Foot in the Door: Film Skills for Birmingham’s Young, Digital and Diverse Generation

Getting more young people of different backgrounds, experiences and abilities working in the creative and industries is a challenge that politicians, policy makers and commentators are understandably currently obsessed by.

Those who work in the film industry should reflect the audiences and consumers of the creative product the industry creates and usually don’t.

Yet employers in the sector tell me “just put talent in front of us and we’ll employ them.” What of course they mean is the right talent, with the right skills and the right mind set to quickly add value in a highly competitive world of tight margins and sharp deadlines. They don’t see enough talent from diverse backgrounds with those ‘right’ skills and mind sets to make it easy for them to employ them into entry level positions.

So that’s what Creative Alliance and The Producers’ Forum are aiming to start to change with Foot in the Door: a training programme funded by Creative Skillset through their Film Skills Training programme.dsc_0964

Working with Producer Martin Simms and Director Dan Wilson who designed and deliver the three-month training programme, 16 young people from diverse backgrounds are learning the planning, design and technical skills required to get into the film industry. More importantly they’re also learning how to behave professionally.

“These young people are now aware of the realistic expectations of the industry and how to begin your trade and develop through the ranks. They know that humility, appreciation and dedication is what is needed to get in and get on,” said Martin Simms at a review meeting last week.

The training course covers a range of basic skills that any employer would expect a young person to have whether that’s in a technical/editing role or co-ordination and planning role. Yes, we have some young people who aspire to be writers and directors but they know that they need to understand how the industry works to get in. Having already completed 3 short factual films, they’re now working together to produce 4 short films and first rate individual show reels, and as Benazir Anwar points out, it’s the practical filmmaking experience that is invaluable:

“’I’ve learnt more in one month than over that last five years! I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to develop their practical skills or even just want to gain some confidence in their ability!”dsc_1000

Some other young people have been comparing their experience to other types of learning:

“This course has inspired me to pursue the film and television career pathway in a way that academic courses haven’t. I have been praising the progression of this course throughout as I have seen the inner workings of the industry through set visits, networking opportunities and the projects we have assigned to complete. Now I feel confident to enter the television and film sector and succeed.” -Elijah Douglas-Smith

Jemima Waltho, creative producer & educator, is undertaking the external evaluation of the training programme. She has over 15 years of experience of film, media skills and talent development. She observed that:

“This scheme is providing the participants with almost unparalleled access to industry. From the onset the professional learning and access to real industry experience sets this project apart in terms of quality of learning and development opportunities. After just five weeks, the skills and experiences the young people have developed and been exposed to are resulting in confident, talented and work-ready individuals. This scheme will be responsible for producing the next generation of film talent.”

Creative Alliance is providing the training in how to present yourself on paper, online and in person so that they do themselves justice with a potential employer. They’re producing CVs, Spotlights and show reels to promote what they’re able to do. As Lauren Williams points out, she can now produce these with much more insight because the sessions “where professionals have shared their experiences have given me knowledge of what it takes to work in the industry and the different routes you can take.”

The Producers’ Forum are organising a talent match event. We’re bringing employers from the film, TV, marketing and advertising sectors to an event in January to meet these young people. The inducement: an opportunity to meet market ready young talent AND a £1500 wage subsidy to take one of these young people on as a creative and digital media apprentice.


That’s what’s different about Foot in the Door. It’s based on the T Skills model that Creative Alliance has developed with employers in the creative industries. All the young people are working on producing short films but that’s not the main point of the project. The point is progression. The main point is young people knowing what skills they’ve acquired and being able to confidently tell an employer “yes I can do this and I can show you I can”. Just as Louis Tierney explains:

“Through this programme, Martin and Dan and the industry professionals we’ve met, my eyes have been opened to an industry that I would never have considered possible for me to enter. I’ve picked up skills in camera operating, sound, lighting and editing.”

Lee Kemp of Vermillion Films recruited Reuben Carey as his apprentice 4 months ago. “He’s already starting to contribute to the company’s bottom line. I can trust him to go out and represent the company with clients. I can see him soaking up the learning he’s being exposed to but he’s already bringing a huge amount to the company.”

Lee had over 120 applications for his one apprenticeship vacancy. What’s needed are more opportunities to get into the industry for young people from more diverse backgrounds. Apprenticeships provide one route for that to happen. In a sector beset by illegal unpaid internships, apprenticeships also provide an alternative for talented young people who don’t have the connections or circumstances to work for free for months to get their foot in the door.

That’s why five wage subsidy bursaries for employers have been put in place to encourage employers to invest in this talent. As the specialists for creative, digital and marketing apprenticeships in the Midlands, we know at Creative Alliance that 80% of young people who pass their qualification move into paid work in the sector. That’s why the partnership with The Producers’ Forum and with industry specialists such as Martin and Dan is so critical for developing a more diverse talent pipeline. We can’t expect employers to recruit more diverse young people if we don’t give those young people the basic skills and mindsets they want from a young person entering their company.

Noel Dunne, Director of Creative Alliance

Interested in Creative and Digital Media apprenticeships?

View our current apprenticeship vacancies here.

If you’re an employer interested in hiring an apprentice, click here for more information.

To see more Creative Skillset projects, click here.