It really is a tricky world out there for a filmmaker or content creator about to set out on their career. These days anybody can create, distribute or share a film at the touch of a button on their mobile phone. New tools and technology have given everybody the power to make a film, and although we are constantly surrounded by video content, making a living out of this medium is becoming harder than ever.
On top of these changes, those filmmakers wanting to make a career in the television industry are faced with another challenging dynamic: the UK's ageing population. As the average age of TV viewers goes up, the ability of commissioners to take risks on unknown, innovative and fresh content is coming down.
Take a look at what's on TV right now; you'll no doubt see familiar formats, repeated in slightly different guises, and made by the same few production companies. It is good content that will be lapped up by mainstream audiences. But for the young filmmaker looking to make waves in the industry, it looks as though there is little space to cut through. After all, why should a successful commissioner take a risk on an unknown artist?
For young and aspiring filmmakers, BBC Three is a wonderful example of a national broadcaster setting out its stall for new talent. Testament to this is its decision to commission Fleabag, a series that was a highlight of the 2016 TV year. This show is an example of risk-taking programming. Fleabag is wonderfully audacious in its approach to storytelling, its characterisation is bold and the writing and the performances in the hands of Phoebe Waller-Bridge are perfect. Interestingly Fleabag owed some of its success to the popularity of our national traji-comedic TV heritage.
When I recently judged the Met Film School Smart Screen Creative Awards I was reminded of the sheer wealth of talent that is out there for the industry to nurture.
It was also clear that the changing nature of the film and television industry is having an impact on training and education. Now it is not enough just to be an all-rounder, or to tell a story in an interesting or innovative way. What will allow a filmmaker's work truly to stand out is having confidence and resilience to challenge the rules.
Fleabag is an exceptionally rude, exceptionally funny programme that breaks taste boundaries and also empowers women writers, director and performers. The online-only BBC Three is the perfect space for this type of rule-breaking content. In the context of the high costs of terrestrial programming, and of a lighter-touch regulatory regime in online-broadcasting, aspiring filmmakers should look to the success of BBC3 as a herald of a brighter future in several ways.
Firstly, that the BBC has successfully built up the BBC Three brand in a way that can deliver trailblazer content to our screens gives confidence to other channels looking to develop their online offering. It also shows that taking a punt on an untried and untested team or a new artist can really benefit the channel and the UK's creative industries.
Secondly, to young filmmakers, the success of shows such as Fleabag also reinforces the message that throwing caution to the wind when it comes to received wisdom of filmmaking can pay off. This is a message that the industry should be more confident in voicing, for only with continued belief in innovative content creation and great storytelling will the UK's future film talent be able to shine.