The danger of the ‘not for me, not for you’ culture

Written by: Tim Hunter | Published:
Tim Hunter, director of learning and new talent, BAFTA

A combination of the narrowing curriculum, social stereotypes and poor careers advice mean that young people too quickly give up on the idea of entering our on-screen creative industries

In the wake of our first ever careers event for teachers and advisors – the BAFTA Creative Careers Showcase – and following the launch of our new online Careers Quiz, it’s worth asking why BAFTA feels the need to create such events and resources.

Surely the UK – a global creative powerhouse – must have young home-grown talent beating a path to the door of its dynamic film, games and television industries?

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story.

Our 2012 Careers Pathway Survey discovered that more than half (57 per cent) of young people have at one time considered working in the film, games or television industries. Yet, each year, thousands relinquish that dream because of inadequate advice and perceived hurdles.

The end result? While the UK’s creative industries are booming and predicted to be worth £128.4 billion to the UK economy by 2025 (according to the Independent Review of the Creative Industries commissioned by the government and led by ITV chairman, Sir Peter Bazalgette), many students appear to be abandoning their hopes of making it in this thriving sector, which risks leaving the UK with a shortage of creative talent.

Creative Skillset, the skills body for the UK’s screen-based creative industries, reported earlier this year that 43 per cent of the rapidly growing visual effects workforce is currently from outside the UK and Ireland. While tellingly, the British Film Institute (BFI) is investing more than £20 million of National Lottery funding into kick-starting a skills drive – BFI Future Film Skills – to encourage thousands to join the UK film success story.

‘Not for me, not for you’

So why are so many students turning their backs on a sector that is currently, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy?

First, teenagers all too often succumb to “not for me” thinking. They write-off their abilities in subjects too soon, absorb social stereotyping about the careers that are suited to people from particular backgrounds, or gender, and hear on the grapevine of “barriers” to the role they dream of.

Second, young people are quick to pick up on cultural signals. And in the current education system in which creative subjects like music, art, drama and design aren’t part of the English Baccalaureate, young people may assume there are safer, more secure options out there.

And it’s not just implied signals young people pick up. More than a third who have been discouraged from aspiring to a role in the games, film or television industries have been explicitly advised to try something with “more reliable prospects” – another finding from our 2012 Careers Pathway Survey.

The cumulative effect? Talented young people, who could have played a vital role in the continuing success story of the UK’s creative industries, walk away from their childhood aspirations.

The time for change

The great irony of this is that the creative sector thrives on new voices and perspectives – film, games and television are arguably among the sectors which are hungriest for original points of view and previously untold stories. Their thirst for new blood is almost vampyric.

The industry needs to make efforts to reach out to young people to change their mindset. We need to stop young people seeing barriers and damaging stereotypes, where in fact there exists huge opportunity.
We need the avid gamer to realise that their hobby could hold the key to an exciting career in one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors. We need the creative story-teller to dream again of becoming a screen-writer. And we need the budding artist to aspire to become one of the world’s greatest production designers.

To create such a shift we need the creative industries to work alongside those who young people turn to for advice.

We need to ensure that teachers have access to up-to-date information about the scale of the opportunity in the dynamic creative sector.

We need to foster an understanding of the range of ever-evolving new roles available within that sector, many of which didn’t exist a decade ago. And we need to create better understanding of the pathways into the film, games and television industries, which are frequently less structured than in other sectors. Above all, we need to give educators access to the UK’s top talent who can give an inside perspective on how young people can get their talent noticed, the skills required to forge a successful career, and the training available.

So if you’re a teacher who would like to see more of your students dare to turn their dreams into reality, why not join us in promoting the creative industries as realistic rather than fanciful career choices? Together we can help to ensure the UK’s standing as a creative force for generations to come.

  • Tim Hunter is director of learning and new talent at BAFTA

Further information

  • BAFTA’s new, free, online careers quiz matches young people to a variety of roles within the creative sector. It is designed for use in class or at parents’ or options evenings:
  • BAFTA Guru is a free online learning channel featuring advice and inspiration from the best creative minds working in film, games and television:
  • BAFTA’s Young Game Designers Awards – for students aged 10 to 18 – opens for entries in January. Winners in the Games Making and Games Concept categories have the chance to see their game idea developed and to be mentored by experts from the UK games industry:


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