Getting Started – British Academy Innovation Fellowship latest developments

As part of our British Academy Innovation Fellowship, working with Jones Bamber Productions based at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden, over the past two weeks I have been enjoying interviewing screenwriters and filmmakers from across the UK and internationally, both those inside and outside universities. This month saw the brilliant When Barbara Met Alan by Jack Thorne and Genevieve Barr who I have invited to be part of this project, broadcast on BBC2. The show poignantly and comically dramatizes direct-action campaigns for equality in the 1990s and beyond, revealing its impact on political change. While representation is all the rage now, it has been interesting to note that when it comes to disability and filmmaking this is still a niche area. Many theatre companies are connected to promoting equality for people with disabilities, but there is perhaps only one well-known film company 104 Films | British Feature Films who we are collaborating with, indicating the need for this British Academy project.

Another area I have explored is the difficulty in finding out film students’ destinations. Learners may do a postgraduate course in screenwriting, or a related film area but, unless they keep in touch personally with their successes, it is difficult to find out what careers people move into. This is not just me saying this from my experience; others who work in universities say the same. On this area, at DMU I have met people within the alumni office who have flagged up DMU For Life with me, which can be accessed here DMU for Life which relates to our aim in this British Academy project of offering opportunities for people to work in the film industry.

Our first workshop is planned for 18 May 1-4pm which aims to address the objectives of this project (full abstract below), providing more opportunities for those with disabilities and mental health problems to work in the film industry and thus providing more skilled professionals for the industry. We have travel bursaries for this and our later events in September, December, and February 2023, so do get in touch to register jason.lee@dmu.ac.uk

Meeting the Screenwriting Skills Gap: Evolving Innovation in the British Film Industry Through Mental Health and Disability Equality. This higher education (HE) and industry collaboration tackles a dual need through meeting the UK film industry’s screenwriting skills gap by enabling those with mental ill-health and/or disabilities to join the industry. The UK film industry is booming. New Sky Studios in Elstree alone will create 3,000 jobs. Inward investment in the industry is £3 billion with the domestic industry matching this figure. The industry is struggling to find employees who have the necessary skills in screenwriting. This project analyses this opportunity through expanding the knowledge of mental health and disability in HE and the film industry advancing screenwriting quality and employment. Those with disabilities are the most discriminated against group in the industry; almost nine out of 10 in the industry have poor mental health. The reasons for this are addressed with solutions implemented through critical and creative outputs meeting this urgent two-fold need for equality and skills.

Jason Lee

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