The British Film Institute has joined forces with a raft of film industry leaders, including Eon Productions and Lucasfilm, to launch a new venture geared towards attracting new entrants into the UK film sector whilst also equipping them with the skills needed for the country’s booming business. The new plan, called Future Film Skills – An Action Plan, has already earmarked £20 million ($25.5 million) of national lottery investment to kickstart proceedings.
Speaking at the House of Commons this evening, UK Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, Lucasfilm’s Kathy Kennedy, BFI Chair Josh Berger and BFI CEO Amanda Nevill unveiled the ambitious venture, calling upon the film business and education sector to support it. They want, they said, to encourage people with transferable skills and young people – especially those from under-represented groups -, to join the country’s booming film, high-end TV, animation, VR and interactive media business.
“We live in a diverse society and it is vital both culturally and commercially that our industry reflects this in front of and behind the camera,” said Broccoli, who is also chair of the UK Film Skills Task Force. “With industry, education and government uniting behind this new Films Skills Strategy and 10-Point Action Plan, we know we will be able to increase the number of people working in film and ensure we have a representative workforce.”
According to the BFI, the UK film biz is worth £4.3 billion to the economy and is the UK’s fasted growing sector. Indeed, Hollywood has largely taken advantage of the country’s strong workforce and generous tax credit in recent years with major productions such as Star Wars: Rogue One, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Cinderella and Guardians of the Galaxy all shooting in the country.
That said, the UK film biz currently employs 66,000 people, more than 70% of whom are employed in film and video production. VFX and animation sectors have seen rapid growth and, according to new BFI research, the industry will need 10,000 new entrants to join the workforce in the next five years to cope with the demand. Major gaps in the sector include areas such as production department, art department, construction, electrical and costume to name a few.
“We are on the cusp of a huge opportunity to bring thousands more into this dynamic industry where there is a genuine need for more skilled workers – from hairdressers to accountants, software developers to model makers,” said Nevill. “They also need to learn and develop their skills from the best, so we call upon everyone in the industry to help us make this a reality. This is not a ‘nice to have’ but an ‘urgent must’ if we are to achieve the growth potential for UK films that is in front of us.”
Lucasfilm has already been a key player in supporting this strategy: the company recently pioneered a pilot program with the BFI by placing 28 paid trainees to work in various craft and technical roles across the Untitled Han Solo Project currently in production at Pinewood Studios. On this program, 75% of the trainees were women, 45% came from BAME backgrounds and 68% were recruited from outside of London.
“This initiative is meaningful for both Lucasfilm and the film industry at large,” said Kennedy. “Diversity is just as important behind the scenes as it is on the screen. More points of view, more perspectives and more voices will only make films better.”
Future Film Skills has been developed as a result of a wide industry consultation led by the BFI with the Film Skills Industry Task Force, chaired by Broccoli, Nevill, Creative Skillset CEO Seetha Kumar, Chair of the Film Skills Council Iain Smith, Double Negative MD Alex Hope, BFI Film Fund Director Ben Roberts, producers Marc Samuelson, Fiona McGuire, Callum McDougall, Faiza Hosenie and Damian Jones.
Its 10-point action plan will aim to demystify getting into the film industry for young people; provide bursaries and support service to enable people from all backgrounds to enter the business; open doors for those with appropriate skills; as well as set up specific schemes to encourage industry practitioners to share their knowledge and expertise.