Blog Post

Three ways to boost London and the South East’s screen industries

Lily Clark shares insights from our expert roundtable on how to nurture a UK success story: developing talent, encouraging co-ordination, and finding more space.

Business in the screen industries – film, TV, video games, and advertising – is booming.

The UK is currently experiencing record breaking levels of film and high-end TV production. And London is the hub. 60% of current studio space and around 60% of people employed in the sector in the UK are in London and the South East.

And it could grow even bigger. Which would mean more well paying jobs, and taxes to fund public services right across the UK.

The scale of this opportunity is huge. But the industry still faces serious challenges. A shortage of skilled workers, space constraints, and a lack of collaborative thinking threatens to undermine this UK success story.

Earlier this year Centre for London hosted a policy roundtable at Arup on how the city can support the sector. Here are the key insights from the industry insiders and experts we spoke to.

Screen industries need to nurture talent to create a skilled workforce

Industry growth has created an acute shortage of skilled workers across roles and departments.

ScreenSkills have estimated that the continued film and high-end TV production growth will require between 15,130 and 20,770 additional full-time employees by 2025.

Experts at our event saw more accessible and specialist training as important for meeting this demand. Schools, colleges, and universities need to build more pathways from training to employment.

Part of the problem is that the film and video production sector has traditionally employed a high proportion of freelance workers. In 2016, 49% of people working in film and video production, a total of more than 27,000 people, were self-employed.

Freelance work can be unpredictable, lonely, and contributes to a lack of coordination across the sector.

It’s also one reason that diversity is still a big challenge. Only 1 in 4 screen workers are from working class backgrounds, and 90% of the workforce is white.

Experts at our roundtable explained that people from more privileged backgrounds are more likely to be able to sacrifice their time and salary while training and take the risk of not having a stable job after a freelance job finishes.

And this can create a vicious cycle, where those from less privileged backgrounds do not feel that they belong.

Our experts agreed that more support for freelancers in the early stages of their career is needed. People from diverse backgrounds need to feel like they belong, more stable work is necessary to prevent periods of unemployment, and workplace mental health must be addressed.

Unless the industry is nurturing talent, the pipeline of future professionals will continue to leak.

To be heard by government, screen industries need to speak with one voice

Industry representatives, developers and policymakers all agreed that the screen industries lack internal coordination and collaboration.

Despite work from some excellent organisations, the screen industries remain fragmented compared to more established sectors.

They can struggle to be heard and find engaging with government difficult. We heard that government needs and wants clear proposals with evidence for business support. Increased co-ordination could help find those specifics, and help create a business-led offer to government.

And better co-ordination could also help alleviate the workforce and skills challenges already mentioned- more appeal to entrants and parents, more pathways created in schools & universities, more stable jobs, and increased diversity.

The screen industries could do more to sell their industry as a great career option – with the right resources. We heard from industry experts that addressing the skills gap starts with persuading kids, parents and teachers that going into the screen sector is a viable career.

The screen industries need more studio space – at affordable prices

Finally, land use challenges came up as an industry constraint – both in terms of availability and affordability.

Demand for film studio space is growing in London and the South East, but a lack of site allocations is a key challenge. The UK is missing out on as many as eight blockbuster films per year due to a lack of studio space.

Local authorities are more willing than private individuals and companies to make land available. Often landowners find it difficult to work on the same short-lease contracts that film crews do.

Shooting on location is also popular in London. For stories set in London of course, but London architecture is also a handy stand-in for a range of historical periods and sci-fi settings. But a large proportion of public spaces in London are privately managed, which can make them hard to access for filming.

More could be done to enable even more of London’s assets to be used for location shoots. Two ideas from our roundtable were exploring repurposing high streets to free up industrial space and creating a properly resourced location database.

As well as availability, there are issues with cost. Studios, offices, and storage spaces in London are often unaffordable, especially for smaller companies and crews. Unless more affordable space is made available by both boroughs and private landowners, we risk producers reconsidering their future in the capital.


The screen industries in London and the South East are booming. Done right, the continued growth will bring more jobs and wider social benefits for Londoners.

But we’ll only make this happen if we close the skills gap, coordinate the industry better, and unlock more affordable space for filming and other related services.

The findings from this roundtable will feed into a larger research project that Centre for London will be undertaking on London’s screen industries. If you would like to find out more, or discuss coming onboard as a sponsor, please get in touch.