Critical crew shortages caused by the ongoing U.K. production boom can be alleviated by an industry-led investment approach, a study published by the British Film Institute (BFI) recommends.
Film and high-end television production spend in the U.K. reached over $7.65 billion in 2021 and is forecast to hit $9.3 billion by 2025. A skills review commissioned by the U.K. Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport and executed by the BFI found that the boom is leading to increasing crew shortages at all levels, which are beginning to negatively impact the industry and contribute to highly stressed workplaces. The consequent production budget rises are affecting the independent sector most acutely, the review found.
U.K. production will require up to 20,770 additional full-time employees by 2025, needing an overall training investment of over £104 million ($128 million) a year, a figure which is approximately 1.4% of the projected level of production spend that year.
To meet the eye-watering demand, the production sector needs to contribute at least 1% of all production budgets to train their existing and future workforce, the review concludes.
The 1% could include contributions to the ScreenSkills film and high-end TV skills funds; spend on initiatives, which productions run themselves or which they outsource to training providers and partners; and contributions to the government’s apprenticeship levy providing they are spent on crew skills and training.
“The problem is serious and does need to be industrialized and needs an industrialized solution,” Ben Roberts, CEO of the BFI, told a media briefing discussing the review.
“If we can get this right, as well as investing in our crew and capitalizing on the opportunity presented by our industry’s growth, we can accelerate creating a workforce that genuinely reflects our society. As we do that, we must also urgently address negative working practices and cultures, including the long hours routinely expected of crew,” Roberts added.
The review warns that if the production sector’s investment in skills and training doesn’t adequately increase to meet the challenges, it’s “recommended that U.K. government explore requirements to mandate investment in skills development and training that are linked to production spend.”
Neil Peplow, BFI director of industry and international affairs, said: “There is a genuine collegiate understanding across industry, that the only way we’re going to solve this is if we do it together. And so this is a chance for us off the back of this review to bring those people into that group to develop with industry, because then they’ll take ownership of it, the processes and the mechanisms needed to create a structure around how we address all of those recommendations moving forward. And then also a way of us being able to ensure that that quantum of at least 1% is reached.”
The key findings and recommendations include an industry-led and localized approach to investment in training; a more formalized approach to hiring, workplace management and professional development; stronger bridges into industry from education and other sectors; more comprehensive careers information, profiles and pathways; and better data to support policy and action.
“The complex, interconnected nature of the issues and solutions means that to solve the skills shortages we — as an industry — need to address all the review’s key recommendations simultaneously,” Peplow said. “For instance, current retention issues and lack of diversity in our crews mean there’s no point recruiting more new entrants unless we are addressing the workplace practices and culture. There’s no point sending people on training courses unless we are giving them enough time and experience in their roles. This isn’t a menu of choices; it’s a blueprint for success.”
To kick start delivery against the key findings, the BFI is launching four programs, including mapping crew and forecasting shortage; creating job descriptions; careers advice and guidance; and workforce diversity monitoring.
Meanwhile, the review has been welcomed across the U.K. industry, earning praise from the likes of BBC director general Tim Davie; ITV CEO Carolyn McCall; Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon; Kevin Trehy, executive VP, physical production at Warner Bros. Discovery; Alison Small, manager, Grow Creative U.K. for Netflix; Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title Films; Elizabeth Karlsen, co-founder of Number 9 Films; “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight; Max Rumney, deputy CEO of screen sector trade body Pact; Seetha Kumar, CEO ScreenSkills; Paul Evans, research officer at creative industries union Bectu; Peter Bazalgette, co-chair, Creative Industries Council; Adrian Wootton, chief executive of British Film Commission; and Alex Pumfrey, CEO of Film and TV Charity.
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