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It's National Careers Week!

March 2022 | Tolu Stedford

Tolu Stedford, CEO of the Independent Film Trust, sheds some light on her experience breaking into the industry and the challenges young people face today as they break into film.

It's National Careers Week this March, which allows us to focus on the importance of good careers education in schools and colleges. The biggest challenge for diverse talent breaking through into behind the camera roles is that many people from marginalised groups have no idea these roles exist. National Careers Week is an imperative tool to highlight opportunities not typically seen as being accessible.

Young people from low socioeconomic groups have been significantly underexposed to the magic of
entertainment through monetary barriers of regular trips to the theatre, cinema, and art exhibitions. Meaning this industry becomes a closed and elitist privilege to access and excludes and repels young
people from believing they have a valued place to contribute.

The constraint of access from marginalised groups trickles all the way to the top, where we see a severe lack of representation in senior management roles. These positions are the seats that keep the status quo unchallenged and the doors opening a crack at a time. Ultimately without unlocking the key to commissioning and broadcasting, the industry will remain closed for most.

In the absence of a dedicated drive national careers week to highlight the diverse career opportunities to young people, we are losing out on a mass of fresh voices and innovative perspectives gained from opening the doors widely. The industry is being robbed of new talent that can elevate the pioneering content coming from the UK. Therefore, losing out on the chance to enhance the economy and diverse representation simultaneously.

As a young girl, I went to a school that didn't have drama in the curriculum. I was lucky enough to get into the national youth theatre through an advertisement on ITN that my mum saw as she snoozed after her night shift as an NHS nurse. This changed my life. Up until this point growing up watching musicals with little to no people of colour, I knew I wanted to be in the industry, but I had no exposure to what and where I could fit in. 30 years later, I am now a multi-award-winning writer and producer and Co-CEO of the Independent Film Trust (IFT) alongside, Charlotte Knowles. Together, we work to ensure all the doors stay open for good.

Like many others in the industry, I stumbled my way into a career behind the screen through the necessity of wanting to see more stories that included people like me. Because the reality was, although this is my dream job, I had no idea what a producer, writer, director, 1 st AD, camera operator, and editor was! I had no idea the industry I was born to work and contribute to existed and was looking for someone like me to fill an important role. It's an empowering testimony to the opportunities on offer in this sector and many others. Young people need to be armed with the knowledge that every young person is needed and wanted somewhere. We as an industry must take time to invest and show them that their skill is valued and impactful to this country, society, and the world!

Career week is one of the most critical weeks of the year for young people because it can change their lives and actualise their dreams. To learn more about IFT and the IFT Studios, visit our website to find out how you can be involved in helping the marginalised express their lived experience through film, TV and immersive media. You can also follow us on social media (Instagram) to keep up to date on our latest projects.


More about Independent Film Trust
Established in 2004, the Independent Film Trust (IFT) is a charitable organisation that supports underrepresented talent to develop film, TV, and creative media projects, advancing diversity and inclusion across the UK screen sector. We support producers, directors and writers that lack representation due to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or neurodiversity. We help people who are marginalised to express their lived experience through creative media, and to develop critically acclaimed, commercially successful film projects that lead to meaningful careers.

More about IFT Studios
Due to the commercial success of many IFT-supported projects, IFT Studios was established to produce film, TV and immersive media projects that champion diverse talent and attract international audiences. IFT Studios is a subsidiary production company owned by the Independent Film Trust, transferring all of its profits to the charity to sustain this valuable work. The IFT Studios talent pool includes a BAFTA-winning producer, OSCAR-nominated writer/director and many other award-winning creatives working across the screen sector.

Tolu Stedford (Co-CEO)
Tolu Stedford is a writer, producer and actor with over 20 years of industry experience. She has written and produced an assortment of multi-award-winning short films, stage plays, concept teasers and music videos. As well as working in production as a woman and member of marginalised groups, Tolu is committed to activism lobbying for better representation within the industry.

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