From education to employment

Film industry crying out for behind-the-camera talent, top producer tells students

Distinguished film producer David Thompson, with Christ the King Sixth Form students

Distinguished film producer David Thompson [pictured with Christ the King Sixth Form students], who ran BBC Films for over 10 years, is urging young people to consider a career behind the cameras.

Mr Thompson, who has won numerous international awards, including three Baftas, two Emmys and several Golden Globes, told students at Christ the King Sixth Form that despite the enormous success of the British film industry in recent years, with numerous big-budget US productions being shot in the UK, the industry lacks entrants with the right technical skills.

‘Getting into the purely creative side of film-making is still very, very hard, but the industry needs people to working in areas such as lighting, accountancy, locations and sound,’ he said.

‘If I were setting out again today, I would get a technical qualification – perhaps in electrics – and become a lighting guy.’

The British Film Institute (BFI) has a 10-point plan to address the critical skills shortage facing the industry, investing £20m of Lottery funding into an unprecedented wave of training.

Mr Thompson also said that the film industry lacked diversity.

A recent skills audit of the UK Film Industry by the Work Foundation for the BFI found that the industry workforce does not reflect the diversity of the UK. In production, only 3% of employees are from a minority ethnic background, compared to 12.5% nationally; at strategic management level, ethnic diversity is even poorer. 

The lack of workforce diversity is regarded as the biggest challenge facing the film and screen industries. Ethnic minorities, women and particularly those with caring responsibilities, those with disabilities and people from less advantaged backgrounds, face the biggest challenges in entering and progressing in the industry.

Mr Thompson, who began his career as a history teacher in an independent school – ‘I didn’t pretend I wasn’t from a privileged background; I’m white and middle class’ – and then joined the Open University as a trainee director. 

The Work Foundation report estimates that the industry needs 10,000 new entrants with 30,000 job opportunities over the next five years; an eye-watering 2,000 new entrants a year.

Christ the King Sixth Form Principal Rob McAuliffe said:

‘It was a privilege to host such a distinguished member of the film industry via the Speakers for Schools programme. It’s very important that our students know what opportunities are open to them, particularly in industries that may not otherwise be on their radar. David reminded us what a huge contribution the film industry makes to the British economy and its need for highly skilled entrants with the right technical skills.’

Christ the King Sixth Form, which has some 2,500 students, is one of the top-performing sixth forms in London and the South East; it has three campuses in south London.

Related Articles