BFI Skills Review published for film and high-end television

Current growth in production will require up to 20,770 additional full-time employees by 2025 needing an overall training investment of over £104 million a year.

In production shot

Today we publish our Skills Review, examining the needs for training and skills development across the production sector for scripted film and high-end television. In the face of increasing pressure on the industry the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) tasked the BFI to undertake a comprehensive Skills Review, and welcomes the findings and recommendations published today. 

In terms of size and scale, the UK production sector is unrecognisable from even five years ago; with production spend reaching record levels in 2021 at £5.64 billion, rising 63% (£2.19 billion) since 2017. The Review evidences that this is leading to increasing – and often critical – crew shortages at all levels, which are beginning to negatively impact the industry and contributing to highly-stressed workplaces. While being felt across the board, the consequent production budget rises are affecting the independent sector most acutely. 

This report has dug into one of the most critical challenges facing the production sector and puts us, with government and industry, on a roadmap to address a range of fundamental issues that sit at the core. I could use various clichés – we’re a victim of our own success, being busy is a nice problem to have – which are partially true, but not addressing these issues effectively risks the sector’s continued growth and its significant contribution to the UK economy. The Review also gives us the evidence to support a workplace reset, which is long overdue. If we can get this right, as well as investing in our crew and capitalising 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.  As we drive forward a plan to address these recommendations with government, a priority will also be to ensure our dynamic and culturally vital independent sector can afford to operate and be viable. Part of what makes the UK one of the world’s best production centres is the vibrant ecosystem of international investment in large-scale production which is interconnected with an indigenous industry that nurtures our creative talent enabling the UK as a whole to punch above its weight globally. It is essential to protect both.Ben Roberts, BFI chief executive
With our film and TV industries booming like never before, it is critical that industry invests in developing the necessary skills among their workforce to continue to thrive. I strongly welcome the BFI's Skills Review and look forward to discussing the issue further with industry and seeing how they engage with its findings.Julia Lopez, creative industries minister

The rapid growth and workforce retention issues across the sector have led to a shortage of skilled crew, reportedly contributing to highly pressurised workplaces. If not addressed, this could ultimately threaten the quality of the work, potentially damaging the UK’s reputation as home to one of the most highly skilled and sought after crews in the world. The Review notes crew shortages at all levels is especially threatening the UK’s independent film sector, which is struggling to compete for crew as well as putting additional pressure on already very stretched budgets. 

Therefore, there is an urgent need for increased investment as well as increased industry involvement in the approach to skills and training. The Review highlights a number of positive examples of work funded and driven by industry, including ongoing pilots to help unlock funding for training via the government’s Apprenticeship Levy. However, the scale needs to increase dramatically, and based on the evidence gathered, the Review concludes that the production sector needs to contribute at least 1% of all production budgets to train their existing and future workforce. This would bring it in line with levels of investment in training made by other industries, such as construction. 

The UK’s huge success as a global production centre, alongside current studio developments set to increase its capacity to host more, puts a significant strain on the workforce. Yet, it also presents an opportunity for job creation, one which can benefit the whole of the UK. Research recently published by ScreenSkills and funded by the BFI through the Future Film Skills programme, predicts that continued forecasted growth will require a further 15,130 to 20,770 full-time employees by 2025, estimated to require an overall training investment of over £104 million a year; a figure which is approximately 1.4% of the projected level of production spending in 2025. 

The DCMS and BFI will urgently bring together and work with key stakeholders to develop an on-going industry-led response to the recommendations, including an agreed approach for co-ordinating, supporting and monitoring skills and training investment going forward. 

The 1% of production spend invested in training could include contributions to the ScreenSkills Film and HETV Skills Funds, spend on initiatives production’s run themselves or which they outsource to training providers and partners, as well as contributions to the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy providing they are spent on crew skills and training. Further detail of how the DCMS will define and monitor industry’s investment in training is a role of the industry and stakeholder group DCMS and BFI are convening.

In tandem with the BFI taking a lead in working with industry to navigate the recommendations, it will also immediately invest National Lottery funding in four programmes (detailed below) to run this year. It will also use the Review’s findings and recommendations to inform the skills interventions it will set out in its 10-year National Lottery funding strategy, which is currently being developed to be in place from April 2023. The Review finds National Lottery funding alone is not able to meet the scale of the investment required. However, when combined with commercial investment, National Lottery Good Cause funding can be focused on areas of market failure, such as redressing inequality of access to the industry. 

Should industry investment not sufficiently increase, it is recommended the UK government explore mandating investment in skills development and training, linked to production spend.

Collectively, we haven’t been able to ensure the skills pipeline has kept pace with the unprecedented growth of the industry, so it’s important we work together to set a new approach to skills and training. Tackling the gap and meeting predicted growth is a challenge, but all recommendations published today involve more strategic collaboration with industry that we wholeheartedly welcome – as well as their financial and resource investment, we need to capitalise on their on-the-ground insight and wealth of experience and expertise. 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. 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.Neil Peplow, BFI’s director of industry and international affairs

Key findings 

Alongside calling for industry to invest at least 1% of all production budgets in training, key findings and recommendations in the Review are: 

  • An industry-led and localised approach to investment in training. The current – and predicted – size and scale of the UK production sector requires a new approach. As well as a significant increase in financial investment industry collaboration and ownership of crew development – at all career stages – is needed to get the right people at the right time. While it is right that this activity is driven by industry, this requires input and engagement from all stakeholders interested in developing a skilled workforce and appropriate coordination to ensure their voices are heard. As the geographic footprint of film and HETV production continues to expand, regional partnerships will be key to ensuring that investment responds to local shortages and used to grow the workforce across the whole of the UK.
  • A more formalised approach to hiring, workplace management and professional development. Production jobs are rarely widely advertised and recruitment can be reliant upon word-of-mouth. These practices are often the result of insufficient time between commission and production to allow for an open recruitment process, and can present a barrier to people entering the industry, negatively impact the diversity of the workforce and hinder progression for those already in it. The current workforce shortages are leading to some people being promoted without the necessary support, training and experience. Productions need to support freelance crew in managing their professional development and introduce formal feedback and appraisal mechanisms. Increased on-set pressures are exacerbating issues of bullying and harassment that urgently need to be addressed. In the short term, the adoption of flexible ways of working, such as job sharing, could help improve inclusivity, increase the talent pool, and help retain skilled crew. More broadly, this is a timely moment for the sector to consider the impact that late commissioning, long hours, and working practices have on workforce development and retention. 
  • Stronger bridges into industry from education and other sectors. A mismatch between industry needs and education persists, resulting in new entrants who are not readily equipped for a career in production. Industry needs to better utilise and build on existing models for trainee schemes, work placements and apprenticeships that can provide entrants with the on-set experience and contextualised knowledge needed to sustain and progress their careers. This requires employers to invest time in forging closer working relationships with education and training providers (helping to inform curricula and identify placement opportunities), as well as paying for trainee and apprenticeship wages, and increasing access to employer-led opportunities for students. 
  • More comprehensive careers information, profiles and pathways. There is a lack of awareness of the breadth of job roles in the screen industry, and progression pathways can be unclear. The sector needs to continue to support efforts to improve careers advice across schools and in higher and further education. Career-changers from other sectors and new entrants would also benefit from clear, comprehensive information to aid their career choices into production. The development of job descriptions, linked to clear promotion pathways, can help improve people’s understanding of the possible careers in film and HETV production, and clarify what training is needed to progress. With strategic and well-publicised deployment, such assets could also help to inform and signpost bridges into the industry in the long-term.
  • Better data to support policy and action. Currently there is little reliable data on the number of film and TV workers in different roles and grades, and a lack of robust forecasting on the demand for production crew. In the long term, better targeted data collection can provide a clearer picture of the shape and size of the workforce, plus a greater understanding of representation within the production sector, providing a stronger evidence base upon which to identify opportunities and effectively deploy private and public sector investment. More granular regional data would better support a localised approach to crew development, helping to identify and prioritise training needs in a way that is relevant to the local landscape as well as the bigger UK-wide picture.

BFI National Lottery funded 2022 programmes 

To kick start delivery against the key findings, the BFI will launch four programmes, focusing on building a more representative workforce and forecasting to enable more strategic distribution of future funding. 

  • Mapping crew and forecasting shortage: Trial a service to capture and quantify the availability and demand for film and HETV production crew at different roles and levels of seniority. Improved data could help studios and production companies plan and manage their workforce, unlock and focus public and private investment, and inform local and national policymaking.
  • Creating job descriptions: Working with industry to develop job description templates containing detailed information on the responsibilities and competencies needed in different roles. These templates can then be adopted by productions and adapted when recruiting and at the contract stage.
  • Careers advice and guidance: Underpinned by new research commissioned by the BFI, work to help close gaps in – and extend the reach of – careers advice about the screen industry and better extend its reach. Providing better resources and information to careers advisors so they are able to direct students to range of opportunities in the screen production sector. 
  • Workforce diversity monitoring: Fund assessment on how to improve data collection of the workforces’ protected characteristics in order to help focus interventions to address under-representation and assess their impact
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