UK Centre of Screen Excellence launches in Hertfordshire for trainee film and TV creatives

Elstree Screen Arts Academy students with Gareth Ellis-Unwin and Elstree Studios managing director Roger Morris.

Elstree Screen Arts Academy students with Gareth Ellis-Unwin, the Oscar-winning producer of The King's Speech, and Elstree Studios managing director Roger Morris. - Credit: Elstree Studios

The UK's second Centre of Screen Excellence has been launched in Hertfordshire to help plug a skills shortage in the film and TV sector.

Industry-led skills body ScreenSkills, Elstree Screen Arts Academy, the National Film and Television School (NFTS), and Elstree Film Studios have joined forces to create the Centre of Screen Excellence: Elstree.

It will offer new craft and tech traineeships for 18 and 19 year olds.

The Centre of Screen Excellence: Elstree will capitalise on courses in costume, grip, hair and make-up, lighting and production assistant developed with industry practitioners for – and lessons learned from – the pilot Centre of Screen Excellence in Yorkshire.

Elstree Screen Arts (ESA) has also developed its own course in art direction to meet local demand.

Up to 60 places will be available from this September in these six key skills shortage areas, and candidates who successfully complete the course will receive a Centre of Screen Excellence UK Craft Skills Certificate.

Sophia Mascarenhas being filmed.

Sophia Mascarenhas being filmed. - Credit: ScreenSkills, Erroll Jones

The centre's creation further boosts the county's credentials as a major film and high-end TV production hub, and marks another milestone in the drive to offer relevant opportunities and training to young people who are looking for careers in the thriving industry. 

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Roger Morris, chair and founder of the ESA and managing director of Elstree Studios, said: "I'm delighted to be able to join with ESA and ScreenSkills and the NFTS to provide vocational education and training for the creative industries and to provide young people with industry placements to ensure that they get the hands-on training to be employable across our industry.

"It is a testament to the team’s hard work at the ESA over the last eight years that they are now an integral part of this great initiative by ScreenSkills and the NFTS for our rapidly expanding film and TV industry."

Attending last week's launch event was Gareth Ellis-Unwin, the Oscar and BAFTA Award-winning producer of The King's Speech, which was made at Elstree Studios, with location filming also taking place at Knebworth House and Hatfield House.

The head of film and animation at ScreenSkills said: “We are delighted that the Centre of Screen Excellence: Elstree will build on the model developed and launched last year in Yorkshire so that young people and their parents and guardians can be confident in the training being offered and film and television benefit from a properly skilled local workforce.

"I shot both The King’s Speech and my film Exam at Elstree and am delighted to be continuing the connection by supporting local talent to get into an industry I love.”

The initiative is supported by ScreenSkills with National Lottery funds awarded by the BFI (British Film Institute) as part of the BFI’s Future Film Skills strategy. This highlighted the need for 10,000 new recruits into the industry by 2022.

ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar said: “The collaboration between all those involved in this new centre is a fantastic example of how working together can create opportunities for young people from a wide variety of backgrounds and support the screen industries with a skilled pipeline of talent.

"Building an inclusive workforce is embedded in what we do and giving people the right tools to do a job well is an important first step.”

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, added: "This is an exciting step in our strategy to help train a wider workforce for the UK's rapidly growing film and TV industry, using the first Centre of Excellence in Yorkshire as a blueprint for further centres around the UK.

"This new centre in Elstree will help the local area to capitalise on the industry’s increasing demand for skills.”

Centres of Screen Excellence are designed to bring together local and national partners to build capacity in production hubs with a more inclusive, highly skilled workforce.

The borough of Hertsmere is an excellent place to develop the initiative, which launched with Centre of Screen Excellence: Yorkshire last year.

It is home to a number of large studio spaces and production companies including Elstree Film Studios, Universal Production Services, BBC Elstree, BBC Studioworks and the new Sky Studios Elstree, which is due to open in 2022.

Elstree and Borehamwood is also a stone's throw from Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden.

Screen students and Gareth Ellis-Unwin outside Elstree Studios.

Screen students and Gareth Ellis-Unwin outside Elstree Studios. - Credit: Elstree Studios.

These leading creative industry partners are working with Elstree Screen Arts Academy to provide work placements and mentoring in support of the Centre of Screen Excellence traineeship.

The courses will provide applied training from Elstree Screen Arts Academy.

Students of the creative school for the culture industry will receive specialist technical tuition from partner professionals within the film and TV industry and on-set production placements at world-class studios.

They will also attend two ‘boot camps’ with the National Film and Television School designed to make them work-ready by preparing them for the specific requirements of working in productions and for freelance life, including tax, invoicing and networking.

Chris Mitchell, principal at Elstree Screen Arts Academy, said: “We are so proud to be designated as a UK Centre of Screen Excellence, delivering traineeships at ESA in these in-demand jobs in the screen industry.

"It’s exactly what we are all about; providing motivated and talented young people from all walks of life with the specialist technical and creative training to break into the film and TV industries. We look forward to some alumni BAFTAs in the coming years.”