Growing buzz around Producers’ Forum mission

The Producers’ Forum enjoyed record numbers for its fourth annual marketplace at the Genting Arena, Birmingham, with a strong attendance from both key international financiers and local talent. It is an exciting time for an ambitious industry, says new CEO ALISON GRADE...

It’s a really exciting time to be at the helm of the Producers’ Forum in the West Midlands.

There’s an excited buzz about the future of the creative industries, particularly the screen industries. We should know very soon whether Channel 4 are relocating part of their business to the region (as an HQ or a creative hub) and also whether Steven Knight has the go ahead to open Mercian Studios. These are potentially both big anchors for a screen sector that for time I’ve been in the region, nearly 15 years, has been largely passed by.

Whatever happens with these decisions, just by dint of having these conversations the region’s policymakers have got behind the Creative Industries in a big way.

The Creative Industries is now a key sector within both the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) industrial strategy.

It is seen as a high growth sector that should be supported centrally. On top of this the West Midlands Screen Bureau has taken the lead on catalysing the strategy on the ground over the two years.

The Producers’ Forum has an important role to play too. We are the only membership organisation representing the screen community in the West Midlands.

We bring, what has to date been a very disparate community, together. We are stronger together and can make our voice heard better together.

Not only that but we all work in collaborative environments so let’s make up our own collaborative community where we can share and learn from each other to enhance all our work and raise our ambitions.

The Producers’ Forum was originally set up 15 years ago to bring together feature film producers in the region. When I was approached to head up the organisation this summer I was clear that a broader vision was needed that resonates with the converged world we are now in.

To my mind the forum needed to open its doors wider than the traditional film producer, to the full breadth of the screen community and include those working in any department. Whatever platform you are producing content for – be it a mobile, a laptop, a TV or a cinema screen and whatever role you do you we welcome you as a member to join our community and help it grow together.

The three pillars of operations still remain key to the organisation – Training, Lobbying and Connecting.

Connecting is all about joining the dots up, getting people together and getting the conversation going. It is important that we do this within the region with our members (and potential members) as well as key sector organisations. It’s also important that we are here to connect with those looking to move to our region for work and ensure they connect with us while they are working here. 

The key for me with connecting is that we have a physical home in the centre of the where the creative action is happening. A place where creatives at all levels can come together as a shared work space, a temporary production office, a workshop and seminar space and as a place to connect up with the community. This is something I am working hard to secure.

Lobbying is about working on behalf of our members to ensure that we lobby policy-makers to ensure policy supports and enables us to deliver our work in the best way we can. As a sector intermediary we are well-placed to do this and are regularly asked to consult on policy initiatives. We want to be the grit in the oyster asking the tricky questions and helping to find solutions.

Training is about building a robust and sustainable talent pipeline in the region. We want to be developing individuals and companies for the lifetime of their work. We want to ensure that our members know what training and funding they can access for their work or their company. Where there are gaps in provision we will look to fill these. So, whether you are new to the industry and trying to find your feet, looking to step up to the next level or running a creative business that is trying to step up the Producers’ Forum is here to support you.

What I think is exciting about this region in particular is the breadth of screen activity happening. We’ve got the drama village in Selly Oak, games cluster in Leamington Spa, a vibrant screen cluster in Digbeth doing everything from factual TV, to animation to content for brands and a great digital cluster in the Jewellery Quarter to name but a few.

The Producers’ Forum vision is to bring these communities together so that they can share skills and knowledge and together we can ensure a vibrant and sustainable creative economy in the region. 

I won’t pretend it’s not a hugely ambitious vision but what I can say is in the time I’ve been in post, just over 6 weeks now, the updated vision has been well received and there is a sense of momentum gathering.

We’ve just announced a big Freelancers’ Christmas Party on 6thDecember as a key event to bring the working freelance community together. We have programmed a day at the Birmingham Film Festival which includes a premiere screening of a member’s film – Just Charlie. We are working on an updated member benefits package which we will be launching shortly as well as putting our events programme together for next year. 

The year ahead is going to be exciting we know there are big changes and opportunities ahead for our sector so please come and join us for the ride.

MICHAEL Gubbins