· £600,000 granted to the Berkshire-based Skills Cluster
· Resource Productions, Shinfield Studios and University of Reading partner to create Berkshire Skills Cluster
The British Film Institute (BFI) has awarded £600,000 over three years to a Berkshire-based ‘Skills Cluster’ to make the industry more accessible and help train and develop new and emerging film and TV production crew.
Slough-based Resource Productions CIC, Shinfield Studios and the University of Reading have recently partnered to create the cluster, which led to the successful bid for funding.
The funding is part of a wider industry initiative to support skills training and development across the UK as the film and TV production industry faces an acute skills shortage. The scheme aims to create new opportunities for new entrants to the workforce, those from underrepresented backgrounds, individuals upskilling and over 50s jobseekers returning to work.
It comes as the Berkshire region continues to grow in significance for the film and TV production sector. Recent developments include the ongoing construction of Shinfield Studios. On completion, this brand-new, state-of-the-art production facility is set to become the fourth largest of its kind in the UK. With part of the site already open, it has started to attract some of the world’s most famous film and TV productions.
The Berkshire cluster will be led by social enterprise Resource Productions CIC, with all groups involved working closely together to help identify skills shortages and coordinate training opportunities for production crew in the local area. The aim is to build a larger local skills base and help people find viable routes into the screen industry, while also providing effective career development support.
Dominique Unsworth MBE, CEO of Resource Productions CIC said: “After more than two decades organically diversifying the talent supply chain from our not-for-profit in Slough, we are really excited to bring this skills investment into Berkshire. It will enable us to drive forward the great work of our partners across education, training, industry and government.
“We’ve all been talking about screen sector skills gaps for so long, now we actually have some resource to enable real action!”
The cluster is part of a wider programme of investment by the British Film Institute, which will see a total of £9.6m of National Lottery funding over three years to support skills development and training across the UK. The Berkshire Skills Cluster is unique among the projects in that it is focused around a single county. Other clusters announced through the BFI scheme cover wider UK regions and nations.
Gareth Ellis-Unwin, a Bafta and Oscar award-winning producer, best known for the box office record-breaking British film The King’s Speech, is CEO of Bedlam Film Productions, which is supporting the Berkshire Skills Cluster.
He said: “The screen industries are booming in the UK, but to stay fresh and continue to thrive we must nurture new talent and open up the industry. As the local infrastructure such as the new studios come on stream, the “people part” is the next critical step. Skilled film crew are the beating heart of the screen industries, and one reason why the UK is a destination of choice for the US studios and streamers. We have an opportunity to compete on both a national and international level here in Berkshire.
“Living locally, I know that Berkshire is already blessed with some incredible resources as a centre for film and TV production, but we need to make best use of our most important asset – our local workforce – whoever and wherever they are. I believe this new skills cluster will be a big boost to that goal.”
Skills Clusters investments aim to strike a balance between building on existing production infrastructure to provide new development opportunities in established areas of filmmaking and TV production activity, such as in Berkshire – where Shinfield Studios is based – and also helping to grow local crew bases in emerging areas.
This Skills for Screen Cluster has been made possible thanks to the ongoing support of Berkshire Film Office by all six unitary authorities: Wokingham, Reading, Slough, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire.
Dr Shweta Ghosh is a lecturer in Screen Practices and Industries at the University of Reading. Her work involves researching onscreen representation and access to film production. She said: “Diversity in the film industry is crucial for promoting new perspectives from underrepresented groups. It’s not just about social justice, it’s also about expanding the creative boundaries of filmmaking. We can create a more authentic representation of the world on-screen and develop inclusive and accessible filmmaking practices by making film production more diverse.”
Nick Smith, joint managing director, Shinfield Studios added: “When we were looking for a location to build Shinfield Studios we knew that Berkshire had so much to offer. Not least its proximity to London, but the area also has a strong local infrastructure to help meet the needs of producers. This includes access to local production talent. The goal is to build on this to help address the wider skills shortage in film production and offer a pathway for local people to a career in this industry. With Shinfield Studios less than 12 months away from being fully operational, there will be even more opportunity for employment in this rewarding sector.”
More information about how the funding will be used and access to related schemes will be available from the autumn.