Published on 18 July 2022
The launch of North East Screen, a new Sunderland-based TV and film development agency, could play a key role in helping boost the skills and training needed to support the growing multimillion-pound industry in the region.
The agency comes in the wake of a £37m investment in content from an area stretching from the Scottish border to the North York Moors.
The BBC has committed £25m, with a promise of more to follow and, in a unique partnership, all 12 local authorities in the region have raised £12m to establish a production and skills fund.
Graeme Thompson, who is Pro Vice-Chancellor of External Relations at the University of Sunderland and Chair of the RTS Education Committee, believes the biggest challenge of turbo-charging the screen sector in a corner of England that has seen relatively little production in the past decade, is the current skills shortage.
“So, it is no surprise that North East Screen and its funders have put skills development at the top of their priority list,” he said.
“Step one is aligning the education and training offer with professional development and placement opportunities. The agency is working with the five North East universities and with production companies to develop a strategy offering CPD/upskilling opportunities alongside undergraduate and post graduate provision.
“A number of schemes are now in place to provide taster experience for people interested in working in the sector. There’s an extensive work experience programme at CBBC’s The Dumping Ground. And Fulwell 73, who have an office based at the university of Sunderland, have launched internships at their busy London office for North East based students.
“The North East Screen skills group will be tasked with drawing up a full list of training providers and partners to meet the skills challenge. “
Although North East Screen currently has a crew database, many of those names are working in other parts of the UK or on existing shows.
It is a scenario made more challenging by the recent ScreenSkills report that highlighted a UK shortfall of more than 20,000 crew at a time when more than 190,000m2 of additional studio space is required to meet the demands of film and high-end TV.
As part of its latest investment, the BBC has already ordered six series. They include Robson Green’s Dirty Weekends, Scarlett’s Driving School and a documentary strand with Middlesbrough singer James Arthur.
Despite forecasts that predict the UK screen sector – already worth more than £5bn – will grow to £7bn in the next three years, parents, teachers and careers advisors often choose not to recognise the opportunities, dismissing work in the industry as poorly paid or unrealistic.
A version of this article appeared in the July edition of Television magazine.