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The UK film industry is an independent creator of feature films, a co-production partner and a provider of services to the international film industry. It is an industry made up of a small number of large companies and a very large number of smaller companies, which have an occupationally diverse and highly skilled workforce characterised. In 2007, Gross Value Added (GVA) for film and video totalled £2,501 million; production accounted for 48%, distribution 36% and exhibition 16%.

There are serious challenges for the industry with the introduction of new technologies, specifically the emergence of digital as a production and exhibition tool. New digital HD (High Definition) and 3D cameras are placing demands on the production workforce to adapt to new shooting methods, from set lighting to new design and make-up demands.

The Digital Screen Network is seeing digital projectors replace 35mm equipment in cinemas across the UK, and as such new skills required of projectionists and exhibition staff. The industry is also beginning to adopt 3-D as a viable production method, which will require new production and post-production skills.

Key statistics:

  • Around 27,800 people are estimated to work in the film industry, which is 5% of the creative industries workforce.
  • 62% of the workforce is in cinema exhibition, 34% in film production and 4% work in film distribution.
  • There are around 550 permanent companies in the film industry, but this can fluctuate depending on the number of productions that are being worked on (production companies form for a particular production then close when completed).
  • 55% of companies are production, 18% are distributors and 27% are cinema exhibition companies.
  • 59% of the workforce is male.
  • 6% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background.
  • The average of the film production workforce is 39 years, compared with 29 years for the cinema exhibition workforce.
  • 58% of the film production workforce is 35 years or older.
  • 5% report themselves as having a disability.
  • 89% of the film production workforce is freelance or self-employed.
  • Film production crew are highly qualified; 58% have a degree.

Although there is no set route into the industry, even for those with a media-related degree, it is usual to start at the bottom (such as a Runner) and work your way up. This is usual for both new entrants and those transferring in from another industry. The industry is highly competitive so experience of working on short or student films can provide a good introduction to feature film production. However, ‘on-set’ hierarchy and traditions of working as part of a crew can only be learned by experience. The film industry recruits on ‘word of mouth’ so new entrants have to work on raising their profile.

New technologies are having a significant impact on the industry, so the workforce have to continuously update their skills and experience to ensure that they can remain relevant and competitive. In general, common training needs are: the art and design and camera departments, specifically around the use of new formats and computer technology; and the locations department, in terms of health and safety requirements.

There are demands on new entrants to the industry to gain a real understanding of how the different sectors and functions of the film industry inter-relate. The most commonly cited area of skills needed by freelancers is around business skills, such as financing, marketing and management.

In film production, the largest occupational group is production (24%), followed by art and design (23%). Around 10% work in camera/photography and 6% work in each of business management and an umbrella heading of ‘other’ which includes a combination of stunts, catering and other occupations not classified elsewhere.

In film distribution, 46% of the workforce is in ‘distribution, sales and marketing’ roles and a further 38% are working in strategic management roles and 17% in business management.

In cinema exhibition, 79% of individuals work in kiosk/box office roles. Other notable occupations in terms of numbers include projectionists and head office/team leaders/managers (both 7% of the workforce).

The largest number of employees in film is located in: London; the South East; and Scotland.

Source: Skillset AACS LMI report 2010 and Film Labour Market Intelligence Digest 2010

Distribution of the film workforce by occupation, 2009


Source: Film Labour Market Intelligence Digest 2010, Figure 4. Data from Skillset’s 2009 Employment Census.