Local TV industry crying out for skilled accountants

Local TV industry crying out for skilled accountants

By Matt Gallagher, MD, thecallsheet.co.uk

Local TV industry crying out for skilled accountants

You may have been one of the millions who binge-watched TV in lockdown. But you probably didn’t think much about who was doing the books.

Yet if you work in accounts, you could be working in television, not just viewing it thanks to free training aimed at helping accounts staff – from payroll assistants to CFOs – join the industry.

ScreenSkills, the skills body for UK screen, is looking to fill skills shortages in several regions for the high-end TV sector – that’s your prestige Sunday night dramas and the hit series on streaming series. Read on for more information about the TV boom and how to become part of it.

Making a drama out of a crisis

Media consumption grew significantly in 2020 for obvious reasons. Viewers were not only glued to the news but were also bingeing on high quality drama series from Line of Duty to Normal People.

By August, the BBC reported UK adults were spending around 45 hours a week watching television, with 12 million new customers having signed up to streaming services during lockdown. ITV Player, All4 and the BBC iPlayer all saw record programme requests.

Backdrop to the boom

The TV success story was not new. There has been a revolution in content creation in the UK over the past 20 years, which accelerated in 2013 when the Government introduced a new financial incentive to support the industry.

The High-end Television Tax Relief encouraged home-grown production by allowing companies with production costs of at least £1m per hour to claim back up to 25 percent of UK qualifying expenditure.

Just a year after the credit was introduced, the combined total of production spend was £640m according to the BFI. By last year, it had increased by over a billion pounds to £1.65m. High-end TV, like the screen industries more generally, is a growth sector and the public appetite for what it produces shows no signs of being sated.

The size of the workforce has nearly tripled in the past 10 years but there is still a need for more talent to join the industry. Accounting departments have experienced some of the biggest difficulty finding skilled and experienced individuals to meet demand.

Perfectly placed for a sequel

While most UK industries face great uncertainty after the pandemic subsides, the screen industries are already back up and running and cameras are rolling on making more high-quality drama for a very hungry global audience.

Although many parts of the economy have been badly damaged by the pandemic, the evidence is that television is bouncing back and needs workers, including accountants, to keep it rolling.

Supporting production across the country

The ScreenSkills HETV Accounts Industry Transfer Programme is a free intensive training scheme and paid placement programme to find the best talent in the North West, Yorkshire and the Bristol area. It’s being launched in those regions to address skills shortages there.

Amazing shows created in these regions include Peaky Blinders and Cold Feet in the North West, The ABC Murders and Gentleman Jack in Yorkshire and Sanditon and Poldark around Bristol and the West Country.

The ScreenSkills course, aimed at account department talent in other industries, is supported by the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund with contributions paid by productions.

Kaye Elliott, ScreenSkills Director of High-end Television, says: “The High-end TV Skills Fund delivers the crucial support needed to meet the skills demands of a fast-growing UK-wide industry. There has never been a better time to transfer skills learnt in other industries into a new career working in TV. This industry-led programme will provide all the training and networks to kick-start your new career.”

Getting Poldark paid

What kind of work does a production accountant do? On the course, participants will be taught about:

  • Tracking costs of multiple consecutive episodes at the same time.
  • How to keep control of the figures before, during and after shooting.
  • Reporting costs per episode and per series.
  • Getting to grips with the different budgeting systems the industry uses.
  • Running payroll for cast and crew.

If you think you think you can make sure Ross Poldark or Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby get paid, this is the course for you.

It offers free extensive training sessions with a leading industry accountant via Zoom, expert advice on how to break into high-end TV and the chance to apply for one of 12 paid 14-week placements with a production company in those areas (Bristol, Yorkshire and the North West).

The training is led by the highly-respected production accountant Neil Cairns, who has 20 years’ experience working on Outlaw King, Under the Skin, The Nest and T2 Trainspotting.

What do you need to make the move?

ScreenSkills wants to hear from all kinds of accounts workers with at least one year’s paid experience in a responsible finance position, living in the North West, Yorkshire or the Bristol area.

There are 20 places for candidates living in or near one of these three UK production hubs. The deadline for applications is October 23, and the course runs every Saturday from November 7 for five weeks.

You’ll need to prove you are serious about a career in television accounts – serious enough to be available for a 14-week paid placement after the course if you land one.

If you’ve got the skills and the drive to join the industry, visit screenskills.com/hetvaccounts


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