This project explores the experiences and motivations of production managers working in UK television, as well as the alarming numbers who have left, creating an ongoing skills gap for the industry.

We address key questions relating to this problematic skills gap: Why does the industry struggle to recruit production managers? Why does it lose so many experienced production managers? How can it adapt to better attract and retain production managers in the future?

Addressing an industry-wide issue 

The UK audio-visual sector is the largest in Europe bringing in annual revenues in excess of £16 billion and employing over 170,000 people, including more than 82,000 in film and television production. Jobs in the sector are seen as aspirational and yet the television industry has for years reported skills shortages impeding both quality of output and global competitiveness.

The skills that consistently head the lists of shortages reported by organisations such as ScreenSkills, the British Film Institute (BFI) and the Work Foundation are those of experienced production managers (PMs). The industry struggles to recruit to the role, and indeed to the more junior production management roles that should provide a pipeline for new talent.

In response to a recent Screenskills survey,70% of employers reported finding it "very difficult" to recruit production managers and 73% reported similar difficulties with the more junior role of production coordinators. Previous studies suggest that the picture is much the same in television drama, children's television and film, with production management roles heading the lists of reported skills shortages.

170,000 people
employed by the UK audio-visual sector

Production management: a crucial role

Effective production management - taking care of the day-today running of projects - is critical to the success of the industry. A lack of skill and experience in this area can prove costly and impact negatively across the whole life-cycle of a production, as can under-staffing in this area. For that reason this is an issue much debated in industry circles and in the trade press, and yet it remains unresolved.

The problem is often viewed within industry as primarily one of recruitment; fewer employers recognise the extent to which retention plays a part. Given the current 'brain drain' of people, especially women, from production management roles then, there is a danger that initiatives focusing on recruitment will not succeed in solving the problem.

Through exploring the motivations and experiences of PMs and ex-PMs, this research will seek to better understand why the industry is perennially failing to recruit people into these roles, why it is losing so many skilled PMs, and critically, how it might adapt to better attract and retain PMs in the future. In doing so it will inform wider debates about recruitment, development and retention across the industry as a whole, and about equality, diversity and inclusive management practices in UK television. 

Project updates

November 2023 

Two data gathering phases of the project have been completed and coded (a survey of 765 individuals and a series of 30 interviews). The team is currently engaged in data analysis and the preparation of an industry report and two papers to be published in 2024.