Northern Film & Media Launches New Academy to Promote TV Drama Skills Training in the North East

Posted: 26th June 2015

First trainees start work on ITV’s Beowulf epic, with BBC placements to follow

Northern Film & Media (NFM) today announced a major initiative aimed at substantially increasing the number of local people working in the region’s television industry.

The NFM Academy is backed by Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the creative industries, and is being supported by broadcasters ITV and BBC. The initiative will address the shortage of North East production crew experienced in high-end television and film drama, offering new entrants and established industry professionals training attachments on major network productions in the region.

ITV Studio’s big budget drama, Beowulf – an adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon epic – has begun filming in County Durham and Northumberland and is the first production to accept NFM Academy trainees, while the BBC is set to welcome trainees onto a number of their most popular Children's programmes filmed in the region in the coming months.

Tom Gutteridge, chair of Northern Film & Media, said: “This is an important breakthrough plan to address a skills shortage in network television production, which is costing jobs and revenue in the North East.

“The region has seen a massive increase in major television drama productions, including Vera, Inspector George Gently and the BBC’s slate of CBBC children’s dramas, which not only show off the region on screens across the UK and abroad, but are of huge economic value as well – already employing over 250 people and contributing over £11m of income each year.

“We have some excellent specialist crew here, but simply not enough to service all these new productions. Production companies are being forced to bring in crew from outside the region, which increases their costs, and also prevents our local talent from gaining valuable experience.

“The NFM Academy will address this problem by offering work experience, placements and training opportunities on major network productions, allowing participants to increase their experience and broadening our region’s talent pool. At the same time it offers big productions access to local production trainees, subsidised by Creative Skillset’s Trainee Finder Service and High-End Drama Stepping Up programme. Over the coming weeks we will be encouraging local companies to come on board by offering the opportunity to sponsor further placements in a range of disciplines.”

Julian Bellamy, Managing Director of ITV Studios UK said: “This wonderful scheme supports both the development of young talent and the wider industry. ITV Studios has a long and rich history of producing in the North, where approximately half of our current slate of drama is made. This gives us a fantastic opportunity to offer a wide range of placements to trainees looking for their first break into television production.”

Peter Salmon, Director, BBC England, said: “This is a terrific initiative which we are proud to support. The BBC has shown a massive investment in the North East over the past few years, with hugely popular productions located in the region, from The Dumping Ground to George Gently, and we are delighted to be able to support the local production base by creating attachments for the NFM Academy. The North East has a rich programme making heritage and is firmly back on the production map which is fantastic, both for the local economy and the creative industries."

A recent resurgence in British TV drama – helped in part by tax breaks – has generated a skills and crew shortage across the UK, and this is the first example of a regional project to address the problem and help grow the indigenous crew base. Ruth Palmer, TV Partnership Manager at Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the creative industries said: “Our research and experience tells us that this skills shortage is a national problem and more needs to be done to grow and develop crew within key production hubs in the Nations and English Regions. The North East is leading the way in this pilot project, which we hope will be used as a model of best practice across the rest of the UK.”

John Tulip, Managing Director of Northern Film & Media, said: “As well as allowing our existing production base to grow, the Academy will also give younger people trying to break into the industry the opportunity to build a CV on the basis of properly paid work.

“Our partnership with ITV Studios on Beowulf is a great start to our long-term plan of rolling out the initiative across all network drama production in the region.
“Thanks to the support of Creative Skillset and the backing of the major network broadcasters BBC, and ITV, the number of North East trainees could run into the hundreds over the next few years.”

The NFM Academy was formally launched at an event for prospective applicants and other stakeholders, held in Newcastle on Thursday 02 July.

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