From Wales to Aarhus: The talent of small nations, by Faye Hannah

1With my own PhD research firmly focused on how policy decisions impact talent development in the Welsh television and screen industries, a visit to beautiful Film City in Aarhus in Denmark to participate in a two-day workshop entitled ‘Sustaining talent in the small nations’ was welcomed.

The workshop provided interesting discussion and useful insight. It offered a plethora of thought-provoking ideas and considerations as to how television industries in other small nations are tackling their understanding of ‘talent’ as a term and the challenges that brings. It was also an opportunity for shared insight into how our industries are attracting, training and developing talent. It allowed me to draw direct comparisons with Wales and further consider how we both conceptualise, shape and nurture talent within our own creative industries.

Three areas stood out for me as core themes and points of shared and future interest:

The benefits of sharing experience of television talent development initiatives across borders

We heard from Film Director Jakob Hogel, Film Producer and former Artistic Director of New Danish Screen discuss the program that he is managing; ‘New Nordic Noir’ which will incorporate a TV Series and cross-media project housed on the rich and visually striking province of Jutland, Denmark. Positioned to develop and extend beyond an already successful genre, they have a rural regional focus and are collaborating on platforms outside of traditional television to seek new ways of sourcing talent and develop new material. Jakob highlighted the transient and often problematic nature of ‘one off’ training courses and workshops as a solution to talent development. Hearing first-hand about innovations and shining a light on other small nations developments can only support new collaboration and thinking. ‘New Nordic Noir’- One to watch.

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Dr. Eva Novrup Redvall (University of Copenghagen) discussed the ‘TV term’ developed between National Film School of Denmark (NFSD) and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). The TV term allows NFSD screenwriting students to be immersed in the full television development process within industry. This is embedded in the film school curriculum from idea conception to pitching to commissioners with key industry figures as mentors. Whilst NFSD is a state run school (that falls within the Danish Ministry of Culture) the TV term is not funded specifically by the state – none of the time TV professionals spend from DR is funded or paid for by NFSD. It is worth noting that this model has been sustainable for twelve years, developing a clear talent pipeline that has contributed to the success of Danish high end TV drama.  It struck me that in Wales we can learn much from the conditions of the success of this type of long-term, mutually beneficial partnership between industry and higher education.

In a presentation from Ronni Madsen from M2Film, it was also unsurprising that the largest challenge their business faces in terms of recruitment is finding new talent with the right mix of creative and technical skills – not uncommon, however perhaps this challenge is magnified in small nations and we need to further innovate to attract new and diverse talent to fill these skills gaps and support industries evolving needs.

Now more than ever is it important that Wales is learning from, supporting and partnering with TV industries within other small nations – we are small and as such, we can be agile.

We require greater understanding and clarity around how we use the term ‘talent’

Dr. Lisa Kelly (University of Glasgow) discussed how talent is conceptualised through the lens of policy discourse relating to economic growth in the Scottish creative industries. ‘Talent’ in particular can be utilized as a ‘catch-all’ term for the televisions workforce in its entirety, which Lisa argues is often unhelpful, not offering the transparency required for those wishing to enter the industry. The use of this term could be seen to be similarly ambiguous within a Welsh context.

Lisa discussed key considerations, including socio-economic conditions, power and social capital, particularly in relation to how networks are formed and accessed. The question was raised across the two days, as to how possible it is for newcomers and individuals from diverse or economically disadvantaged backgrounds to access these talent networks and infrastructures that we create within our creative industries.  Are they quite as widely accessible as we may consider them to be? I fear not.

The role of funding in television talent development

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Dr. Ruth McElroy (University of South Wales) discussed sustaining talent and how talent in television itself has a form of economic and cultural value. This is again evidenced by the importance that government places on creative industries as a driver for economic growth.  Ruth highlighted the important fact that ‘talent costs’- including sourcing, retaining and developing talent at all levels. Whilst this is often easier for broadcasters and large indies, this remains a significant challenge for smaller independent television companies within small nations as funding support for training development continues to be diminished.

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The backdrop to our workshop was Film City and the wonderful docklands of Aarhus – a city awarded European capital of Culture 2017 and as part of this, cross platform initiatives such as ‘New Nordic Noir’ have been funded.

Across small nations, we encounter similar challenges. We continuously develop, re-invent and seek innovative ways to capture the attention of audiences. Our creative workforce need to remain ‘ahead of the curve’ and keep pace with a rapidly evolving global market. One thing we can universally agree is that our aim should be to develop the best new ‘talent’ to drive our small nations forward. I took from the two days that continuing these rich conversations and partnerships can only contribute to that aim.

Faye Hannah is PhD student at the University of South Wales. 

 

 

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