On February 26th 2020, the BFI and The Walt Disney Studios announced that two new productions have successfully participated in the pioneering BFI Film Academy Future Skills programme – Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and Disney’s Cruella. The programmes follow a hugely successful pilot with Lucasfilm on Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2017 and a subsequent programme on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, establishing the Future Skills programme as an exemplar in industry-led training with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Designed to give opportunities for a career in film to young people from all over the UK and from all backgrounds, 85 young people – the majority who are graduates from the Department of Education backed BFI Film Academy – were employed as paid trainees in a variety of craft and technical roles on each production. The Future Skills programme, supported by National Lottery funding, saw 28 trainees on Solo: A Star Wars Story, 31 trainees on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 15 trainees on Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and 11 trainees on Cruella, working in various departments and on a range of roles including Sound, Lighting, Camera, Script/Continuity, VFX, Props, Costume, Set Decoration, Hair and Make-Up, Accounts and Action Vehicles.
Through the four iterations of the programmes 73% of the trainees were women, 38% were from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, 12% identify as disabled, 58% were recruited from outside Greater London, and 32% received free school meals – a socioeconomic measure. Since completing the Future Skills programme 70% of the trainees have gone on to secure regular work on other productions and progress their careers on titles including Marvel Studios’ The Eternals and Doctor Strange, The King’s Man, Twist, Venom 2, Jurassic World 3, Blinded by the Light, Wonder Woman, Dumbo, Artemis Fowl, Bridgerton and Pennyworth series 2.
Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production said, “The Walt Disney Studios is a proud supporter of the pioneering BFI Film Academy Future Skills programme, and our team is thrilled to see its continued success and the career opportunities it has provided these young people. Not only have we been impressed by the passion and commitment the trainees showed while working on our movies, we’re very pleased that 70% of them have gone on to find regular work in the wider film industry.”
Ben Roberts, CEO BFI said, “Lucasfilm really took a leap of faith with us on developing this programme, and it has been fantastic to see this model expanded across other Disney productions, opening up so many opportunities for underrepresented young people from across the UK and providing our thriving screen industry with a vital pipeline of skilled talent. Addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in our industry is a priority and needs specific interventions such as the Future Skills Trainee Programme, which works alongside other programmes including our partner Screen Skills’ Trainee Finder.”
The programme offers progression, experience and networking opportunities for all the trainees that participate. A dedicated alumni officer is on hand to provide support and pastoral care throughout the programme with regular mentorship from respective Heads of Departments (HODs). Roles across physical production include Production, Art Department, Camera, Costume, Hair & Make-up, Sound, Video DIT and Visual Effects (VFX) alongside roles in the following departments: Grips, Script, Accounts and Special Effects (SFX). Since completing the programme, alumni officers, HODs and the BFI work with the individual participants to plan and support their next steps, with the trainees recommended for and securing jobs on further film and TV productions.
The BFI Film Academy, and its partnerships with major productions and studios on the BFI Future Skills Programme, focuses on discovering and training the next generation of talent to fill craft and technical roles in the screen industry. It is part of the BFI’s Future Film Skills strategy, the majority of which is delivered by ScreenSkills.