The enduring popularity of Cinderella, from its origins in Greek mythology to its countless modern-day retellings, shows that audiences have long been captivated by rags-to-riches tales of individuals rising to success. But whilst we can all appreciate the happily-ever-afters of the fairy-tale world, the reality of the modern day is that this kind of exponential rise from adversity to accomplishment is vanishingly rare – especially in our Creative Industries.
Across the UK’s creative sector we are rightly waking up to the need for greater diversity and representation, yet, all too often the important question of social class is excluded from the conversation. In a sector that lacks standardised career entry or progression pathways, socio-economic background is the invisible obstacle making the creative sector out of reach for many young people.
The culture of working for free, or below minimum wage, can often be an unacceptable reality for those aspiring to get their first foot in the door. Recent research by the Sutton Trust estimated the price of working unpaid for a month in Manchester is £827, rising to £1,019 in London. This is intrinsically unfair, limits access to our creative industries and, for an industry that prides itself on its ability to communicate to the many, is creatively and economically short-sighted. Only those with strong support networks or personal funds can afford to sustain this lifestyle for any period of time.
In the Film and TV industry the consequences of this are clear. In 2018, 67% of Channel 4 staff had parents who had worked at professional or managerial level, whilst the BBC recorded 61% of its staff from the upper social classes. Over the past 25 years, 67% of British Oscar winners and 42% of BAFTA winners attended a private school, compared with just 7% of the general population. The old saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ still rings true for many young people aspiring to build their creative careers.
At Creative England we create opportunities for the raw talent that we see all over the country. Our shortFLIX programme, run in partnership with Sky Arts and ScreenSkills, provides training, mentoring support and funding for a cohort of individuals aged between 18-25, who are outside of full time employment or education and have an idea for a short film. Through this we’ve seen that when talented young people are given a crucial first step-up it’s often a catalyst for a host of other opportunities. One shortFLIX alumni, Abena Taylor-Smith, stumbled across the programme through Twitter whilst working part-time in her local cinema. Her short, Ladies Day, a light-hearted exploration of LGBTQ+ identity in an afro-Caribbean hair salon in Sheffield, was nominated for the prestigious IRIS prize last year. Luna Carmoon, who despite being a die-hard cinephile couldn’t afford to fund herself through film school, had her shortFLIX production Nosebleed longlisted for a BIFA and screened at festivals such as BFI London, NFFTY, Underwire Fest, London Short Film Festival and Bath Film Fest. I’m thrilled to see that both young women have since had the opportunity to take the next steps in their film-making careers; Abena was recently chosen for a directors course at the National Film and Television School, whilst Luna is a Sundance Ignite Fellow and will shoot her second short film this summer with support from BFI and Film4.
Our work at Creative England has shown that creating opportunities for young people without industry connections or prior experience really matters. We know that there’s creative talent and new voices all over the country waiting to tell their stories. Today we are launching our call for the next round of aspiring young film-makers with an engaging story to tell, via shortFLIX 2019. We provide guidance from initial idea through to a completed script and a pitch to commissioners. The final short films are broadcast on the Sky Arts Channel and through their on-demand platform.
In the absence of fairy godmothers, I think there’s more that we can all do to ensure everybody feels welcome at our Creative Industries party. The creative sector should be the premier place for talent to shine through, regardless of colour, creed, sexuality, disability or economic background. Our creative output is world-leading and should be an important driver to increase and enrich the life chances of young people. Giving them that crucial first break is the way to ensure that contemporary culture includes and celebrates every segment of our exciting, diverse country. Now that sounds like a party I really would get my glass slippers on for.
shortFLIX is a short film initiative for aspiring new filmmakers aged 18-25 who are not in full-time education, employment or training. We seek out ideas from creative, talented and ambitious young people that have the potential to make great short films for broadcast on Sky Arts.
shortFLIX is led by Creative England in partnership with Sky Arts, and supported by the ScreenSkills Film Skills Fund with contributions from UK film productions. The programme is developed with award-winning writer-director Carolina Giammetta, as Lead Tutor and Creative Director.
The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 31st May 2019.
Sky Arts is the UK’s only dedicated channel for the arts. It offers something for everyone, whatever their passion, with entertaining programmes showcasing the best of classical and popular music, theatre, opera, dance and the visual arts, as well as original drama and comedy. Sky Arts is broadcast 24 hours a day and has over 1,000 hours available on catch-up TV, including flagship programmes such as Portrait Artist of The Year, Landscape Artist of the Year and The South Bank Show.
The channel is committed to supporting the arts by investing in the best talent, both on and off screen, as well as through exclusive partnerships with major UK and European cultural institutions, including National Theatre Live, Tate and The British Library.
ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen-based creative industries -animation, film, games, television including children’s and high-end, VFX and immersive technology. We work across the whole of the country to build an inclusive workforce with the skills needed for continued success, now and in the future.
 The Sutton Trist (2018) Internships – unpaid, unadvertised, unfair
 Friedman, S., Laurison, D. (2019) The Class Ceiling: why it pays to be privileged
 The Sutton Trust (2016) Leading People 2016