Ex-Amazon Boss: “Throwing Money” Won’t Solve UK Film & TV Workforce Crisis

The former Amazon Europe chief and current head of the UK's Screen Sectors Skills Task Force emphasizes the need for a strategic overhaul in addressing the industry's talent crunch.

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In a passionate plea during her appearance at the UK’s British Film & High-End TV Inquiry, Georgia Brown, the former boss of Amazon in Europe and the current chair of the UK’s Screen Sectors Skills Task Force, delivered a stark warning: “Throwing money” at the “workforce crisis” in UK film and TV will “exacerbate the problem” rather than solving it.

Brown, who oversaw major productions like “Clarkson’s Farm,” “Good Omens,” and “The Grand Tour” during her five-year tenure at Amazon Europe, stressed the importance of taking a holistic approach to resolving the industry’s skills shortage. Despite the industry comfortably meeting the BFI-set target of spending 1% of production budgets (or £100M) on training, Brown emphasized that this spending is far too fragmented.

“We know we are collectively spending more than 1% but I will keep coming back to the fact that it’s not a money question,” she said. “Throwing more money won’t solve this, it will exacerbate the problem. We need to reorganize the way we are operating to effectively deploy capital in the right areas. We are spending a significant amount on skills but collectively it’s not adding up to the sum of its parts.”

Brown cited data from a recent investment survey, which found that while the industry is desperate for more support for mid-level and senior roles, only 27% of its collective skills investment is being directed towards the upper echelons. She posited that industry bodies simply hadn’t realized the need to properly address this issue until very recently.

“Those in the middle of their careers were promoted too soon during Covid and that was exacerbated by the huge impact of Covid on mental health and the ability to retain crew and knowledge,” Brown added. “There is not enough investment going to the leadership side. There are a number of schemes but they are all too reactive, we need a much more holistic view.”

Backing up Brown’s point, “Top Boy” director Myriam Raja shared her personal struggle, revealing that she hasn’t had any work since last June while she writes her own feature without receiving any income. Raja, who has directed several episodes of the double-BAFTA-winning “Top Boy” Season 3, said, “You still feel a lack of security [in the middle of your career].”

Work on taking a more holistic view has already started with the Screen Sector Task Force, Brown stressed. The body was set up as an extension of the BFI Skills Task Force last year and issued a blueprint to resolve the crisis, which included transforming the skills body ScreenSkills.

Laura Mansfield, the new ScreenSkills boss, echoed the “degree of urgency” for a “central strategic body” and more data. “We need to look at the consistency of year-on-year data that looks not just at skills gaps but where the investment is going,” she said.

As the UK’s film and TV industry grapples with its workforce challenges, Brown’s call for a strategic overhaul and more coordinated efforts to address the talent crunch resonates strongly. By reorganizing the approach to skills investment and focusing on a holistic, data-driven strategy, the industry may be better equipped to tackle the workforce crisis and pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.

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