Edinburgh TV Festival Debrief….
It’s been a few weeks since we attended the Edinburgh TV Festival, and we have spent time to digest it all – the encouraging, and the less encouraging.
There were hints of optimism, and lots of realism…and of course Louis Theroux telling everyone ‘to take more risks’ when it comes to creating content. The thing we were most interested in though was, what the future looks like for freelance work. Thankfully and quite rightly, there was a great deal of focus on the state of the freelance world currently, and we listened with alert attentiveness to see what predictions broadcasters and production companies might have for us to share with our freelancers, and what support is being offered.
The Film & TV Charity were championed throughout the festival, and we know they spent a great deal of time talking with broadcasters and production companies explaining the importance of supporting freelance talent to insure the future of the media industry. Unbelievably, the Film & TV Charity have seen an 800% increase in people applying for financial support this year. Thankfully, the event saw more and more companies contributing to this fund to help see freelancers through this quieter period – so if you are struggling and haven’t explored this avenue yet, please read here for more information.
In the aptly name talk from Screenskills called ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to champion and retain talent in uncertain times’, they presented an interesting statistic that from a recent BECTU Survey, 1 in 5 freelancers haven’t worked in the past 3 months and 1 in 10 haven’t worked in the past 10 months. Almost 50% of freelancers in UK television are currently out of work, according to a survey from BECTU. As a result, it seems that sadly over 60% of talented people are considering leaving the industry for a more secure future.
The phrase “the perfect storm” was referenced a lot during the festival, and discussions of whether this quiet period was unusual for the media industry, or just cyclical – the outcome was undetermined, some saying we have seen periods like this before, and others saying it is out of the ordinary. According to some panellists, there is no easy fix and there were predictions that it might take a year to resolve. The perfect storm seems to consist of a decline in ad sales, strikes in the US, Brexit, cost of living crisis, streamers not fully understanding the business model, and the post Covid boom, to name a few. Many panellists seem to think that it might take a year to fully comprehend the true extent of why this downturn of work has occurred.
We also attended panels where there were discussions about green shoots, with many broadcasters said they are still commissioning, but with reduced budgets due to the decline of advertising sales. It was difficult to decipher a timeline of when work might pick up again, there were hopeful talks of Autumn this year, and then more cautious talks of Spring next year, during the UKTV: Spotlight talk Marcus Arthur, UKTV chief, said
“I reckon we’ve got another four months or so to go…It feels like it will be tough until Christmas. Q1 next year will also be a bit challenged, but I’m optimistic, even if I can’t quite see it yet.”
The general feel, and what we do know for sure, is that everyone wants to continue to create content, and are practically chomping at the bit to do so. As soon as they get the green lights, it will be all hands on deck.
There is no doubt about it, the freelancer community is facing a crisis. One of the positives we could derive from the event was that the industry has to face that when times are tough, the freelancer community is hugely affected and therefore there should be more support during these more difficult times. Freelancers are the backbone of this industry and the event has certainly sparked more curiosity and talk of support for freelancers to help during quieter times in the future, as well as more immediate action they can take now.
An interesting statistic came out during one of the talks, that 53% of school leavers are wanting to go into the creative industry but only 18% think it’s realistic / possible. It seems not everyone is aware of the routes to take, how to do this or even what roles are available. However, it was great to hear that there are numerous initiatives that are helping nurture people into the industry, including; the ITV Academy, Amazon Primes’ collaboration with National Film & TV School, and UKTV’s All Voices initiative gives new entrants, mid-level professionals and returners to the industry the opportunity to work in paid, full-time roles on UKTV Original productions. As a company, we have just launched our 2nd year of Rising Talent, where we have taken on 10 emerging freelancers to the books, with the aim to help nurture them into the industry through mentorship, workshops and trying to get them paid work.
It’s clear that the industry needs to work more collaboratively to keep it thriving, whether that’s through helping people diversify their skills so they can find more work, nurturing new talent, being more communicative with their regular freelancers as to what is happening with their company, or giving guidance on timelines and preparing for future productions.
We remain optimistic about the future, creative people will always find a way to comeback with more energy and new ideas. Who knows what the future holds, we might have to let go of the idea of going back to ‘normal’, but one thing about this industry is that it is adaptable and willing to find new ways of creating.
We are continuing to remind clients that we are here, with tonnes of incredible talent on the books ready and raring to go, and we are consistently reaching out to new clients and seeing what other areas we can branch out to. We will also continue to keep conversations going to help understand the shape of the industry, what direction we are all heading in, and together we will get through this quiet period and come out a little stronger, no doubt!