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Veterans Needed To Save Film and TV Industry

The transferable skill of service leavers and veterans make them desirable employees for the screen industry.

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Ex-forces personnel are being called upon to get behind the camera to fill a shortage of skills in the screen industry.

Research by The British Film Institute identified that 10,000 more people would need to join by 2022 or the British screen industry, currently valued at £14.4 billion, would suffer.

The UK creative industries currently accounting for 1 in 11 jobs, a rate that is rising faster than all other parts of the economy, there are many jobs available and not enough skilled professionals to fill them.

The career transition from military to media is not always an obvious one with many veterans discouraged by the reputation of the industry as being cut-throat and competitive. 

The longstanding belief was that unless you have a producer uncle to hold the door open for you, there is no way you'll get your foot in it. 

Discouraging advice on getting into the industry is not the only factor responsible for multiple skill gaps in the industry.

Seetha Kumar the CEO of ScreenSkills, an industry-led skills charity for media training said:

"The production boom in the UK in recent years, fuelled by tax credits and investments in infrastructure such as studio space, has created skills shortages in our world-renowned talent base…on occasion these are causing delays in crewing up."

Producer and director Lord Puttnam said that it is "the single biggest inhibitor to growth the industry faces."

£20 million of National Lottery funding is being invested from 2017-2022 to encourage thousands of new entrants and those with transferable skills to join the creative sector.

ScreenSkills day with veterans
Grips for Heroes, photo by Emma Edwards © GBCT

Key figures in the industry have realised that transferable skills gained in the military are a valuable necessity on set.

Gareth Ellis-Unwin the Oscar-winning producer of The King’s Speech made that connection while producing the 2014 film Kajaki: The True Story.

The film is about a rescue mission to save soldiers injured by explosions in an unmarked minefield in Afghanistan in 2006.

He met a number of those involved in the operation.

"They were a very capable, bright group of young men... It struck me that anyone that could keep an armoured vehicle working in the desert could probably cope with the physical, technical and logistical demands of working in film."

Ex-serving personnel have historically been underrepresented in the creative industries.

The Oscar-winning producer said:

"I believe that opening up the world of film to people who might not otherwise have thought it possible could be an enormously powerful way to signal what these men and women are capable of doing while addressing genuine skills shortages in the industry."

The Forces Media Academy was set up in 2017 to provide veterans and service leavers with skills necessary to succeed in the screen industry.

Now in its second year, the Academy offers an intensive full-time course in Creative Media Production.

The course at the Media Forces Academy combines extensive training and work experience covering modules such as Camera and Lighting Techniques, as well as Video and Editing Production of Multi-Platform Audio Programmes.

The previous class graduated with 100% pass rate and 80% of leavers are currently working in the industry either full-time or in a freelance capacity.  

Former student Sophie Maynard made the successful career transition from the Royal Navy to working as a Digital Video Producer.

She believes that the transferable skills and experience of former military personnel make them desirable employees within the screen industries. 

"One key skill desired in the media industry is adaptability and being able to “think outside the box”.  I found during my time at the FMA that everyone had a completely different approach to a question, and in a creative environment, there is never one right answer or one way of doing something."

Sophie Maynard and fellow Forces Media Academy student Brendan West. Credit: Cat Humphries
Sophie Maynard and fellow Forces Media Academy student Brendan West. Credit: Cat Humphries

The course is free. All students receive a bursary of up to £18,000 to help with living costs and accommodation, made possible through the generous support of The Royal British Legion.

The Forces Media Academy has been nominated as a finalist in the Education, Training and Development section of the Soldiering On Awards.

Applications for 2019/20 are now open and the deadline for applications is 31st January.

With skill shortages in the screen industry and fresh opportunities being created by new players such as FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) there has never been a better time to consider a career in the industry.

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