BFI awards £9.6m to support screen production, workforce development & training

Apr 20, 2023

The BFI announces £9.6m of National Lottery funding over three years to support skills development and training across the UK.

As the sector faces acute skills shortages, National Lottery funding responds directly to recommendations in the BFI Skills Review and two leading priorities revealed through extensive public and industry consultation: to make the sector more accessible and representative; and build a skilled workforce across the UK.

The funding focusses on establishing localised support for skills development and training, with a clear aim to create new opportunities for people from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in the sector. It will complement the work of the industry-led response to the BFI Skills Review, through the recently announced Skills Task Force, as well as industry interventions, including from organisations such as ScreenSkills, which are crucial to addressing the skills shortage.

Harriet Finney, Deputy CEO of the BFI, said, “We seek to effect positive change across the screen sector through our National Lottery funding, but also by evidence-led policy – such as the BFI Skills Review – and working closely with industry and government. Evidence gathered and analysis conducted through the Review concluded that radical change is needed to address current skills shortages and to retain and train those already working in the sector. It identified the need for industry investment, and we welcome the industry’s response in committing to the Skills Task Force. However, we believe BFI National Lottery good cause funding also has a vital role to play, particularly in redressing inequality of access to training, work place opportunities, and career-long support.”

BFI Skills Clusters will enable lead organisations to work collaboratively with local industry, education and training providers, and support the shared ambitions of UK-wide organisations such as ScreenSkills, to develop clearer pathways to long-term employment in film and TV production. Through the Skills Clusters, locally-based partners will identify skills shortages and gaps and coordinate skills and training opportunities for below-the-line production crew in their area. Skills Clusters aim to build local skills bases by helping people across the UK, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, find viable routes into the screen industry and effective career development support.

Six BFI Skills Clusters have been awarded a total of £8.1m over three years and will be led by organisations covering the following areas:

  • Screen Yorkshire (North of England): £2.3m
  • Film London (London, Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Buckinghamshire): £2.2m
  • Creative Scotland (Scotland): £1.1m
  • Create Central (West Midlands): £1m
  • Northern Ireland Screen (Northern Ireland): £0.9m
  • Resource Productions (Berkshire): £0.6m

Partnership working, and leveraging additional local funding and support, will maximise the impact of National Lottery funding. Organisations already committed to support BFI Skills Clusters include the National Film & Television School, working closely with Film London; the Liverpool Film Office, North East Screen, and Screen Manchester partnering with Screen Yorkshire; and the University of Reading and Shinfield Studios working with Resource Productions. Across the three years, the programme expects to pull over £6m direct match funding into skills and training activity across the UK, including from commercial partnerships and local public funding.

BFI Skills Clusters investment aims to strike a balance between building on existing production infrastructure to provide new entrant and development opportunities in the most established areas of activity, while also helping to grow local crew bases in more emergent areas. In terms of UK-wide spread, approximately two-thirds of funding has been allocated across the North of England, Scotland, the West Midlands and Northern Ireland. The remaining third is allocated in London and the South East where the majority of production activity is currently based; over the last five years, 58% of film productions have used locations in London and the South East, and these films accounted for 70% of the film production spend in the UK.1

The BFI expects to make further announcements on Skills Clusters funding in Wales, in keeping with the fund’s stated ambition to establish at least one cluster in each nation of the UK.  The BFI also expects to fund further Skills Clusters in emerging production hubs in the UK over the course of its 10-year National Lottery strategy, running to 2033.

In addition to Skills Clusters, the BFI National Lottery Skills Fund aims to break down financial and geographical barriers that prevent people from undertaking vital training. From the £5.7m fund, £1.5m of BFI National Lottery funding has been delegated to ScreenSkills for a Skills Bursary Fund, providing direct financial support to help new entrants and those already working ‘behind the camera’ in the screen industry to access new training, skills and professional development opportunities. This will build on work previously delivered by ScreenSkills, and complement bursary support from the industry Skills Councils, to ensure an even greater diversity of talent is supported to progress into and through a career in screen.

Further skills funding from the BFI National Lottery Skills Fund will be awarded in due course.

To oversee the BFI’s National Lottery supported skills activity, Sara Whybrew has been appointed as Head of National Lottery Skills Programmes. The new role will be focused on ensuring that skills and training activity supported through BFI National Lottery funding is joined-up and aligned with industry needs. Whybrew joins the BFI from ScreenSkills, where she worked as Apprenticeships and Policy Consultant and prior to that was Director of Policy and Development at Creative & Cultural Skills. Both roles saw her lead the development and delivery of national sector skills initiatives that have aided new and diverse talent to progress into creative careers. Whybrew previously worked at Arts Council England, where she co-created the £15 million Creative Employment Programme, which she went on to deliver, and later created and led the delivery of the award-winning Discover Creative Careers Week.

Sara Whybrew, Head of National Lottery Skills Programmes, said, “I am delighted to be joining the BFI as the new Head of National Lottery Skills Programmes; there is no better time to be supporting the progression of diverse talent into and through this world-leading sector. Screen culture should be accessible to all, which means screen workplaces must be too. I look forward to working in collaboration with myriad partners and stakeholders to make this is a reality.”

In addition to the BFI’s National Lottery funding, the recently announced industry-led Skills Task Force for the UK’s screen sectors is addressing the critical skilled labour shortages within the UK’s production screen sectors. Convened by the BFI in response to recommendations in the BFI Skills Review, the Task Force is chaired by Creative Executive Georgia Brown and will develop a plan to address urgent skills shortages in physical production and build on work by ScreenSkills.

The BFI National Lottery Strategy 2023-2033 is informed by an extensive consultation with public and industry. Almost all (97%) respondents considered “Making the screen sector more representative, inclusive and accessible” and “Building a skilled workforce across the UK in all areas of the screen sector” to be very or somewhat important issues. Therefore, one of the key objectives of the strategy is to support a skilled and representative workforce and under this objective the BFI hopes to achieve the following outcomes through its funding:

  • Equitable and more visible routes into the sector for people of all ages.
  • People from under-represented groups across the UK can access the support they need to develop their careers and skills.
  • Workforce retention is improved by building inclusive, flexible and supportive workplaces.
  • Vital skills for the sector that cannot be delivered by the commercial market are developed.

Previously announced, the BFI awarded £14 million National Lottery funding to two UK-wide partners to deliver three targeted education work streams for 5-18 year-olds: BFI National Lottery Teaching with Film, BFI National Lottery Young Creatives and BFI National Lottery Careers and Progression. Into Film, receiving £12.4m over three years, will work across all three programmes, and National Saturday Club will receive £1.5m for the same period to collaborate with Into Film to deliver Young Creatives. A further £5.5m is allocated for BFI Film Academy, details of which are to be announced shortly.

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