BFI launches new screen industry skills review for UK pipelines

Industry News  |  28 June 2021

The UK-wide review in close collaboration with industry aims to tackle the barriers for future growth and competitiveness for emerging and current skills in production & virtual production of HETV and film.


The BFI is undertaking a major strategic skills review on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The review will be conducted in close collaboration with the industry-led skills body ScreenSkills, national and regional screen agencies, trade bodies, unions and leading industry figures. 

The UK Skills Review is aimed at sharing current best practice and knowledge in order to develop long-term solutions to tackle the current and emerging skills needs of the screen industries. Working together with stakeholders across the UK, the review will set the direction of travel for future growth to ensure that the sector continues to be world-leading. The focus of the review is film and high-end television (HETV) production, reflecting the commonality of job roles, whilst also taking into consideration the skills needs of emerging technology such as virtual production.

The UK is recognised around the world for its skilled workforce and state of the art facilities. With production booming, the need to increase the number of skilled practitioners is greater than ever. 

Progress still needs to be made in improving inclusion of people from underrepresented groups, where more work is required to enable greater access to training and employment opportunities. There is also a need to address the imbalance between the regions and nations of the UK, to build a localised workforce to ensure that burgeoning areas of production outside London and the South East of England continue to thrive.

The UK Skills Review will build on existing research around the sector’s needs and deficits, including studies conducted by ScreenSkills and other industry organisations. It will identify key issues and current interventions, and propose new approaches where appropriate. The scope of the review sits across the entire talent development pipeline, from secondary education, further and higher education through to vocational training, apprenticeships and continuing professional development.

This review follows on from the BFI’s existing Future Film Skills Strategy which launched in 2017 and called for 10,000 new entrants to join the industry by 2021, with a focus on encouraging people from a diverse range of backgrounds and those with transferable skills, to consider a career in film and TV production. This new UK Skills Review will build on the Future Film Skills Strategy and lay out proposals and policy recommendations, some of which will be trialled through pilots in 2022-23. The review as a whole will also feed into the development of the BFI’s long term funding strategy.

“Future-proofing the industry’s skills is one of our key strategic priorities. This review will help us to stay ahead of the immediate and long term demands of our rapidly evolving sector. It will also help us to meet our vision of ensuring people from all backgrounds and wherever they live, have the opportunity to access jobs in film and television production across the whole of the UK.”

Ben Roberts, BFI CEO. 

“The talent in the UK’s screen sector is recognised around the world. It is vital that we protect the skills we already have and encourage growth in new and emerging areas to help our outstanding industries build back better. The BFI’s UK Skill Review has an important role to play and I’m delighted to be working with colleagues from the devolved administrations to capture a snapshot of screen skills across the country.”

Caroline Dinenage, Creative Industries Minister.

“The highly skilled freelance workforce is at the heart of the UK’s international success in film and television. We work hand-in-hand with our industry-led skills councils to sustain and strengthen that global reputation by delivering practical training across the whole of the country. We look forward to partnering with the BFI and colleagues to share this on-the-ground understanding of skills needs and ensure the UK has the right people in the right jobs to support continued growth.”

Seetha Kumar, CEO of ScreenSkills.

Writer-director Steven Knight CBE said: “This exciting BFI initiative could not be more timely. The need for skilled crew and technicians in the content making industry is now urgent. If the UK is to maintain its reputation as the home to the world’s best film and TV makers, we must start augmenting our skilled workforce with an equally skilled new intake representing people from every background. At Mercian International, we are deeply committed to educating and training people from our own area in the West Midlands in order to enhance our own homegrown crew base. Only if we pull together will the UK continue to match demand with supply as our industry rapidly and exponentially expands. All hands to the pump.”

John McVay OBE, Chief Executive of Pact, said: “This review is happening at a critical moment for the UK AV sector as it faces an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers. Pact has been concerned for some time that this will inflate wages and ultimately damage both domestic and inward investment production.” 

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: “I wholeheartedly support this important review of skills led by the BFI. Globally, the film and TV sector is experiencing phenomenal growth, with demand at a record high. The British Film Commission is working to ensure the UK continues to offer enough stage space and facilities to harness our share of that growth. But we urgently need more people with the right skills to match the growing range of opportunities available, right across the country. This review is not just timely, it’s essential to keep the UK at the forefront of global film and TV production for years to come. I look forward to working with the BFI, contributing the inward investment perspective to the review. ”

Isabel Davis, Screen Scotland’s Executive Director, said: “There is no greater priority right now than growing the film and TV skills base so this is very welcome news. Screen Scotland looks forward to working with the BFI, and in concert with our skills strategy, to create the conditions for a flourishing and internationally competitive skills base across the UK.”

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “Skills development remains key to the growth of the Northern Ireland screen industry. As production levels continue to increase we need to nurture the next generation of talent or producers may struggle to secure the crew and craftspeople they need for their projects. We also need to facilitate clear pathways both into and through the ranks of the industry. Obstacles to entry can be especially daunting for women, ethnic minorities, those with a disability and the less financially advantaged. These issues must be addressed so that we can remain competitive and continue on our growth trajectory.”

Pauline Burt, Chief Executive of Ffilm Cymru Wales, said: “This review presents a fantastic opportunity to purposefully prioritise the screen sector’s wellbeing, building for a fair, inclusive and green future. It’s vital these values are at the heart of ‘levelling up’ and we welcome the collaborative approach.”

Sally Joynson, Chief Executive of Screen Yorkshire, said: “Screen Yorkshire welcomes this UK-wide review, which will build on the work our organisation is already doing in Yorkshire & the Humber to address regional skills gaps and improve diversity through a tailored suite of training programmes. As one of the fastest-growing film and TV hubs outside of London, Yorkshire’s screen industries have never been busier and building a highly-skilled local workforce is one of our top priorities. We look forward to working with partners across the UK on this important and complex industry issue.”

Ed Shedd, Chair of Create Central, said: “Identifying the skills the industry needs and putting in place the training and development opportunities to generate new diverse entrants who can see a clear career pathway is vital for the lifeblood of the sector. We need to show young people thinking about their careers, and those with transferable skills who are thinking about making a change, that there is a place for them in the world of TV and Film.”

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