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BFI Unveils £20 Million Plan to Attract 10,000 New Workers to U.K. Film Industry

Variety logo Variety 6/28/2017 Stewart Clarke
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The British Film Institute has embarked on a £20 million ($26 million) project to attract the 10,000 workers it says the U.K. film industry desperately needs over the next five years to avoid an alarming skills shortage. Fueled by government tax breaks, the growth of the sector means there will be 30,000 new job opportunities in the U.K. film business during that time, the BFI said.

Lucasfilm is the first studio to sign up with the project, and has placed 28 trainees on its new Han Solo spinoff movie. The studio shot a special video about the trainees’ work on the movie, which was shown to reporters at a London news conference earlier this week.

“The U.K. film industry is one of our biggest success stories, and the films made here are loved by audiences around the world,” said Karen Bradley, the British government’s culture secretary. “For this to continue, we need to nurture and foster the next generation of talent – both in front of and behind the camera.”

Bradley unveiled a 10-point plan that includes careers service guidance, new standards and accreditation for training and employers, a service to monitor industry needs and identify skills shortages, mentoring, and development programs for existing industry professionals. The plan will draw on £20 million of national lottery funding over the next five years.

A BFI report noted that the film business has been seen as a closed shop and nepotistic. It said that, in addition to education and training, there needs to be a program to build awareness outside of the sector about the opportunities available.

James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who chairs the U.K. Film Skills Task Force, said in a statement that the 10-point plan would help the industry “increase the number of people working in film and ensure we have a representative workforce.”

The BFI estimates that 66,000 people work in film in Britain and that the sector is worth £4.3 billion. Introducing equality and diversity is part of the plan for the future, as black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups currently represent only 3% of the production and post-production workforce. Women make up 40% of the workforce and earn £3,000 less than their male counterparts on average.

The report into the industry’s staffing requirements was restricted to film. But BFI CEO Amanda Nevill, speaking to Variety on the fringes of the London news conference, said that the tax break for high-end TV, and the ensuing increase in production, stretched available resources even further. “TV is an adjacent industry and involves a lot of the same skills,” she said.

Nevill said that the job opportunities spanned all parts of the business. “There is a genuine need for more skilled workers – from hairdressers to accountants, software developers to model makers,” Nevill said. “They also need to learn and develop their skills from the best, so we call upon everyone in the industry to help us make this a reality. This is not a ‘nice to have’ but an ‘urgent must’ if we are to achieve the growth potential for U.K. film that is in front of us.”

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