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for staff to leave midway through a show for something that pays better,” says Ball. “It’s another knock-on effect Covid-19 has had on this sector, which is so reliant on freelancers who saw their incomes collapse, as they were unable to access the same government furlough or self-employed support schemes that were available to so many others.” Inward investment from US majors like Netflix and Disney setting up shop on UK shores has also contributed to crew shortages and skill gaps. Ball says, “More drama is being made and budgets are getting bigger, so the demand now is that producers are looking for crew with specialised skill sets. The popularity of continuous drama is having a further knock-on effect on the whole industry, not just the high-end, and we’re even seeing TV broadcasters advertise for crew.” While it’s easy to imagine issues caused by a crew shortage on sets, Ball also raised concerns about a desperate lack of accountants to keep an eye on production budgets and manage wages. The problem has become so severe, Netflix has been forced to set up its own accountancy training scheme to supply behind-the- scenes staff for UK productions. “We’ve managed to get a lot of accountants into the industry via our career transfer

programmes, which extend to army veterans, many of whom are now working on location,” she adds. SOLVING THE SCREENS Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for the cracks felt among production crews. Training new people and upskilling existing talent is an investment producers have to commit to in the long term. But any high- end TV producer that contributes just 0.5% of their budget to the UK High-end TV Skills Fund can take out 60% of what they pay in, for training and upskilling. “The HETV fund is worth 3.8 to 4 million pounds a year, and it’s all industry money, so

we’re absolutely answerable to industry, and must react and deliver what it needs with our training and skills incentives,” says Ball. Addressing crew shortages, ScreenSkills has Trainee Finder. A programme placing talented, creative individuals across film, high-end TV and children’s TV – but more specific to skill shortages is the Make a Move programme, which is funding to subsidise the cost of employing and training individuals in higher grades, with the aim that a future role will be at the next level up. “Potential steps up could be a location assistant moving up to unit manager, clapper loader to focus puller, or production secretary to production coordinator. The scheme covers all departments, supporting travel and accommodation expenses, mentoring and short courses, but actively encouraging applicants to support craft and technical roles – like accountants, ADs, location managers, unit managers,

Inward investment fromUS majors like Netflix and Disney setting up on UK shores contributed to crew shortages and skill gaps

AUGUST 202 1 | DEF I N I T ION 21

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