC Studios

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 Wales.

Much of our training has been delivered online since the beginning of the pandemic, although face-to-face training will return where appropriate and when possible. We remain committed to helping professionals at all career stages with support including bursaries, mentoring partnerships, paid placements on productions and more.  

Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills CEO, said: “We are proud to support the screen industries in Wales, including through collaborations with key partners tailored to the needs of the area. We remain grateful to all the productions that contribute to our skills funds and make this work possible, and also to the BFI, who award us National Lottery funds to deliver its Future Film Skills strategy.”

Productions, placements and partnerships

Wales has been the backdrop for numerous productions in recent years, creating many paid on-the-job training opportunities for talent. With ScreenSkills’ support, both new entrants and established professionals have been able to develop their skills and build experience on Welsh productions via training programmes such as Trainee Finder and Make a Move

A number of multi-season high-end TV dramas such as Sex Education and Doctor Who have benefited from ScreenSkills’ trainees, as did feature films including The Eternal Daughter, Six Minutes to Midnight and Eternal Beauty.

Cardiff is also the home of animation production companies such as Bumpybox Animation (Kensuke’s Kingdom), Cloth Cat Animation (The Rubbish World of Dave Spud) and Calon (Sali Mali) who are partners in our work, as is children’s content producer Boom Cymru (Meet The Experts, Y Gyfrinach). The new ScreenSkills Unscripted TV Skills Fund has just begun outreach to Welsh partners and held a recent online Q&A event about the fund’s amibitions for supporting talent and its particular focus on the nations as well as English regions.

Cardiff-based Adam Knopf is one of the professionals who was able to take advantage of opportunities that arose as more drama production moved to Wales and progressed from production manager to line producer thanks to ScreenSkills’ Make a Move programme. “I owe my career to the scheme,” he said.

ScreenSkills also helped art department assistant Kayleigh Miller get a foot in the door. As a student at the University of South Wales, she learned about the Trainee Finder paid placement programme at a ScreenSkills Open Doors event and decided to apply. “Trainee Finder has given me a lot more confidence to put myself out there,” Kayleigh said. “I have received a lot of support and truly enjoy how different each job is.”

ScreenSkills, alongside Creative Wales, also funds Sgil Cymru’s Stepping Up programme to offer more help to Welsh professionals who are looking to move up in high-end TV. Stepping Up continues to grow in Wales. Despite a global pandemic, 2020 saw Stepping Up give bespoke opportunities to numerous participants, including an electrician transferring from the cruise and live theatre sector and a rushes and factual production driver/runner who moved up to being floor runner on high-end TV projects. Two independent HETV producers also were accepted onto the Indielab TV Accelerator 2021.

Sue Jeffries, Managing Director of Sgil Cymru, said: “The bespoke nature of Stepping Up means that Sgil Cymru can provide the exact type of training or experience required by any individual to take the next step in their careers. That is why this scheme is seen as essential to the high-end TV sector in Wales.”

Bursaries and mentoring support

Sometimes small interventions are all that is needed to help individuals take great strides in their careers. Hywel Roberts had years of experience as an animator, but really wanted to improve his storyboarding skills. He found a course that he was keen to do but was unable to afford it. Thanks to a ScreenSkills bursary, which covered 80% of the fee, he was able to do the course and has since “had a much more solid grasp of perspective and could apply it to my work as a storyboard artist.”

For Swansea-based animator Jamie Wilson, a mentor he met via the ScreenSkills Mentoring Programme gave him the support he needed to secure his first job. “I must have applied for 200 jobs, and although I went for a few interviews, I couldn’t catch a break,” Jamie said. “So instead, I did some freelancing work and built up my own portfolio.” With the support from his mentor, animator Dani Abram, he learned to tailor his portfolio to the different studios he was interested in and he gained enough confidence to start networking.

To enable as wide a range of screen professionals in Wales as possible to benefit from mentoring support, ScreenSkills also works in partnership with Welsh organisations, such as Bectu Cymru to run Mentoring 4 Screen in 2020 and open for recruitment again at the moment. .

Pathways in for new talent

Paid placements and skills training are key to ensuring the screen industries in Wales 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.

The ScreenSkills team has participated in many events for those with an interest in the screen industries. These have taken place virtually during the pandemic – such as a Digital Cities event in Cardiff, the Cardiff Animation Festival and employability sessions for students from the University of South Wales.

A host of online resources have been created to help people discover what the industries have to offer. The bilingual discovercreative.careers website, created by ScreenSkills as part of the Creative Careers Programme partnership, brings together careers information and opportunities from creative organisations in one explorable directory and our career map in Welsh breaks down the process of creating a film.

ScreenSkills also endorses and enhances screen courses that give students the best possible start to a career in the screen industries. The University of South Wales, offering a number of screen-related courses, is among institutions endorsed by ScreenSkills Select. All ScreenSkills Select courses have are certified by the screen industry to be the highest level of quality and industry relevance. By bridging the gap between education and production, it’s easier for employers to recruit the talent it needs to make the high-quality film, TV and animation enjoyed in the UK and internationally.

ScreenSkills has also worked with leading employers, training providers, regulatory and professional bodies in Wales to update the Welsh apprenticeship framework and has supported Sgil Cymru’s shared apprenticeships scheme.


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