How a social enterprise is opening up film production to young people and those in the criminal justice system – Inside Job Productions

“Being a Production Assistant for Inside Job Productions has sparked my interest and love for film-making and digital story-telling… I thought my life chances and career options would be so limited but, as it turns out, the universe had something else in store for me” – Kismet, Production Assistant IJP

Kismet is a young woman who has spent fifteen and a half years in the care system having experienced multiple traumas and hardships growing up including being caught up in the youth justice system. She’s now working as a production assistant at the Mental Health Production Unit, a project run by the social enterprise Inside Job Productions (IJP) which provides film production training to people in custody in order that they can make content about mental health and wellbeing issues which matter to them.

Over a third of social enterprises surveyed across the country said their objectives relate to improving mental health and this has become the most common issue social enterprises are set up to address, possibly amplified by the COVID pandemic

IJP is an award-winning film production company providing content ranging from film and animation to photography and digital presentations. As part of its social impact programme, IJP also offers work experience and employment opportunities for young people struggling with mental health issues.

Set up in 2006, IJP was originally the income generating arm of Media for Development, a non-profit which had been set up to run media production training and educational programmes for isolated communities in the UK and internationally.  Media for Development was fully grant funded, but founder James Greenshields saw that there was a need for the organisation to secure unrestricted funding, prompting the creation of IJP as an independent social enterprise in 2006.

The first programmes IJP ran was based on supporting people in prisons building on the work carried out by its parent organisation. However the limitations faced by prisoners who had been released on temporary licence (ROTL) and changes in the prisons the social enterprise was working in led to an organisational re-think and a change of direction to work as a business supporting young people, particularly those facing mental health challenges.

Creating impact through partnerships

IJP has now grown to be a successful commercial film production business producing content for clients from across the private, public and third sectors. It runs a Production Trainee Scheme, in partnership with leading mental health charities, which provides work placement schemes supporting young people living with mental health problems as well as a host of other programmes designed to open up the creative industries to people excluded from it. Money made through commercial partnerships goes back into the development and running of social impact projects. IJP trainees have often gone on to find successful careers with the media and film industry.

The social enterprise has a longstanding relationship with Johnson & Johnson for which it has produced internal videos and it has recently worked with Sense, a charity supporting people with complex disabilities, on animations promoting their virtual buddying service. Other clients include Nestle, Shelter, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and public bodies including the NHS.

Inside Job Productions - Social Enterprise UK Stories Feb 2022

Pioneering mental health support in prisons

From its initial work supporting prisoners, mental health has been a common thread running through IJP’s programmes. Recently it has gone back to its roots setting up a ground-breaking project based in HMP Wandsworth working with prisoners to create content related to mental health in prisons.

The Mental Health Media Production Unit was set up in 2020 with funding from the Prison and Probation Service to support the extra staffing needs the project required. It was set up in recognition of the fact that there was not enough content produced for prisoners on mental health which had the reach and authenticity necessary to resonate with prisoners.

The Mental Health Media Production Unit seeks to change this and is a trainee scheme working with a teams of prisoners during which they learn the basic skills on how to shoot and edit a film. They are supported by a project manager and by Kismet who works as the production assistant on the project.

Content is produced in response to issues identified by the prisoners themselves and the project has most recently focussed on a Suicide Prevention Programme in response to a rise in prison suicide numbers. Workshops were run with prisoners and prison staff who talked about the issues they saw contributing to this spike.

Even though the project has faced challenges from the COVID pandemic to finding the channels to share content, the programme is growing from strength to strength. Through a process of identifying issues, running workshops and then content creation, prisoners have been placed at the heart of the process giving the project real authenticity and credibility with its target audience.

Based on an interview with Ann Summerhayes, Managing Director and James Greenshields, Chair at Inside Job Productions.

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