BFI Film Academy Bristol

An inclusive industry led talent development initiative
Young people as part of camera crew
Bex Rose: BFI Film Academy Bristol - BOVTS

The creative industries as a whole are one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors with film and televsion being an important part of that story. The Future Film Skills report from the British Film Industry highlights the creative, cultural and economic success - in the past 15 years, 48 of the 200 top grossing films were made in the UK.  

Bristol is an important part of this landscape, being the third largest centre for film and television production in the UK after London and Manchester.

If the industry continues to grow at the same pace seen over the past five years, this could amount to a need for over 10,000 new job entrants to the sector by 2020.

However there are some critical issues that unless resolved could undermine the vibrancy of the sector.

The first is that the current education and training landscape is failing to develop young people’s industry specific skills – particularly for craft and technical roles. This is especially severe in the production office, art department, among construction teams and in all roles and at all levels in VFX.

The second is inclusion, which is crucial if the sector is to remain fresh, rich and relevant. The sector is particularly unrepresentative of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (who make up 3% of the production/post production work force compared with 13% of the population), those who are disabled (who make up 5% of those working in the screen industries compared with 11% of the population) and who have less advantaged backgrounds (who represent just 12% of the workforce compared with 34% of the population).

As an independent cinema an inclusive vibrant sector is crucial to our survival so we see developing the talent of tomorrow as a core part of our mission.

The BFI Film Academy Network programme will play an important role in over coming both of these challenges. 

The British Film Institute supports 40 different organisations across the UK to deliver hands on industry led technical courses for 16 – 19 year olds. Here in Bristol the Network Academy courses are delivered at Watershed (with a focus on documentary and exhibition) and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (with a focus on drama and animation).

Watch one of the documentary films made by last year’s participants:

BOP consulting have independently evaluated the impact of the BFI Film Academy Network programme and the young people involved cite specialist technical knowledge as the most important thing that set them apart from those who had not done the Academy. Expanded networks, signposting to further opportunities and developing their soft skills are also highlighted as crucial.

The Go West report identifies roughly 130 production companies in the city of Bristol. Animation and Natural History, which Bristol is famous for, account for a significant number of companies. Interestingly though over half of the companies are non-broadcast content creators making branded content, educational films, music videos, short dramas and documentaries. BFI Film Academy develops participants as filmmakers but also as content creators. The films they produce through the Academy are distributed through Rife magazine – Bristol’s youth led online platform – and through this collaboration young people learn about responding to a brief, making content for an online audience and using social media to drive engagement.

Whilst making films at Watershed, Academy participants also programme and produce a regional young people’s event – Inside Film. Last year this was attended by over 200 young people and featured screenings, workshops and masterclasses all designed to inspire filmmaking, support young people’s next career steps and connect them with industry professionals. Co-producing the event with our BFI Film Academy participants means the marketing and programme felt relevant to young people. We therefore reached more young people than it is possible to offer places on the Academy.

Alongside training young people in skills that are relevant to the industry our programmes also have a strong emphasis on inclusivity.  Last year we received 63 applications and offered 21 places.  38% of participants identify as BAME, 33% of participants had received free school meals and 2% identified as disabled.  If we are going to change the make up of those working in the industry it is crucial that the Academy is training diverse groups of young people.

Hear from BFI Film Academy participant Kerisha talk about the impact of the programme:

Students participating in the BFI Film Academy supports ArtsMark Award criteria. 

Artsmark Award logo

Current activity

Visit website