ScreenSkills is launching a new programme designed to help experienced Black, Asian or minority ethnic film professionals push on to the next stage in their career.

Film Forward will match film professionals who have at least five years’ experience in a variety of below-the-line roles with paid opportunities which will also include professional coaching.

The programme will be delivered by ScreenSkills, supported by the BFI with National Lottery funds as part of its Future Film Skills strategy.

The aim is for the successful candidates to gain practical experience in their chosen department working alongside a more senior colleague so they have direct experience of the demands and challenges of the senior role and can apply with greater confidence for future positions at that   level.

Participating productions will receive support including a subsidy towards a placement allowance for the Film Forward candidate. The programme is intended to extend the network of talent known to those with hiring responsibilities on the production.

Discussions are already under way with productions keen to take part in the match-making process.  ScreenSkills is seeking additional opportunities from upcoming productions who are keen to commit to the principles of the initiative and extend the network of industry professionals they work with.

Gareth Ellis-Unwin, ScreenSkills’ Head of Film and Animation, said: “The initiative has been designed to unblock some barriers to mid-career progression for professionals currently under-represented in it. We want Film Forward to champion the careers of those who in turn can support further positive change.

“We understand there are often time and budgetary pressures on productions that may lead them to stick with hiring the people they know. So, in direct response to requests from industry, we will make it easier for them to extend their networks to a greater diversity of talent.”

Amma Asante, director, screenwriter and ScreenSkills patron, said: “It’s so important that our industry provides the opportunity for professionals from diverse, Black, Asian and all ethnic minority backgrounds to progress into more senior roles and change the industry from within. I hope that productions will use Film Forward to provide experience to those they don’t yet know, creating a pathway for them to be hired for a more senior job next time. Everyone wins.”

Akua Gyamfi, founder, The British Blacklist, said: “We welcome Film Forward as a practical way of supporting Black screen professionals and would encourage productions to use this opportunity to find and develop more of the great talent we know is out there.”

Producer Liz Trubridge, whose last film was Downton Abbey, has committed to working with ScreenSkills on her next movie. “We really welcome this practical support to extend the network of people we know and work with and hope to be able to match a Film Forward candidate with experience that will make a real difference to their career.”

Leigh Adams, Director of Education and Skills at the BFI, said: “Film Forward provides a fantastic opportunity for productions to meet and support talented professionals from under-represented ethnic groups. It is part of a range of activity supported by the BFI that aims to embed inclusive recruitment practices across the industry, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to develop their skills at the highest level and progress in their career.”

The intention is for Film Forward to run annually with the number of people from different under-represented groups increased with each intake.

It will launch with up to six individuals matched with productions crewing up in early 2021. Writers and roles in development will not be included in the launch recruitment round.

Jon Creamer