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The Walt Disney Studios and BFI announce Future Skills Trainee Programmes

Thu 27th Feb 2020

The BFI and The Walt Disney Studios have announced that two new productions have successfully participated in the pioneering BFI Film Academy Future Skills programme – Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and Disney’s Cruella. The programmes follow a hugely successful pilot with Lucasfilm on Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2017 and a subsequent programme on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, establishing the Future Skills programme as an exemplar in industry-led training with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

A new behind the scenes film of the Future Skills Trainees working on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and also featuring Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and BFI CEO Ben Roberts, is available to watch at

Designed to give opportunities for a career in film to young people from all over the UK and from all backgrounds, 85 young people – the majority who are graduates from the Department of Education backed BFI Film Academy – were employed as paid trainees in a variety of craft and technical roles on each production. The Future Skills programme, supported by National Lottery funding, saw 28 trainees on Solo: A Star Wars Story, 31 trainees on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, 15 trainees on Marvel Studios’ Black Widow and 11 trainees on Cruella, working in various departments and on a range of roles including Sound, Lighting, Camera, Script/Continuity, VFX, Props, Costume, Set Decoration, Hair and Make-Up, Accounts and Action Vehicles.

Through the four iterations of the programmes 73% of the trainees were women, 38% were from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, 12% identify as disabled, 58% were recruited from outside Greater London, and 32% received free school meals – a socioeconomic measure. Since completing the Future Skills programme 70% of the trainees have gone on to secure regular work on other productions and progress their careers on titles including Marvel Studios’ The Eternals and Doctor Strange, The King’s Man, Twist, Venom 2, Jurassic World 3, Blinded by the Light, Wonder Woman, Dumbo, Artemis Fowl, Bridgerton and Pennyworth series 2.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Our screen industries are world beating but there is more work to be done to ensure people from across the UK and from a wider variety of backgrounds can get involved. Initiatives such as this one are exactly what is needed and will help more people get their big break in this fast growing and exciting sector."

Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production said, “The Walt Disney Studios is a proud supporter of the pioneering BFI Film Academy Future Skills programme, and our team is thrilled to see its continued success and the career opportunities it has provided these young people. Not only have we been impressed by the passion and commitment the trainees showed while working on our movies, we’re very pleased that 70% of them have gone on to find regular work in the wider film industry.”

Ben Roberts, CEO BFI said, “Lucasfilm really took a leap of faith with us on developing this programme, and it has been fantastic to see this model expanded across other Disney productions, opening up so many opportunities for underrepresented young people from across the UK and providing our thriving screen industry with a vital pipeline of skilled talent. Addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in our industry is a priority and needs specific interventions such as the Future Skills Trainee Programme, which works alongside other programmes including our partner Screen Skills’ Trainee Finder.”

The programme offers progression, experience and networking opportunities for all the trainees that participate. A dedicated alumni officer is on hand to provide support and pastoral care throughout the programme with regular mentorship from respective Heads of Departments (HODs). Roles across physical production include Production, Art Department, Camera, Costume, Hair & Make-up, Sound, Video DIT and Visual Effects (VFX) alongside roles in the following departments: Grips, Script, Accounts and Special Effects (SFX). Since completing the programme, alumni officers, HODs and the BFI work with the individual participants to plan and support their next steps, with the trainees recommended for and securing jobs on further film and TV productions.

In 2018, EON Productions also participated in the BFI Film Academy Future Skills Programme, recruiting seven Film Academy trainees to work on the 25th Bond film, No Time to Die, as part of the film’s dedicated trainee scheme.

The Future Skills programme has provided us with a deep insight into the challenges and opportunities of recruiting and developing young people for a career in the film industry – a key point in the BFI’s UK Film Skills strategy – and offering a proven model for entry-level trainee recruitment.

The BFI Film Academy, and its partnerships with major productions and studios on the BFI Future Skills Programme, focuses on discovering and training the next generation of talent to fill craft and technical roles in the screen industry. It is part of the BFI’s Future Film Skills strategy, the majority of which is delivered by ScreenSkills.