The BFI has launched a £20m plan to tackle skills shortages in the British film industry.

The ten point Future Film Skills – An Action Plan was launched in the House of Commons last night by Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, BFI Chair Josh Berger and BFI CEO Amanda Nevill.

It was launched alongside a BFI commissioned report from The Work Foundation which revealed that 10,000 new entrants are needed in the next five years to plug skills gaps across the UK film industry.

It identified widespread skills shortages across nearly 40 occupations in film, in key departments such as production, construction, electrical, camera, art department and VFX.

This comes amid a boom in film production in the UK. According to the BFI, the UK film industry is flourishing: it is worth £4.3bn to the economy and is the UK’s fastest growing economic sector. 56 productions started filming in the first three months of this year.

However, The Work Foundation report said that the biggest challenge facing the UK film industry in its bid to skill up is a lack of inclusion. New entrants face significant obstacles in gaining entry to the industry, with many unaware of the range opportunities that are available.

A culture of unpaid work experience and nepotism, where hiring is largely done by word of mouth, means that the barriers to entry are high, and even more so for diverse groups.

Heather Carey from the Work Foundation said there is “a pandemic lack of inclusion in the industry”. She added that it is “an economic imperative that the industry draws in more diverse talent.”

The report shows that the film workforce comprises 12% from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, 5% with a disability and that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups represent just 3% of the production and post-production workforce. Women make up 40% of the workforce and earn on average £3,000 less than male counterparts.

Karen Bradley, Culture Secretary said: "The UK film industry is one of our biggest success stories and the films made here are loved by audiences around the world. For this to continue we need to nurture and foster the next generation of talent – both in front of, and behind the camera. The 10 point skills plan being launched today will be instrumental in helping to deliver this, as well as making sure that the films in the UK are truly representative of the UK’s diverse society."

The skills strategy is supported by Lucasfilm which has pioneered a pilot programme with the BFI placing 28 trainees – the majority of which are alumni of the BFI Film Academy – as paid trainees, working in various craft and technical roles across the Untitled Han Solo Project, currently in production at Pinewood Studios. 75% of the trainees are women, 45% come from BAME backgrounds, 68% were recruited outside Greater London, and 36% received free school meals.

The ten point action plan sees the BFI offer the following pledges:

1. A trusted and reliable careers information service
A single, trusted online destination for anybody seeking information to start or progress a career in the industry.  Offering links, networks and information for training and jobs in film throughout the UK, building on and linking to sites such as Into Film, HIIVE and BAFTA Guru.

2. An accreditation system to guarantee employer confidence
Developed by the industry for the industry, in partnership with higher education, to win the confidence of parents, learners and employers, this will build on the achievements of existing work and will involve industry and employers in setting up the scheme.

3. A suite of new Apprenticeship Standards
We will complete and deliver a new Apprenticeship Standard which will be applied to courses for a range of job roles throughout the industry including production, distribution and exhibition.

4. A Skills Forecasting  Service
A responsive skills forecasting and planning service to respond to industry needs, and to ensure the regular supply of data across the sector on future skills opportunities.

5. Embed the BFI Film Academy into the skills pipeline
We will develop the success of the BFI Film Academy to work closely with industry, placing set-ready alumni as trainees on film productions across the UK.

6. A mentoring service to break down barriers for new entrants and returnees
A new personal mentoring programme that offers bespoke support for individuals wanting to enter or progress in the film industry, and those returning after a career break. Including mentoring, pastoral care, coaching and opportunities to network, and awareness of specific job opportunities.

 7. World-class Centres of Excellence for screen-related craft and technical skills
Working with higher education and the new Institute of Technology we will partner to create a small number of world class Centres of Excellence for screen-related craft and technical skills.

8. A new bursary programme to ensure wide participation
A new bursary programme designed to support individuals taking their first steps, and removing some of the practical obstacles to those currently under-represented in the industry.

9. Professional development courses to maintain world-class skills

A new range of professional development courses, aligned with the latest technology and business skills will ensure our workforce maintains world-class skills.

10.  Mobilise the industry

We will encourage the industry to support the future workforce through a number of schemes and campaigns including creating a database to match individuals with local needs, and which recognises enlightened employers who encourage skills transfer.

Tim Dams

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