Absent Friends report

Modelling the youthful skew of those working in the film, TV, and cinema workforce, and shedding some light on the industry’s problems retaining older experienced workers 
A male boom operator is setting up their equipment. They are wearing cold weather gear whilst standing on an open bridge with a river below.

Improved retention could increase workforce by up to 35,000

The retention of workers is a problem for the UK Film and TV industry, whether it’s in a period of production boom or downturn. In response to this issue, we released a paper, Absent Friends: Scaling the Film and TV Industry’s Retention Problem. 

The industry’s retention problem

The UK Film and TV industry is currently missing 35,000 older, experienced workers.

The paper shows that the UK Film and TV industry is currently missing 35,000 older, experienced workers, when compared with the age profile of the wider workforce. Retention has long been a problem for the industry, caused by and reflecting:

  • Long hours of work
  • High pressure
  • Frequent travel
  • Difficulty of striking work-life balance 
  • Combining work with family life

When women reach their mid-thirties and men a bit older, they increasingly drop out of the industry for a better-balanced lifestyle. This retention problem has been evidenced previously by academics and highlighted by sector support bodies such as ScreenSkills and the BFI. 

There has been much discussion of the retention problem. However, no one before (as far as we’re aware) has put an actual number on the missing” older workers. This is what we have attempted to do in the paper which puts the number at between 24,000 and 35,000, in an industry of just over 200,000 workers. 

The paper complements our other work, which includes the Whole Picture Toolkit for mentally healthy productions.

How can we work together to improve retention?

Implementing the approaches described in the Toolkit would aid retention of older, experienced workers who might otherwise burn out and leave. Our goal is to see these approaches rolled out to the whole industry, making it a place that’s good for mental health, and enables workers to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

A young man is sat on a sofa. On his lap he has a laptop that he is attentively watching.

Talk to someone right now

If you need urgent support, our free and confidential 24-hour Support Line is here for you.

Call 0800 054 0000