Booming Film and TV industry in the North East

Charlotte Nicol is Associate Dean, Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange in the School of Arts & Creative Industries – here she talks about the wealth of opportunities in our booming North East film and tv industry 

Charlotte Nicol

If you’re studying film and TV at the moment in the North East – great work! Now is the time to be studying this course, congratulations on choosing a booming industry and an incredible place to live

Studying TV & Film Production

The BBC has made its biggest investment in the North East for decades as part of a new partnership with the region, and will be spending a minimum of £25m over the next five years to fund network TV production, talent development and support for the creative sector.

All of the local authorities and the combined authorities in the region have supported this financially (which, having come from a local authority I know is no mean feat, particularly as there’s 12 of them!)  The North East Screen Industries Partnership will jointly invest £11.4 million, over a five year period to deliver a new Screen Industries Development Programme, maximising opportunities for significant growth within the screen industries sector and developing a thriving and sustainable ecosystem.

Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University

My experience of speaking to industry partners mirrors this – at the Royal Television Society awards, I sat next to a colleague who told me that the number of entries had grown exponentially in the past few years.   The region held the Creative Cities Conference at the Boilershop in Newcastle, and Teesside University hosted the Creative Cities Convention masterclasses.  Our guests included ITV Signpost, the BBC, Chanel 4, Middlechild, and gaming company Ubisoft. Our students even had the opportunity of meeting Johnny Moore, the Chief Executive of Fulwell 73 Productions, possibly the most in demand man of the moment to speak to our students.  A couple of weeks ago I also had the pleasure of meeting the most down to earth and lovely Franc Roddam, acclaimed film Director, businessman, screenwriter, television producer and publisher, best known as the creator of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and the director of Quadrophenia (check out our scholarships here).

Franc Roddam scholarships for Film & TV Production students

My biggest take away from all the interactions I’ve had with people from this industry has been that not only do students need to be connecting with these amazing industry opportunities (first have a look at North East Screen) anyone hoping to enter this industry needs to build their soft skills as well as screen skills.

After reading ‘Tools of Titans’ which outlines the routine of super successful people, my favourite question to ask successful industry partners is ‘what do you do to make your life manageable?’ (I once asked Tony Hall from the BBC this when I met him and he told me he loved to garden and that’s what kept him going!)

In the film and TV industry it seems that resilience is absolutely key.   The wisdom that partners have shared with me is that any students considering going into the film and TV industry need to get thick skin and get it quick!

At Creative Cities I spoke to a screenwriter who told me about a very detailed morning ritual that involved getting up at 5am, exercising, having a cold water shower, and meditating.  I spoke to Franc Roddam about his experience of failure and he said ‘fail, fail harder and fail faster’, Franc said he had developed such resilience from all the rejection he received.  Charlotte Broadley at Channel 4 said that the best piece of advice she got was to be yourself be authentic and not to be afraid of getting things wrong.

Creative Cities Convention at Teesside University

It’s quite easy to talk about but hard to put into practice, the combined wisdom of all of our industry partners was that you can’t learn to fail if you don’t try things, get it wrong, and try again. 

Interested to find out more about our courses in Film and Television? Further information at the links below:

BA (Hons) Film and Television production

MA Producing for Film and Television

Chefs you’ve got 2 minutes: 5 lessons from the Master

Dr Laura Sillars, Dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries, reflects on discussions with Franc Roddam about opportunities in the Film and Television production industry.

Renowned for cult-classic Quadrophenia, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and MasterChef, film maker, director, producer and one-time Norton-born Franc Roddam is a titan in industry. He is also known for his work capturing the complex lives of individuals who break the mould, such as the story of Michael ‘Mini’ who tried to burn down his own house as a child.

Scholarship Celebration Event (Laura SIllars, Franc Roddam, Charlotte Nicol, Lauren Bradshaw, Joanne Bulmer)

Franc generously supports a scholarship programme for Film and TV students at Teesside University and recently  returned to meet some of those he supports as well as a wider cohort of students from every level. Each session involved coaching and mentoring. Franc was honest, engaging and insightful drawing on his experience of working inside institutions such as the BBC or industrial systems such as Hollywood. Below, I’ve tried to capture the questions our students asked and our shared learning …

Question.1: How do I get my first job?

It’s a question that many students have when thinking about their first steps in the industry. From day one, our courses demystify the process of working in the creative industries, but nevertheless, jumping out of uni and into the world is daunting.

Franc says: Do the Hustle

Franc focused on the reality that hustling – for work, for your project to be commissioned, funded, developed, repeated – is a reality throughout your career. Developing hustling skills is central to all creative industries. That doesn’t mean you have to holler like a market trader. Hustling is about building relationships, pitching in small and larger ideas to other people’s project, always having your pitch up your sleeve and getting involved. In the early days, really, you’re pitching yourself – can I work on this film? Is there a role I can progress to? If this seems off-putting, think of it like this, if you’re always working in the service of a film or tv project, then you’re offering to serve not to self-aggrandize.

The more experience you have the better service you can contribute to the community. So, keep up with the hustle! And don’t let rejection put you off. You’ll be hustling throughout the whole of your career in any career, so get started now! Hustle your tutors for extracurricular opportunities, or people you’d like to hear from in class who aren’t yet on the speaker list; attend the early career sessions run by the North East Screen agency and make sure they know you’re up for opportunities; hustle your local film festival to create a student slot … whatever it is don’t wait for something to be delivered on a plate … be proactive, go and ask for it

Question 2: How do I find the area that will suit me best?

It’s important to know what you want, where you are trying to get to – but how do you find this out in the early days of your career?

Franc says: ‘Know thyself’

Franc asked the group, are you a ‘top down’ person who is great with ideas and likes leading a band of creatives? Do you want to focus on writing/directing? Or are you a ‘bottom-up’, skills-based person who seeks to perfect an aspect of the craft (camera, sound, light, editing)? Yes, to make it work, you might need to become both for a time! But, if you have a sense of your direction, you can build the bank of evidence that you need to share with potential supporters (employers, commissioners, funders). This will also help you focus. Franc suggested to the group that they think about the areas that they naturally like doing, ask their classmates, ask their tutors where they seem to excel.

Apply self-reflection skills. What do I like doing? What am I naturally good at? Think broad here. Are you the one who makes tea and solves conflict?  Producer! Are you the one who can problem solve the camera/screen/computer? Editor/Camera/Technical! Are you the one who goes behind the scenes and gets the props, costumes sorted? Art director! There are so many roles and routes, but finding one that connects to your inherent personality will let you thrive and enjoy your job. It will likely mean that you can excel.

Franc Roddam Scholarship students Jack Simmons and Louise Strike meeting Franc

Question 3: How do I build my career direction while making a living?

Your career will be long and rich and yes, you need to keep afloat and make a living.  Most successful people had their own challenges in the early days.

Franc says: Take calculated risks!

Things have changed now, but when Franc started he faced the chicken and egg problem that you needed be in the right union to get a job, and to get into the right union you needed to have a track record. So, instead he joined an advertising firm. He explained that as well as being a junior advertising executive he would also need to gain production credits. When he was offered a role at the BBC for a 9-week contract, he resigned from his well-paid advertising job and took a risk. This was the flip he’d been waiting for – the move from making a living while building skills to making a career. Note here the hustling, the self-awareness, but also, the risk taking.

If you want to be a director/writer you need to keep making things even as you’re making a living. This can be challenging, so think carefully about which skills you seek to develop to make your way. Focusing on skills such as production (from runner to catering) might be better than going for the technical areas where it can take years to build up the skills. If you’re a technical skills-based specialist by nature, you will need people to feed back on your work so you can progress. Ongoing specialist technical mentoring through experienced members of your field is invaluable, so look out for people who will give this to you.

Question 4. What about when things go wrong?

The students talked about the fear of making an error, or how to come back from a rejection or having genuinely made a mistake.

Franc says: We all have moments when we fail, get a kicking or have to take feedback. Learn to listen and reflect … move on and learn.

Failure is part of learning. This does not mean that you fall flat on your face and can never get up again. It might be learning that a certain shot doesn’t work, that you’ve invested in a scene that falls apart because of the weather, the equipment, the actors, the camera, and you didn’t have the tool kit to sort it out. Franc talked about some of his early experiences in Hollywood where he wanted to make auteur-led, politically charged films that changed the world. He was, he realised, in the wrong place. In Hollywood, you do what Hollywood wants. He talked about getting great reviews and dreadful ones, often written by the same critics. Developing a thick skin and not defining your success by external markers.

Yes, criticism stings, but learning to fail better is about learning to work out what you can extract from the feedback you’ve received … however brutal it might be. Get back up. Dust yourself down. Collect your friends around you. Take a deep breath. Keep going.

No. 5 – How do I stand out from the crowd?

There are so many people who seek to work in this field and our students wanted to know how they could make themselves distinctive.

Franc says: Don’t we all want to be special?

Don’t worry about standing out. Work in service of the film or project that you’re ushering into the world. You might rise into the spotlight or become one of the many thousand of brilliant people who contributed skill and excellence to make something happen that is bigger than all of you put together. Find satisfaction in being part of the bigger whole: the film, the industry, the community.

Franc had been reading a book by the art editor of The New Yorker magazine Adam Gopnik on turning ideas into reality in The Real Work. Gopnik notes that there are masters everywhere – not just the celebrated names, but swathes of people. You might become a well-known person in your field, but this might not translate into fame that goes beyond that field. This does not mean that the work you’re doing is not important. Far from it, excellence depends upon a community of professionals dedicated to excellence. So, don’t chase fame, chose instead to seek solid, meaningful experiences of contributing to projects that excite you and which will live in your imagination for the future. If you can tell a great story about your contribution to a project, that is a marker of success.

To conclude, our sessions with Franc were inspirational. I watched first year students have their concepts coached and creatively challenged by a master in the field. I heard second year students critically reflecting upon their productions. Final year students talked positively about the next steps in their career, and masters students spoke confidently about how they could influence change in their sector. I heard our students talking about their work, their careers and their collaborations with each other. They were just amazing.

I left feeling enormously hopeful about the future of film and tv!

Find out more about our  courses:

BA (Hons) Film and Television Production

MA Producing for Film and Television


Professor Supports Disability Representation in Animation

Renowned for his work on disability, Simon McKeown, Professor in the School of Arts & Creative Industries at Teesside University, has recently supported the Cinema of Ideas in bringing together a series of short films and talks on disability representation and accessibility in animation.

Simon was approached by Louise M. Milsom, a disabled freelance film curator, who asked if his work All for Claire could be showcased at the event. Louise has been researching the representation of physical disability in animation both on-screen and behind the camera. All for Claire is part of Louise’s Visibly Animated festival and a part of the BFI’s permanent collection.

All for Claire tells the story of Lee, a young man determined to win the heart of Claire, a young woman determined to make life difficult for him. Dancing playfully on her crutches, Claire frustrates Lee’s romantic advances, transporting him away to daunting environments where he’ll need to think on his feet if he’s to win her affections.

Simon McKeown directed the film, working with actor Lee Soar and choreographer Claire Cunningham to create a colourful motion-capture animation which was first broadcast on BBC Big Screens across Britain in 2010. Simon explores themes of power, control and rejection in the work and originally created two versions with different endings for festival audiences to choose from – ‘win’ or ‘lose’?

Visibly Animated showcases a range of animated shorts from the UK, Germany, Australia and Taiwan, all centred around disabled characters which are available to view from 24th March to 6th April