Screen Berkshire was today officially launched to support the ongoing growth of the film and high end television (HETV) production industry in the region. The partnership will provide opportunities for work and training to build on the regional screen skills talent pool, improve diversity in the industry and support productions that are filming in the region.
At a launch event, held at Shinfield Studios, guests from across Berkshire attended to celebrate the launch of the region’s BFI Skills Cluster, made possible thanks to National Lottery funding. The Skills Clusters are part of the BFI’s nationwide strategy to support screen sector skills development across the nations and regions to aid the expansion of the UK’s screen production industry.
Shinfield Studios is a Screen Berkshire partner alongside the University of Reading and Bedlam Film Productions. The organisations were brought together and are led by Slough-based social enterprise Resource Productions CIC, which also established the Berkshire Film Office, with all six local councils.
The news follows the announcement earlier in the year that Screen Berkshire (formerly known as the BFI Berkshire Skills for Screen cluster) had been awarded £600,000 BFI National Lottery funding to make the industry more accessible and help train and develop emerging and experienced film and TV production crew. The three-year programme aims to create opportunities for new entrants to the workforce, those from underrepresented backgrounds, individuals upskilling and over 50s jobseekers returning to work. Alongside this mission, Screen Berkshire has the goal of supporting existing crew to upskill and re-skill as well as supporting productions who are producing in the region by offering a single source to help access crew, facilities and locations. Led by Berkshire based industry businesses, Screen Berkshire will help connect local educators ranging from the University of Reading and local colleges, as well as connecting individuals with local job opportunities.
Dominique Unsworth MBE, CEO of Resource Productions CIC said: “Berkshire is at the heart of Britain’s booming film and TV industry, and is already home to world-class studios and crew.
“Screen Berkshire is focused on providing opportunities for Berkshire people of all backgrounds to train or update their skills, to help match the continued high demand for skilled crew. A more diverse production staff, and a broader pipeline of technical and creative talent, is crucial to the future of the industry. Through Screen Berkshire, we have the plan and the partners to achieve it.”
Professor John Gibbs, professor of film and Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity at the University of Reading, said: “To continue to be successful, the British film industry needs creative and skilled people, the latest studio facilities, and long-term support and leadership. I am proud that the University of Reading is supporting growth in all of these areas, through the development of the University’s Thames Valley Science Park as a new space for creative and media industries, and with our long track record in education and research in TV and film.”
“Screen Berkshire is a key development in our University mission to support our community through innovation and education, for the benefit of all.”
At today’s launch event, industry and local guests including the freelance crew community, production and facilities companies, students, MPs and local dignitaries joined the Screen Berkshire team on sound stage 1 at Shinfield Studios to learn more about Screen Berkshire’s mission.
Guests were also invited to observe a film shoot simulation. Overseen by Berkshire's own Oscar winning producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin, the shoot was a live action sample scene for a short film by local filmmaker Grace Derriman. The crew comprised local trainees and established freelancers working alongside BFI Film Academy, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Sector-based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) and Department for Education (DFE) Bootcamp alumni, as well as students from the University of Reading and other further education students from Berkshire colleges, to give them the experience of professional filming conditions.
Shinfield Studios hosted the event on one of its 13 completed sound stages. The site will be fully operational in early 2024 and includes 18 sound stages, a 9-acre filming backlot, workshop facilities, contemporary office space, sustainable facilities and production support facilities, such as post- production services.
Screen Berkshire is one of six regional partnerships, established across the UK, which has benefited from BFI Skills Cluster funding to date. This is part of a wider industry ambition to support skills training and development as the film and TV production industry faces skills shortages and gaps.
Additional financial and organisational support for the three year programme has already been provided by Shinfield Studios, University of Reading, all six Berkshire local authorities; Wokingham, Reading, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell Forest and Slough, as well as Bray Film Studios, Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Berkshire Local Skills Investment Plan.