Preparing People for Production
Steve Smith from Beakus attended the CMC Animation Exchange and sent in this full description of the first session of the day – on training initiatives from Creative Skillset and the progress of the training levy, one year into the new animation tax incentive.
Panel: Ruth Fielding (Lupus Films), Hannah Green and Kate O’Connor (Creative Skillset)
Kate O’Connor (Deputy CEO for Creative Skillset) began by continuing a metaphor she’d used at this event last year, that the animation industry had given birth to twins – the tax reliefs and the Skillset training levy. She joked that their ‘weight’ had exceeded all of our expectations. Kate continued that a new Animation Skills Council had been set up, led by Miles Bullough (Wildseed), supported by Ruth Fielding (Lupus) and Helen Brunsdon (producing today’s event for CMC) had done a great deal of work in setting up Creative Skillset’s industry outreach in the initial stages of the new schemes.
The Chancellor George Osbourne had pledged to match fund every pound that the industry paid into the training levy.
Kate then introduced Hannah Green, Skillset’s first Animation Partnership Manager. Hannah said the fund for training in the animation industry was launched in April 2012, and to date had supported 26 projects, benefiting 830 people: 8 or 10 CelAction courses; 3 storyboarding courses (one at Lupus); and 2 producing animation courses.
Ruth Fielding identified a key skills gap as storyboarding, especially for 7-11 year-old kids action-driven series. For Lupus, they’d never done training before, but ran a storyboarding course. At least 11 of the 15 students are working (to Ruth’s best knowledge).
Kath Shackleton, speaking from the floor, explained that her company Fettle had made use of the Skillset Trainee Finder scheme. She said Skillset had been easy to work with, light on paperwork, and helpful when there was a sudden change in needs. She enjoyed watching trainees blossom. They were getting “everything back in spadefuls”. Hannah insisted that Skillset need the industry’s help – “we need people to pay in to the levy”. The levy is 0.5% of a project’s core UK spend. This allows Skillset to receive match funding from the government. She then re-iterated the main areas of skills shortage – storyboarding, production managing, CGI animating, compositing…
A question was asked by Genevieve Dexter (Serious Lunch) reflecting industry confusion over which strands of the Skillset fund they should apply for. Hannah responded that each case is different and producers should approach her to discuss individual requirements. Kate explained the three strands –
- ‘Trainee Finder’, in which you can source talent and Skillset will pay 50% of the cost of training them
- ‘Commissioned Training’, where Skillset can fund 50% of a training course
- The ‘Challenge Fund’, where companies in production can access 50% of the money to train people on the job.
She hinted that the strands might be at risk in the future, and that’s why it’s important they take a bespoke approach to each project.
Greg Childs (CMC) asked if there was more government money available now that there is a games tax relief. Kate replied “Not yet, but the Chancellor stated he is ‘open to influence’”.
Juliet Tzabar (Plug-In Media) asked if there is there a focus on all animation sectors, including online. The answer was short – yes!
Genevieve Dexter mentioned that Skillset can support first time producers, and Ruth added that even veteran producers can access funding for mentors and training.
Kath Shackleton asked whether there were plans to reduce the floor of the challenge fund – which currently stands at £10,000 – thus requiring match funding of £10K from the producer which accompany like Fettle could never afford. Kate said this was being looked at and it was likely that both the floor and the ceiling will come down.
Oli Hyatt (Blue Zoo) added from the floor that the most important thing is that everyone in the UK trains people, as otherwise we will be short on talent at a time of increased demand which could create wage inflation. “So pay into the levy!”
This was the overwhelming message of the session – contribute to training to ensure our workforce can grow as demand grows because of the projected animation boom triggered by the UK Tax Credits.