ScreenSkills launches Film Forward programme for BAME film professionals

Mar 5, 2021
Mogul Mowgli writer-director Bassam Tariq and co-writer Riz Ahmed (who also starred as Zed)

ScreenSkills has launched a new programme designed to support change in the UK film industry by helping upcoming productions extend their talent network of experienced Black, Asian or minority ethnic professionals ready for 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. The initiative is part of ScreenSkills’ commitment to achieving greater inclusion across the UK industry.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals are particularly under-represented in more senior roles behind the scenes in UK film production and often meet additional challenges to being recognised for their skills, such as access to informal hiring networks which means they have fewer opportunities to forge new relationships and showcase what they can do.

The initiative recognises that recruitment processes can be a challenge for productions in terms of time, money and resource, particularly as the industry adapts to the challenges created by COVID.

The initiative 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.

Details of the programme: 

Eligibility criteria:

  • Five years+ experience in film (or a very closely related field such as television and high-end TV)
  • From a Black, Asian or minority ethnic group
  • Be ready to make the next move within their area of expertise.

Successful candidates will receive:

  • Coaching, including leadership, management and negotiation skills.
  • Access to a bursary of up to £3,000 to support the step up with, for example, equipment or software

Productions will receive:

  • Support in recruitment
  •  A subsidy of up to 50% of an individual’s placement allowance up to a cap of £10,000 rewarded as a grant directly to the production, per production

All productions must be committed to building a skilled and inclusive workforce by contributing to the ScreenSkills Film Skills Fund.

Applying to or working with the Film Forward programme does not guarantee a development placement for an individual, or a matched candidate for a production company. For full details, please visit the Film Forward opportunity page on the ScreenSkills website. Applications are open until midnight Sunday 28 March.

Productions who would like to discuss being involved should contact [email protected]

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