The monthly email update from the UK Screen Association,
the trade body representing companies providing services
to the film & TV industries
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April 2016
In this month's edition:
  • The Apprenticeship Levy: Will it work for Film & TV Services?
  • Alias Hire: The Drone Rangers
  • Technicolor London Team Reflects on the 2016 BAFTA and Oscar Results
  • March's Integro ACJ Shining Star
Will the Apprenticeship Levy deliver for the Film and TV Services Sector?

UK Screen’s CEO, Neil Hatton (left) highlights some crucial shortcomings.
This time next year, the Apprenticeship Levy will be upon us.  It’s the cornerstone of the government’s policy to get 3 million extra people into employment by 2020. A noble aim, but for the film and TV sector it poses some serious problems in its current proposed form.
If you’re a small company with a total wage bill of less than £3million per year, you won’t have to pay anything. However some of the largest UK Screen members, particularly those in the VFX sector could end up contributing as much as £200k each per year into the levy pot. The funds can only be used to claim two thirds of the off-site training and assessment costs on accredited courses from accredited providers. For our sector, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, because we require specialised training for small cohorts and the course development costs may prove to be a barrier.

For VFX, the only accredited courses available are Junior 2D Artist and Assistant Technical Director. It’s taken 18 months to get those approved via a labyrinthine and inefficient process at BIS. In broadcast TV, there are also just two courses, OB Engineer and Broadcast Production Assistant. There’s nothing specific for post production. For film, there’s only Props Practitioner.
There’s a real danger that companies will take the decision that the cost of trying to claw back what they put into the levy is simply not worth it. They might reluctantly just write off the levy as just another payroll tax, unwelcome as that is in a highly competitive global industry. If the training vouchers aren’t claimed back, the cash is not ring-fenced and will leach out of the creative sector altogether.
UK Screen will be pressing for the course accreditation process to be streamlined and the ability to use the levy to fund the course creation process.
Regardless of any concessions the government might make, with just 12 months to go before the they start taking the money, we need to act now to ensure that the right courses are up and running to give our sector a chance to get back what it puts into the levy. UK Screen has a role to play in encouraging consortia of employers large and small to come together to create new apprenticeship standards which address the skills shortages in our industry. If that’s something that your company would be interested in doing then please get in touch with me.

To read the full article please click HERE

Spotlight on...
Alias Hire: The Drone Rangers

Despite being a relatively new trend, drone footage is now being used in a large proportion of TV and film. UK Screen’s Victoria Johnson (right) asked Alias Hire MD Danny Dawson and drone pilot Stuart Watt, what has been behind their foray into working on drones and what are the advantages?

What was the motivation in opening up a drone operation?
Danny Dawson: I was looking for new adventurous equipment to make Alias Hire standout from competitors. I had a chance encounter with Stu about 2 years  ago, on D’Arblay  Street, and he filled me in on his gaining a drone license. At at IBC and NAB  drone tech was becoming more apparent at those shows. So we came to an agreement where we would employ Stu and he would fly some drones for us.
How did you first get into being a drone pilot?
SW: As a camera operator, I saw a niche in the market for an operator with a drone licence. It was costing the productions twice as much in man-power, because they had me on the ground for the traditional shots and they were trying to direct a drone pilot. If I can provide both then that’s more value to a production.
With the growing popularity, will the legalities become tighter on drone use?
SW: There will probably be greater legislation put in place. The UK was one of the first to impose altitude restrictions and built-up area clauses. The tech does have a miniscule chance of failing; which is why it’s so important to use a reputable drone piloting company. At Alias Hire we know what we’re doing and we have contingencies in place for everything.

DD: I’ve had a couple of instances where companies have turned around and said “Oh we’ve just bought our own drone”; well that’s fine, but if something does happen, despite all the liability insurance you can have, I don’t think insurance will pay out if the pilot didn’t have a Pfaw license. Then, of course, with more laws that could lead to prosecution. I don’t think going anywhere but to a professional is worth the risk.
 What are the advantages of drones over the more traditional cranes and helicopters?
DD: A crane or jib would take an age to put up, possibly around up to an hour, for what could be just a single shot. Whereas as a drone can be up in as little as 15mins. Helicopters still have their place, I think. Legally drones aren’t allowed to fly higher than 400ft, and not over built-up areas. So for things like the opening of the ‘Apprentice’, with that sweeping view of London, it has to be done by helicopter. Obviously, that’s expensive and so drones are much better for the production bottom line. Also helicopters can’t do those shots in forested areas and tight spaces to the same degree a drone can.

SW: Drones are also advantageous from the point of view of a director, allowing more creative control. They can go up and down multiple times after reviewing footage and it’s not a big problem. Typically, I’ll fly the drone and my assistant will operate the gimble for the camera and that allows the director to see what we’re filming at that time and make split-second creative decisions as well.
Will Alias Hire be heading to NAB this year?
DD: I will be making the pilgrimage to NAB this year, as I do every year! I think for us, because of the drones we have so much more to see than our peers. To be blunt, the money Alias hire has invested in drone kit hasn’t paid itself back yet like it would with traditional equipment, and may not do for a while. But it’s about reaching a wider client base and offering more to existing clients – you’ve got to up your game.
What jobs come to mind when you think of your recent drone work?
DD: We’re excited about the slate of work we’re using drones for at the moment. We’ve just wrapped an automotive commercial shoot in Sweden, very dramatic icy landscapes etc. We also put together some amazing crowd footage from the Isle of Wight festival and even a pilot for a BBC programme about military drones, just providing birds-eye footage.

SW: The Sweden job was great because we had to battle with an ice track and rapidly moving vehicles (we practised achieving the shots by tracking a colleague on his bike!) and we were given a lot of creative freedom. It had been primarily land-based, but from what we’ve heard from the director, the aerial shots have come to the fore. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole thing.

Read the full article HERE

Technicolor London Team Reflects on the 2016 BAFTA and Oscar Results
Technicolor London have pulled it out of the gifting-bag following this year's awards season. Over the past year, their team has worked on a number of winning and nominated projects – from box office hits to exciting emerging talent.
From the pre-production colour pipeline planning, to the artistry in picture post and sound mixing, the team at Technicolor London has said they are honored to have worked on a number of the Award season’s nominees and winners.
The biggest story of the 2016 Awards season is the run-away success enjoyed by The Revenant: including a triumphant 5 BAFTA’s (Best Film, Director, Cinematography, Actor and Sound) and 3 Oscar’s (Best Director, Cinematography and Actor). The Revenant, is an especially exciting project for Technicolor as their teams from all corners of the world worked closely with director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC to help bring the survival epic to visceral life. Not only does Lubezki’s win mark his third in a row and solidify his reputation as one of the finest cinematographers working today, it marks the fifth straight Best Cinematography Oscar® winner Technicolor has color finished -- previously Birdman, Gravity, Life of Pi, and Hugo. At the Oscar’s® this year, Technicolor as a global group worked on half of the Best Picture nominees.

Read the full article here
Calling all Aspiring Leaders
Following on from the success of the NextGen Aspiring Women programme, NextGen would like to introduce the new Aspiring Leaders programme. It’s has been developed by the Arts University Bournemouth in response to common skills issues around leadership of creative teams.

With 24% of VFX, 19% of Games and 13% of Animation companies reporting Leadership and Management as a key skills shortage in the latest Creative Skillset survey. If you are, or know someone who is supervising, leading or managing a creative team or looking to make that move into a managerial position then Aspiring Leaders is for you.

A Word from Neil
We hope everybody had an enjoyable Easter break and you're back firing on all cylinders.

The year is certainly moving on quickly and our UK Screen events are fast upon us, to see what events we have in the works and to find out how to RSVP, check here.

In this edition we feature Alias Hire, talking about their work using drones. If you want your business to appear in future Spotlights please keep sending us your press releases or let Victoria know your news, and do let us know what you think about the new strategy.

Neil Hatton,
CEO – UK Screen


HDR: The Future's Bright
Half-day UK Screen Technology Conference –
Free to UK Screen members. 
For more information, see the UK Screen website

Thursday 19th May 2016 
1pm to 7pm 

Dolby Europe, Soho Square
And the Winner is...

John Cooper, Assistant Editor at Milk VFX has been announced as UK Screen’s March Shining Star.

Clare Norman, Head of Production at Milk VFX has said;
“John is a bright, tenacious and kind-hearted member of the Milk team. He’s shown outstanding dedication to his role as Assistant Editor going above and beyond the normal duties required. He has proactively and consistently taken on complex duties that would normally be handled by a production coordinator, due the size of the production team and volume of shots on our TV project Thunderbirds are Go – especially now we have recently started work on series two. His keenness and understanding of what is required to make the project run smoothly mean he is the ideal person to step up to take on more responsibility. His attention to detail is second to none and his ability to learn is impressive.

He has the confidence of the entire team, is an easygoing professional who artists know they can turn to if they are unsure about anything. We are never in any doubt that John will do us proud. On top of all of this he continues to learn and grow adding to his own duties by actively helping out on other projects when needed.”

Shining Stars is an exciting recognition scheme sponsored by Intergro ACJ Insurance Brokers and is designed to help motivate and reward non-creative employees within UK Screen member companies, who often fulfil invaluable but unsung roles.

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