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The film industry

The film industry is part of the creative industries, which is represented by Skillset Sector Skills Council. This includes: advertising; animation; computer games; corporate and commercial production; fashion and textiles; film; interactive media; photo imaging; publishing; radio; and television.

The UK industry is an independent creator of feature films, a co‐production partner and a provider of services to the international film industry. It is an industry made up of a small number of large companies and a very large number of smaller companies, which have an occupationally diverse and highly skilled workforce characterised.

Key facts:

  • Around 27,800 people are estimated to work in the film industry, which is 5% of the creative industries workforce.
  • 62% of the workforce is in cinema exhibition, 34% in film production and 4% work in film distribution.
  • There are around 400 permanent companies in the film industry, but this can fluctuate depending on the number of productions that are being worked on. (production companies form for a particular production then close when completed)
  • 43% of companies are production, 13% are distributors and 44% are cinema exhibition companies.
  • In 2006, the UK film industry contributed £4.3 billion to the UK economy.

Jobs in the industry include: Production Accountant, Art Director, Production Designer, Director of Photography, Camera Operator, Grip, Casting Assistant, Catering Crew, Plasterer, Carpenter, Stagehand, Costume Assistant, Director, Publicist, Editor, Make‐up Artist, Unit Nurse, Best Boy, Location Manager, Composer, Actor, Re‐recording Mixer, Foley Editor, Boom Operator, Production Manager, Runner, Screen writer

Entry and progression
Although there is no set route into the industry, even for those with a media‐related degree, it is usual to start at the bottom (such as a Runner) and work your way up. This is usual for both new entrants and those transferring in from another industry. The industry is highly competitive so experience of working on short or student films can provide a good introduction to feature film production. However, ‘on‐set’ hierarchy and traditions of working as part of a crew can only be learned by experience. The film industry recruits on ‘word of mouth’ so new entrants have to work on raising their profile.
There are a range of industry endorsed courses (both at undergraduate and post‐graduate), training schemes and a Diploma available. There are some new entrant training schemes (such as the FT2 New Entrant Technical Training Programme) and apprenticeships (such as the Set Craft Apprenticeship Scheme). Skillset also provide bursaries for training in priority areas.

For job specific entry requirements, job profiles should be consulted.

Workforce statistics
Number of UK employees: 27,800
Number of UK employers: 400 permanent businesses
Gender: 57% male, 43% female
Ethnicity: 9% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background
The average of the film production workforce is 39 years, compared with 29 years for the cinema exhibition workforce.
2% report themselves as having a disability
91% of the film production workforce is freelance or self‐employed

Film production crew are highly qualified ‐ 58% have a degree; 21% of the degrees are postgraduate, and 38% are in a film or media‐related subject.

Employment trends and future prospects
There are serious challenges for the industry with the introduction of new technologies, specifically the emergence of digital as a production and exhibition tool. New digital HD (High Definition) and 3D cameras are placing demands on the production workforce to adapt to new shooting methods, from set lighting to new design and make‐up demands.
The Digital Screen Network is seeing digital projectors replace 35mm equipment in cinemas across the UK, and as such new skills required of projectionists and exhibition staff. The industry is also beginning to adopt 3‐D as a viable production method, which will require new production and post‐production skills.

Skill requirements and shortages
New technologies are having a significant impact on the industry, so the workforce have to continuously update their skills and experience to ensure that they can remain relevant and competitive. In general, common training needs are: the art and design and camera departments, specifically around the use of new formats and computer technology; and the locations department, in terms of health and safety requirements.

There are demands on new entrants to the industry to gain a real understanding of how the different sectors and functions of the film industry inter‐relate.
The most commonly cited area of skills needed by freelancers is around business skills, such as financing, marketing and management.

Occupational trends
In film production the largest occupational group is ‘other’, which includes a combination of accounts, casting, publicity, special effects, stunts, catering, transport and music people. It accounts for around 1,900 people and 21% of the film production workforce.
Construction and production occupations in film production employ 1,300 (14%) and 1,000 (11%) of crew work. 9% of the workforce work in camera and 8.3% in the art department/set decorating.

In film distribution, ‘marketing and publicity’ and accounts occupations are also common and hold the largest number of people with around 200 in each.
Almost 200 people (15%) work in producing roles.

Salary levels
Film production crew earn an average gross income of £33,726. As is the case across the rest of the creative industries, men earn more than women (£35,827 compared with £30,754) and on average income increases with age and drops slightly in the 50+ age group.

Film work often forms only part of many workers’ total income ‐ it is common to have other jobs when not doing film work.

BECTU, the industry trade union, can advise on rates for freelancers working in the industry.

Further sources
Skillset
UK Film Council International
BECTU
Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT)