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The challenges of recruiting mid-level production roles are laid bare in a ScreenSkills report that chastises the unscripted TV sector’s “fundamental misunderstanding” of the skills needed to do the roles.

With too few production coordinators entering the sector, and the top end “haemorrhaging” production managers, more than 90% of production company figures polled said they find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to recruit for the roles.

In its unscripted skills review report, which surveyed 114 respondents, ScreenSkills said interviewees “universally acknowledged” an “acute absence of basic skills across unscripted roles and genres that risks becoming endemic and perpetual”.

There is, it said, “an apparent fundamental misunderstanding at entry level of the qualities, skills and aptitude to work in the unscripted sector”.

Around three-quarters said editors were hard to find and 70% identified a shortage of series producers.

This is creating a “squeezed middle” of experienced crew in key roles – almost half said production manager is the most important role in their business over the next year.

The key factors in the shortage include burnout, job instability and unemployment exacerbated by the production hiatus enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic, and international streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon hiring crew on long contracts for large-scale productions they have located in the UK, in some cases delaying shooting schedules and inflating wage expectations.

Amazon recently made its first long-term commitment to UK production with a deal to lease space at Shepperton Studios, while Disney and Netflix both have deals with Pinewood.

A record £5.6bn was spent on UK film and TV production last year by broadcasters, streamers and movie studios and the British Film Industry is due to report later this spring on the scale of the skills shortage.

Solutions highlighted in the report include more engagement with schools, colleges and universities and help with financial and budgetary skills, scheduling and project management to achieve more effective and realistic budgeting and scheduling of productions.

The report’s findings will be fed into the ongoing work of the Unscripted TV Skills Fund, launched last year to bring unscripted production in line with scripted in terms of addressing investment in training.

Last week, ScreenSkills detailed a partnership with Amazon to recruit 40 apprentices, primarily as production assistants, assistant production accountants, production coordinators and production managers.

They will be place at the SVoD, plus Banijay UK, Lime Pictures and Sky/APX Content Ventures.

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