The training is being developed in response to the new challenges facing an industry that saw at least £426 million worth of productions postponed or suspended when social distancing measures – followed by lockdown – were announced. The intention is that basic training will be ready to roll out within weeks and that crew members will undertake the training before they return to set or location.
ScreenSkills is partnering with Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation that is well-known within the health sector, and is already working with the NHS and other sectors to provide training for the Covid-19 crisis, and First Option – established safety consultants to the entertainment industry – to ensure expert input in delivering health and safety solutions for the screen industries.
The work is being supported by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund with contributions from high-end television productions and the BFI, awarding National Lottery funds as part of its Future Film Skills strategy. The immediate aim is to ensure everyone working on a production, irrespective of their role, has access to basic health and safety understanding to operate in the context of Covid-19.
ScreenSkills is also exploring developing additional, more detailed training for those with departmental or management responsibility for ensuring productions are operating within industry-designed best practice and government guidance. This includes what training might be necessary for those with specific Covid-19 responsibilities on set.
The consultation on the new guidance, developed for film and high-end TV by an industry working group convened by the British Film Commission (BFC) as part of the BFI’s Screen Sector Task Force, concluded last Friday with publication to be before the end of the month, subject to government approval. Senior members of the ScreenSkills team, including Gareth Ellis-Unwin, Head of Film & Animation and an experienced producer of films at many scales (The King’s Speech, Zaytoun, Kajaki: The True Story, Steel Country), have contributed to the development of the guidelines and the training will be based upon them.
The basic level of training will be delivered online and free. ScreenSkills is devising a model where participants will be able to demonstrate to productions that they have successfully undergone the training. Although key elements are likely to be similar to those required by other industries from construction to catering, the training will be tailored to equip crew members with the knowledge they need to keep themselves, their colleagues and their environment as safe as possible within the pressurised and often high-contact context of set and/or location.
Seetha Kumar, ScreenSkills’ Chief Executive, said: “As the leader in skills and training for the UK’s screen industries, we are already working closely with colleagues to support the return to production by identifying standards and delivering training to reflect all the new challenges Covid-19 has created. Ensuring crew can work as safely as possible is the overriding aim of the industry, and we believe the new guidance, backed up by the training, can enable that.”