Demystifying Screen Industry Careers

11 Jul 2024

6 mins
Young person using a camera with instructor helping
Young person using a camera with instructor helping

Despite the screen industries filling our downtime with entertainment, joy and distraction, careers in these industries (and viable routes in) are far less visible than the productions they create. Below, Cerys Evans, Careers Lead at Into Film, uncovers the breadth of opportunities in the UK's screen industries.

TV and Film was the most popular industry on the ERIC creative careers app in 2023 with 50% of users clicking on TV & film content, yet only 6% of young people feel a career in these industries is accessible to them. Careers advisers want to know more about the screen industries, in particular improved LMI, employer contacts and industry-specific information hubs.

There are some challenges in making young people aware of opportunities in film and high-end TV, a multi-billion-dollar industry in the UK offering exciting and challenging roles that cut across subjects and interests. Employer encounters and work experience on set can be difficult to come by given the project-based nature of the work and rules around working with under-18s. Apprenticeships and T-level qualifications need to be carefully planned to make them workable for industry. The good news is that there is appetite within industry to raise awareness of screen industry careers and work is underway to make opportunities more visible and accessible.

What are the screen industries?

Film, TV, animation, games and VFX all make up the screen industries, with huge teams of people contributing to the productions we consume every day. Favourable tax breaks have attracted growing numbers of international productions to use UK studios and locations, which has led to the expansion of many studios. Shepperton; Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden; and Pinewood are growing to become some of the biggest studio complexes in the world, creating tens of thousands of new jobs. The UK will soon have more studio space than Hollywood, with productions like House of the Dragon, The Batman and Barbie all filmed here in recent years. 

One of our main goals at Into Film is to help educators support young people to explore careers in the screen industries. However, navigating this wide-ranging and constantly evolving field can be daunting - both for educators and young people. That's why we've created a brand new Go-to Guide for Screen Industry Careers

To access the guide, simply visit the resource page above, log in to your Into Film Account, and hit download. 

If you're new to Into Film, and don't have an account yet, don't worry - it's completely free and only takes a moment to set up. An Into Film Account will grant you access to hundreds of curriculum-linked educational resources, not to mention our CPD and training opportunities, competitions, and more.

Across the UK

You'll find clusters of screen industry activity across the UK, with hotbeds of location filming across all nations, and new studios opening in Ulster, Hartlepool and Reading this year alone. Bristol is the home of natural history and animation; Dundee is the focus of the games industry in Scotland; Manchester follows London in the value of its screen industry contributions, with Cardiff close behind. Northern Ireland's screen industries contributed £330m to the economy in the past five years. Find out what is happening near you through the BFI Skills Clusters and national film agencies.

Industry challenges

This dramatic growth from cottage industry to world player led to skills shortages post-pandemic. The SAG-AFTRA strikes, which ended in Nov 2023, then slowed things down for the UK industry. A recent report from Bectu, the union for workers in media and entertainment, highlights the impact of the pandemic and strikes on the majority freelance workforce, urging: "If our industry wants to continue to be the best in the world, as Bectu believes it is, then we must all… try to address the reasons behind the ‘feast or famine' nature of working in the sector."

Work has already started to address these challenges, with the BFI Skills Review highlighting actions that industry, BFI and government should take. As productions have re-started post-strike, there is optimism in the industry with some predicting that the British media and entertainment sector could be worth £53 billion by 2033.

Opportunities for all

Industry growth needs new talent that represents the diversity of the UK, and this can only be achieved if young people can see opportunities out there for them.

It is important that we keep the film industry vibrant by encouraging a young and diverse workforce that is representative of the society in which we live.

Barbara Broccoli, 'James Bond' producer and Into Film trustee

The screen industries offer opportunities across production, pre-production and post-production, as well as sales, distribution and marketing. With varied roles utilising a whole range of skills and interests: there is something for everyone. Most students have heard of a director or screenwriter, but craft, technical and below-the-line roles are amongst those least visible to young people. Below-the-line crew bring the vision of the above-the-line roles (director, writer, executive producer) to life. Below-the-line roles include camera operator, grip, production designer, editor, assistant director, line producer and costume designer. 

How Into Film can help you

Into Film, with the support of the BFI awarding National Lottery good cause funding, aims to demystify the industry for 11-18-year-olds and raise awareness of opportunities in the screen industries, particularly below-the-line roles and amongst underrepresented and underserved groups. We bridge the gap between industry and careers professionals and educators; providing resource packs, assemblies, podcasts and broadcasts, teacher encounters, CPD and events to help everyone better understand the industry. Our youth-facing social media shares industry insights, opportunities and competitions to help young people test out their career ideas.

Supporting young people to explore the screen industries

There is no specific educational path that young people should follow to get a foothold in the industry; in most cases, a degree is not required. Communication, teamwork, problem-solving and organisation are key skills, all of which can be developed through the broadest range of activities. Apprenticeships and, more commonly in the screen industries, training programmes, or getting started as a runner can provide a route in.

A growing range of opportunities is on offer to support young people taking their first steps in the industry, with some examples below.

These sources of information and hands-on experiences can open students' eyes to the career possibilities offered within the screen industries, and feedback is often highly positive.


Wider reading

This article was originally published in Career Matters, The Magazine for the Career Development Sector, in June 2024 by Cerys Evans RCDP who is the Careers Lead at Into Film.

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