New research shows that there is a significant crew shortage in unscripted TV.
The most acute shortages are in production management and senior editorial roles while the hardest to recruit were production coordinators, production managers, editors and series producers.
As well as “too few” production coordinators entering the unscripted TV sector, the report also found the industry is “haemorrhaging” experienced production managers.
The report was undertaken by government-backed industry body ScreenSkills in order to support the new Unscripted TV Skills Fund, which was launched last year.
Among the findings in the report were an acknowledgement of “particularly acute” skills shortages amid crew with mid-level experience, challenges in recruitment and retainment across “all genres, roles and production hubs” and shortages across all career levels, suggesting specifically a problem with retainment.
The report also noted that crew shortages have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has caused more staff absences (either due to testing positive, self-isolating or shielding) and has also seen many people reconsider their careers in the industry. This has been made more acute with the U.K.’s production boom that followed the first lockdown.
But the report concludes: “It is broadly acknowledged that the recruitment and skills challenges faced by employers right now have been in the pipeline for many years and the Covid-19 pandemic has simply brought many underlying issues to the surface.”
These include under-investment in production roles and high levels of burnout.
The knock-on effects of the shortages include rate inflation, production delays, senior staff having to take on junior responsibilities and, more critically, over-promotion of inexperienced staff.
This is particularly concerning given that the report also found the most common skills gap were financial, budgetary, scheduling and project management.
Some of the solutions proposed in the report were to offer a better work-life balance via increased budgets and schedules and greater engagement with educational establishments – from schools to universities – to highlight the range of job roles in the sector and encourage new recruits.
Sinead Rocks, Channel 4’s managing director of nations and regions, and Jane Muirhead, managing director of Raise the Roof Productions, who chair the Unscripted TV Skills Fund Steering Group and Unscripted TV Skills Council respectively, wrote in the report: “Producers have said clearly in this survey that action is needed now. Those of us who are involved in the Unscripted TV Skills Fund are committed to precisely that – improving the situation after years of underfunding. The commitment of broadcasters, streamers and production companies to increasing investment and working together in the interests of the unscripted TV industry is fantastic. However, as you will see, there is a lot to do.”
The full report, which was funded by the BBC, Channel 4 and the Unscripted TV Skills Fund, can be read here.