This month we talk to Hannah Eakins, CEO of Production Futures, an online resource and touring event that’s sole mission is to make our industry the most exciting one on the planet to young people!

No mean feat we hear you say but with a clear remit for providing learning, training, networking whilst developing work opportunities in all aspects of live, virtual and hybrid events, music, touring, theatre, TV, broadcast and film, it’s definitely something that the industry needs. 

Here Hannah shares how the event began, how it’s evolved, success stories and what its goals for 2023 and beyond are.

Where did the idea for Production Futures come from?

Back in 2016 we were challenged by the industry as they felt that the TPi Awards weren’t recognising young talent. On the back of that we launched the Breakthrough Talent Awards in November of that year. Nominations opened and we secured the Production Park in Wakefield as a venue. We knew that a 30-minute awards show wouldn’t be enough so we created an event that encompassed the awards and added in panel sessions with guest speakers. That first year we had 18 entries, four winners and 200 people in attendance with that number growing to 450 in 2017 and 750 in 2018.

In 2019 we moved the event to Fly by Nite in the Midlands and 1300 came along. It wasn’t just school, college and university students attending, it was young freelancers, entrepreneurs and anyone with an interest in joining the industry. It was clear that something special was happening!

How has the event evolved?

When the pandemic came along, we were forced to move online for the 2020 and 2021 events but we kept in touch with our UK community and grew our online global visitors. Our ambition was always to tour the event and with the recruiting challenges and skills shortages the industry was facing, we decided to bite the bullet and hit the road. Our first event of 2022 was held in March at the University of Salford and to say the turnaround was tight would be an understatement. This was followed by events at Rose Bruford College, Production Park, Solent University and LIPA throughout the year, where we were thrilled to meet 2350 young people.

And it’s not all about the numbers, it’s about attracting the right talent. Our marketing is predominately social media based and then it’s all about building on our strong relationships with schools, colleges and universities youth groups and diversity organisations.  We’ll also pay for coaches, minibuses and trains etc. if the colleges need helping out.

We have some fantastic success stories. Dan Pratley from Pearce Hire is a great example; he joined the company as a freelancer in July 2021 carrying out testing and maintenance work after meeting the company at the event in 2019. In April 2022 he joined full time and has gone on to work on numerous events since then.

What are your plans for 2023?

For us, Production Futures is about delivering two key things – diversity and employability! Inclusivity is at the heart of what we’re doing; it is vital that we promote equality, diversity and employability whilst showing career pathways and highlighting all hidden job roles that our fantastic industry has to offer. We are attracting a diverse audience and are 100 per cent committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment. As a result, we have a strict code of conduct in place to ensure that’s the case.

Following the success of our most recent event at the Confetti Institute in Nottingham which was attended by more than 500 young people, we’re heading south-west to the University of Gloucestershire’s School of Creative Industries on Wednesday March 8th.

The event will include panel discussions, hands-on experiences and talks, and will feature a range of special guests including Alex Penn – Commercial Director 22Live, Gill Tee – Co-Founder Black Deer Festival, Carol Scott, TAITS’s Principal Advocate for Sustainability, Leigh Yeomans – PRG, Sam Nankivell – 2B Heard, and music journalist Jerry Gilbert, alongside a number of other industry-leading experts who will cover an extensive range of topics.

From there we head to New Century, Manchester on 3rd May and then to Production Park on 28th September. There will be a London event in November with the date and venue will be announced soon.

What sort of feedback do you get from your industry partners and how can people get involved?

Our partners represent manufacturers, suppliers and organisers with everyone utilising the event for different things. Whether it’s to create brand awareness, supporting the next generation, recruitment or meeting young people at the start of their careers. The common goal is looking out for the next generation of talent coming through. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 24 you get something from the day, even if it is just an overview of the industry.

In terms of getting involved, companies can take a stand, run a workshop, be part of a panel, sponsor an award or become a judge or mentor. At the very least it’s definitely worth coming along for the day.