How we are using grant funding to help connect freelancers

Last year Curtain Call received grant funding via Innovate UK to rebuild the platform and create a system that allows freelancers to get back to work efficiently, effectively and at scale.

Matt Humphrey

June 8, 2021

A lot of people have been asking about our grant-funded project work - so here’s the lowdown…

A year ago in June 2020, we started working on our new platform, funded by a grant from Innovate UK. Today we are live, working with various employers in entertainment and events to help get the freelance workforce back to work efficiently, securely, and at scale.

Things were looking bleak when the pandemic shut down the entire entertainment industry overnight. Hundreds of thousands of freelancers who had been working on productions of TV shows, theatre, opera, concerts, feature films immediately found themselves without work, and an uncertain future ahead. 

This was the backdrop to our first ever grant application. 

We had not previously been eligible for any Innovate UK funding competitions, as they typically do not fund companies based in the creative or arts industries, and normally require companies to contribute to project costs themselves. 

This competition was a 100% grant, paid up front, open to ANY company. Unsurprisingly, the applications went through the roof - less than 5% of the companies that applied were successful - so we were quite surprised to be one of the lucky few to get funded.

What was the project?

It was hard at the time to foresee how and when the industry would come back, and what would be needed when it did. One thing we could tell was that there was going to be a lot more movement within the workforce. 

Freelancers who had always worked in theatre were able to get jobs in TV or film productions (backed up by insurance). Many had no choice but to completely leave the industry (temporarily or otherwise). Some creatives who were used to working in live events found that their skills could be employed elsewhere. Demand for voiceover talent and video games skyrocketed. A new hybrid form of entertainment started to emerge in the crossover between live and pre-recorded, physical and digital.

The future workforce would look quite different in a year’s time. Our plan was to build a simple to use system that helps freelancers to find opportunities - and vice versa.

What is the new platform?

It’s a market network for freelancers and employers working in entertainment and events. We provide connections and make it easier and more efficient to build dynamic teams for a project.

One of the key components of finding the right people for a project is their availability for the dates of the project. Instead of ringing around dozens of people to find out if they were available, we figured there must be a better way. So we built a search and match algorithm that helps employers find the right people, quicker.

Who can use the platform?

The main user base is made up of technicians, and creatives looking to work in stage, TV, film, gaming, or podcast productions. We work with a variety of employers in all these areas.

What’s next?

We’re on a mission to support the freelancer workforce as best we can, to help them get back to work in a fairer set of circumstances than they have been used to. That means that we vet every single job on the platform to make sure that it meets our fair pay requirements. We also don’t believe we should be monetising the platform by making freelancers pay to see or apply to job opportunities. 

We’ve tonnes of ideas for the future, and are always keen to work with companies, employers, and individuals that would like to collaborate on exciting forward-thinking projects where equity and accessibility are at the core. 

If you’re an employer working in live entertainment, film, TV or live events, we are currently running a Pioneer program - get in touch with us to find out more.

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