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The big picture

UK TV drama is a very successful and rapidly growing sector of the creative industries.

To help sustain that growth broadcasters and production companies need access to a bigger and more diverse pool of talented and experienced production managers and line producers.

There is no one single route into these positions, but whether you are already part of the industry or hoping to join it – you should find information and insight into the skills and knowledge you will need and the career pathways that can lead you to the roles of production manager, line producer and beyond in UK TV drama.

The resources drawn together in this handbook with input from a wide range of industry professionals should be of relevance to:

  • New entrants and existing employees and freelancers in the industry who are considering a production management role in TV drama
  • Employers seeking to assess the skills and knowledge of those they may be considering for these roles
  • Education and training providers wanting to benchmark existing education and training or develop new courses to serve industry needs

The TV drama landscape

UK TV drama encompasses a huge variety of output – single dramas, series, serials and continuing drama – which are critical to the success of TV and the wider creative industries.

From Game of Thrones to Broadchurch, Shameless to Sherlock, Coronation Street to EastEnders or Hollyoaks – TV drama productions draw in big audiences for their broadcasters, contribute to the economy and to cultural life and showcase the talents of the workforce in the UK’s creative industries.

Production budgets vary as widely as the productions themselves. But since April 2013 scripted television projects with a minimum core expenditure of £1m per broadcast hour and running times over 30 minutes – referred to as high-end TV (HETV) – have attracted tax relief where a significant proportion of the production budget is to be spent in the UK.

This tax relief has helped drive major growth in UK HETV production. This is reckoned to have grown eight-fold in the first year of tax relief – with production expenditure rising from a previous estimated level of about £50m to nearly £400m in 2013–2014, with over half of this coming from international investment.

You can read more a more comprehensive analysis in the Economic Contribution of the UK’s Film, High-End TV,  Video Game, and Animation  Programming Sectors Report, which was presented to the BFI, Pinewood Shepperton plc, Ukie, the British Film Commission and Pact by Olsberg SPI with Nordicity in February 2015.

With this rapid growth has come the need to develop the UK talent pool to serve both domestic and international productions and allow the continued expansion of the whole TV drama sector.

Since April 2015, tax relief has also been available to live action children’s programmes including children’s drama – with no minimum core production expenditure or running time requirements. This is expected to give a significant boost to the sector over the coming years but it also further increases the need to grow the UK talent pool.

One of the skills gaps identified by many employers is that of experienced line producers and production managers, who are crucial to the successful delivery of TV drama productions on time and on budget. Download The Full Picture: The demand for skills in UK TV production for more about what challenges are the most urgent to help develop the TV industry workforce.

These are exciting but immensely challenging roles in which individuals need to combine high level organisational skills and great attention to detail, with creative problem solving in very pressured environments – while demonstrating a real feel for dealing with people.

The core skills of production management are required by both film and TV productions and across all TV genres from drama to documentaries. But drama production for both film and TV requires certain specialist skills and knowledge, while the production of TV drama series, serials and especially continuing drama, can involve particular challenges and ways of working that differ from the production of films and single dramas.

It is this more specialist experience and understanding that employers are looking for when hiring line producers or production managers for a TV drama production. But individuals come to these roles in TV drama by many very different pathways.

It is this that leads employers in the industry to be concerned that the possible routes into TV drama production management are not that well understood by potential new entrants, or by some already in the business but with an interest in this career pathway. They are seeking to improve that understanding to develop a bigger talent pool and broader and more diverse workforce for the industry.

This resource is intended to address this by drawing on the knowledge and experience of those who have already followed different paths into these roles – and to explain just what the industry is looking for to ensure UK TV drama realises its continuing ambitions to be a major driver of growth in the creative industries, delivering world class productions.