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Indie production and children’s drama risk being “priced out of the market”


ScreenSkills is warning that a skills shortage coinciding with a filming boom in the UK could mean certain productions are priced out of the market.

New research found that crews across the UK were now prioritising long-running, well-paid work in high-end television and film.

That means that independent features, children’s drama and low-budget productions risk not being able to afford available crews.

The paper, Scripted production: assessment of skills shortages and gaps in the UK nations and regions, was delivered as part of the BFI Future Film Skills programme, supported by National Lottery funding.

It investigated skills shortages and gaps in film, high-end TV (HETV) and children’s TV production in the UK nations and English regions.

Whereas many crew outside of London and South East previously worked across genres, they now move less often between scripted sectors.

The research found increased production in hubs is not yet supporting the sustainable development of local crew. Barriers to a career in scripted production remain, despite optimism for improving inclusion.

There was, however, a desire for joined-up, strategic mid- to long-term action to address crew shortages and skills gaps despite the immediate needs.

“We began this research to make sure we better understood any geographical differences in skills needs that needed to be addressed, but have established that – with some notable exceptions – shortages and gaps are largely remarkably similar across the nations and English regions, including the historic heart of production in London and the South East,” said Seetha Kumar, CEO of ScreenSkills.

“Those who took part in the research made clear the desire for a joined-up mid-to long-term strategy to building a skills pipeline. Industry leadership via ScreenSkills has unified the approach to skills and skills planning, and skills councils and working groups across the UK work to ensure regional and nations’ skills are being invested and supported. 

“Industry is good at contributing to the ScreenSkills Skills Funds and giving generously of their time and expertise, but demand is outstripping funding. So we shall be raising with government how additional resources for skills and training – delivered with the economies of scale we can offer – could ensure the potential for growth is realised across the whole of the UK.”

The paper found:

  • A need to develop and retain people to senior and above-the-line levels alongside heads of department (HoDs) and crew to create sustainable out-of-London hubs
  • Local workforce lacked Black, Asian, minority ethnic or disabled crew and/or those from a low socio-economic background
  • The need for more industry-led training to help attain consistent standards among crew as they enter the industry and progress
  • The high volume of people stepping up early to meet demand has created an abnormally noticeable breadth of skills gaps.

The narrowing of roles seen on bigger budget shows, where individual crew members may only experience one aspect of the job, was also seen to be fuelling some skills gaps.

However, this wasn’t always becoming apparent until a crew member moved to a low budget film or children’s drama where crews are smaller and a greater breadth of ability and understanding in a role is needed.

“We welcome this research, the findings from which chime with the recommendations set out on the BFI Skills Review, particularly the need for a more cohesive, industry-led approach to investment in training,” added Neil Peplow, BFI’s Director of Industry & International Affairs.

“Our recently published National Lottery Funding Strategy seeks to address some of the gaps in identified in this research and the Skills Review, by investing in the regions and nations, in order to improve access to opportunities into the industry and support the sustainability of production hubs across the whole of the UK.”


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