Opening up Screen Industry Careers with the Independent Film Trust

11 Mar 2022 BY Tolu Stedford

6 mins
Tolu Stedford with the Creative Corridor Class of 2021
Tolu Stedford with the Creative Corridor Class of 2021

One of our main missions at Into Film is shining a spotlight on the countless roles available to young people in the screen industries and providing them with the necessary tools to find the best one for them.

National Careers Week (7-12 March) is therefore especially important to us and this year, we've updated our central Careers Hub, released a round-up of key resources and opportunities, and hosted a successful International Women's Day careers panel with BAFTA.

Now, we are excited to present a guest article from the CEO of Independent Film Trust, Tolu Stedford. Established in 2004, the Independent Film Trust (IFT) is a charitable organisation that supports underrepresented talent to develop film, TV, and creative media projects, advancing diversity and inclusion across the UK screen sector. Tolu delves into their mission to help young people from all backgrounds enter the screen industries and discusses her own journey.

Every year, National Careers Week allows us to focus on the importance of good careers education in schools and colleges. The biggest challenge for diverse talent breaking into 'behind the camera' roles is that many people from marginalised groups have no idea these roles exist. National Careers Week is an imperative tool to highlight opportunities not typically seen as being accessible.

Young people from low socioeconomic groups have been significantly underexposed to the magic of entertainment through the monetary barriers of regular trips to the theatre, cinema, and art exhibitions. That means the creative industries become elitist and closed off to young people who feel they have nothing to contribute.

The constraint of access from marginalised groups trickles all the way to the top, where we see a severe lack of representation in senior management roles. These positions are the seats that keep the status quo unchallenged and the doors opening a crack at a time. Ultimately, without unlocking the key to commissioning and broadcasting, the industry will remain closed for most.

In the absence of a National Careers Week that is dedicated to diverse career opportunities to young people, we are losing out on a mass of fresh voices and innovative perspectives. The industry is being robbed of new talent that can elevate the pioneering content coming from the UK and therefore, losing out on the chance to enhance the economy and diverse representation simultaneously.

As a young girl, I went to a school that didn't have drama in the curriculum. I was lucky enough to get into the National Youth Theatre through an advertisement on ITN that my mum saw after her night shift as an NHS nurse. This changed my life. Up until this point, growing up watching musicals with little to no people of colour, I knew I wanted to be in the industry, but I had no exposure to what and where I could fit in. 30 years later, I am now a multi-award-winning writer and producer and Co-CEO of the Independent Film Trust (IFT) alongside, Charlotte Knowles. Together, we work to ensure all the doors stay open for good.

Like many others in the industry, I stumbled my way into a career behind the screen through the necessity of wanting to see more stories that included people like me. Because the reality was, although this is my dream job, I had no idea what a producer, writer, director, 1st AD, camera operator, and editor was! I had no idea the industry I was born to work and contribute to existed and was looking for someone like me to fill an important role. It's an empowering testimony to the opportunities on offer in this sector and many others. Young people need to be armed with the knowledge that they are all needed and wanted somewhere. We as an industry must take time to invest and show them that their skill is valued and impactful to this country, society, and the world!

National Career Week is one of the most critical weeks of the year for young people because it can change their lives and actualise their dreams.

To learn more about IFT and the IFT Studios, visit our website to find out how you can be involved in helping the marginalised express their lived experience through film, TV and immersive media. You can also follow us on social media to keep up to date on our latest projects.

Co-CEO of Independent Film Trust

Tolu Stedford, Co-CEO of Independent Film Trust

Tolu is a writer, producer and actor with over 20 years of industry experience. She has written and produced an assortment of multi-award-winning short films, stage plays, concept teasers and music videos. As well as working in production as a woman and member of marginalised groups, Tolu is committed to activism lobbying for better representation within the industry.

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