Screen industry opportunities for local aspiring talent

Screen industry opportunities for local aspiring talent

London’s ongoing film and TV production boom shows no sign of slowing.  With current levels of production there is an ever-increasing need for homegrown emerging talent.

However, making that first step into a career in the screen industries usually requires aspiring professionals to have personal connections or undertake several unpaid internships to build up their CVs and gain high profile film credits.  These are critical to success is such a highly competitive industry.

Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to introduce a more diverse talent base to the industry while at the same time providing opportunities for trainees to earn and learn on the job.

The problem is, work in the screen industries is essentially freelance in nature with each production starting and finishing in a relatively short time frame.  And so, current apprenticeship schemes lack relevance and flexibility.   

The short-term and freelance nature of contracts makes it difficult to devise an apprenticeship scheme able to support apprentices fully to satisfy the key requirements prescribed in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCLA).  

Not only that, the government mandatory apprenticeship levy does not sit comfortably in the film industry. Many production companies, both large and small, consider it a tax with little or no benefit.  Short-term, freelance productions also find it hard to accommodate longer-term apprenticeship programmes or to meet the required outcomes parameters such as apprenticeship standards.

The result of these factors: Vital work experience in the screen industries is often beyond the reach of many talented individuals.

The Solution:

FilmFixer has placed social value, employment, and skills development at the heart of its new Film Office Service contracts.

The company been attempting to tackle this problem for many years by finding opportunity whenever possible with productions willing to participate and help new entrants gain a foothold in the industry.

Priority has been on placing residents in each local borough from diverse communities and backgrounds within the locations department as grassroots support working as paid runners and marshals.    Recent suitable candidates have been sourced through a range of organisations and charities such as: ScreenSkillsCalltime Company and Creative Sparkworks, Fully Focused and Soapbox

FilmFixer also began to encourage larger productions to create opportunities, to ensure that training and job opportunities were available to local people. 

In order to show the value that filming could bring to the boroughs, FilmFixer had two priorities:

  • To enable residents, seeing filming going on in their areas, to access available opportunities and find work in the local film industry 
  • To allow everyone to participate, no matter what their background, gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, or geographic location

In exchange new talent would bring a fresh perspective to productions as well as a range of skills and expertise.

The Result:

Example One

Charlie Roskilly, Lime Pictures

FilmFixer encouraged Lime Pictures to take on some talented local runners when they filmed in Camden earlier this year. Sue Russo – FilmFixer’s Training and Development Manager – worked in conjunction with Camden council and their communities team to source aspiring new entrants into the film industry. Camden local Charlie won he position and spent ten weeks on Series 5 of E4’s Celebs Go Dating as a runner this summer. He impressed Lime Pictures so much that he was invited to return on a full-time contract for the next series. FilmFixer were delighted to have facilitated Charlie’s first step onto the industry ladder and to have created opportunity of such value.

Example 2

Omar Dick and Robin Barrett:  Phantom Thread & The Crimes of Grindewald.

Two trainees were taken on for work experience for four days during the filming in St Mary’s Gardens, Lambeth, from the local programme Creative Sparkworks.

For local trainees Omar Dick and Robin Barrett, exposure to a production of this scale was a real shot in the arm for their careers, as employers are always looking for as many high-profile film credits as possible.

“It was hard work but Robin said afterwards the range of tasks had given him a good grounding in how the locations department operates, adding that the team at Triton Films was so friendly it was a pleasure working for them and he really felt like part of the team.


FilmFixer is committed to finding meaningful career ladder opportunities for industry talent.

To affect change, FilmFixer is working in collaboration with Screen Skills and DIVA who are supporting “trailblazer” employer groups. These groups are developing new apprenticeship standards, which are replacing the previous frameworks in England and will make apprenticeships a more realistic choice for the film industry at large.

FilmFixer plans to introduce an additional annual apprenticeship that will recruit directly from its client boroughs. The company will proactively signpost emerging talent towards “trailblazer” employers, who we see as the future of the film industry.

Guide to starting a film office service

So, your local authority is sold on the idea of attracting more filming. Good work. Productions are spending up to £100,000 a day in local neighbourhoods, on accommodation, transport, catering, and renting homes and businesses as locations.

There’s also the feel-good factor – the economic impact of increased tourism, and attracting more businesses to your area because of its enhanced reputation. Why are we seeing so much opportunity with film productions? Thanks to tax incentives and the weaker pound, the UK’s film industry is now worth £1.6bn, it’s grown by 78% since 2014.

Now, how do you get started?

1. You’ll need a film officer

This is usually a full-time member of staff, who acts as the key point of contact for the film industry. They take calls from film location managers and fulfil their requests for permits.

When they are issuing licences and permits on behalf of your authority, they make sure all local filming conforms to Film London’s the code of practice. This covers everything from temporary structures, pyrotechnics and protecting residents, to film insurance and risk management.

They work with residents and businesses to protect them from disruption. They also work with other bodies like the civil aviation authority, local police, transport providers, nature groups, canal trusts, any other group affected by the shoot.

2. You’ll need film champions across the departments

Your film officer will be liaising across many departments on a daily basis. Identify those officers who are willing and able to help, and quick to respond.

They will include champions in:
Traffic management and environmental services for roads and pavement access
Events, to make sure locations aren’t already booked up for a festival or street party.
Even cemeteries

3. Adopt a sense of urgency

Film productions will return time and again to those neighbourhoods where they know the permits will be processed on time. They need very quick responses. They need people to pick up the phone or answer an email urgently. They then need almost immediate action to make the licensing possible. If they don’t think they’ll get that permit in their hands in good time, they’ll move on.

Just as they could film Turkey in Croydon for American Assassin, Whitehall in Manchester for Darkest Hour or Morocco In Suffolk for Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, your locations could be doubled anywhere else.

4. You’ll also need to be patient and philosophical

For reasons completely outside the location manager’s control, they might move on. This is a very flexible and mobile industry.

Scenes are cancelled at the last minute, filming is re-scheduled. Sometimes a shoot is planned around the American star wanting to film in the UK so they can bring their children during school holidays.

It’s important to be gracious, because those same location managers will be back, if they know the service is good.

5. Offer discounted office space, luring the entire production

Every shoot needs a production office, somewhere they’ll operate out of for the length of the shoot – that might be six weeks, sometimes six months.

That means production spend will go into local business and residents pockets each day for the duration of the shoot. And nearby locations will become more attractive, adding even more business to the books.

Do you have empty office space, or even school or hospital space, that the production could work out of?

The Monty Python team for example, used Islington’s Ashmount School as a production office while they were filming Absolutely Anything.

The space might also be offered in exchange for trainee placements or entry level roles for local young people. Youngers, filming in Peckham in Southwark is a great example.

6. Be open minded about how you can help

It sounds boring but the best way to attract filming is a commitment to handle parking quickly and effectively. A good council provides a parking permit on the same day, a difficult council will insist on 14 days’ notice for a parking suspension.

Accommodating parking could mean a unit base of up 150 vehicles for big productions, more often it’s, on average, seven technical vehicles, 12 large unit facilities and 25 cars.

Multi-level car parks like Secure Parking on Bloomsbury Square in Camden, or parking at recreation grounds such as Croydon’s Addington Park are invaluable resources.

Period shoots will always need to clear the area of modern cars. So, it’s important to work with residents to offer alternative parking, make sure deliveries can get through, and be aware of whether sick or pregnant residents might need urgent access to their cars.

Remember that filming on housing estates is not always about gritty crime dramas. Ikea, Lucozade and Selfridges have produced gorgeous work on housing estates.

Don’t forget your cemeteries. Lambeth officers helped out Sean Penn’s The Gunman by digging the production a fake grave and crematorium staff in Islington even played onscreen roles in Rellick.

Your own council office can double as anywhere. Suffolk County Council’s Endeavour House in Ipswich played a slick office in the City of London.

Don’t forget your old town hall and other buildings. In The Crown, Bromley’s Old Town Hall played Conservative Party headquarters in the 1950s, with Churchill arriving amid 150 onlookers.

Your parks can double as the countryside like Southwark’s Burgess Park did for Suffolk in Fearless.

And don’t forget your historic treasures like Danson House in Bexley (pictured above), that hosted Tom Hardy in Taboo.

6. You will need great software

You need a really good computer system to administer the permits and take payments. They should capture every update and make sure everyone involved in the decision-making process can see what’s going on. It should retain records of all decisions and permits. And it should accept online payments from anywhere, via phone and tablets as well as PCs, at any time.

Remember, your film officer will be liaising with residents and business outside your authority departments, along with other agencies like Transport for London, the Civil Aviation Authority, the local police and so on. Ideally your system will retain all their contact details and all your communication with them.

Hands up, we are affiliated with FilmApp from Apply4 Technology, and we must point out that other software is available.

7. Still not sure?

Some local authorities ask themselves whether it’s worth the bother. Some even believe film productions are welcome to come along without permits.

Remember, reputable productions will want permits. They need them for legal reasons when contracts for distribution, for example, are being drawn up. The companies they are dealing with need to be sure they had permission every step of the way. Every document will need to be in order.

Most residents will want to be reassured that they are being protected from disruption, or worse, damage to their neighbourhoods.

And even more importantly, remember how much your local residents and businesses have to benefit by well-managed filming.

The tenants and residents group of the Alexandra & Ainsworth estate in Camden has raised more than £40,000 through film associated activity since 2013, by hiring out its hall, for example.

Even more importantly, productions are offering local young people a leg up in the business, providing work experience and entry-level job opportunities. This has become the norm and we’ve seen it with productions from James Bond: Spectre, American Assassin, Criminal, Our Loved Boy, The Durrells and Guerrilla, just to name a few.

And lastly, some residents quite like the opportunity to see stars outside their front door. Some even find themselves hosting stars, like when Meryl Streep was filming Suffragette.

Karen Everett is a director of FilmFixer and of Screen Suffolk.