It could be said that creativity is in the DNA of Wales. But for many years, this nation of singers and storytellers seemed shy to show its full potential. Not anymore. The rise of the Welsh TV and film industry over the last decade has been little short of astonishing. The world’s film-makers are flocking here to exploit the gorgeous locations, state-of-the-art facilities and rich seam of local expertise. At the same time, Welsh talent is creating its own home-grown drama, and exporting it to the world. His Dark Materials, A Discovery of Witches, Industry, Doctor Who, Casualty, Brave New World, Dream Horse, War of The Worlds, Apostle, Episodes of Gangs of London, Sex Education, The One, The Accident, Keeping Faith, and Gavin and Stacey were ALL made in the Cardiff Capital Region for the world to enjoy.
If you’ve been to the cinema or watched a box set in the past few years, chances are you’ve seen something that’s been filmed or produced in Wales. Hinterland, Transformers: The Last Knight, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Born to Kill and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are just a few of the high profile productions that have chosen Wales as the place to shoot high quality drama and film.
“The creative and media industries contribute £360 million to the Cardiff Capital Region Economy”
This golden age for Welsh creativity hasn’t happened by chance. Through Welsh Government support, the creative industries have become one of our fastest growing sectors. With more than 1300 media firms, 600 of which are in Film and TV, contributing approx. £360 million GVA – the sector has become a growth engine for the CCR economy. Those working in media comprise 7% (and rising) of the region’s workforce and represents one of highest sectoral employment concentrations in the UK. Since 2016, 34% of all new jobs in the UK’s media sector have been located in the CCR.
South East Wales has become the place where creative companies and talent flourish – a recognised centre for TV and film production, home to BAFTA, Emmy and RTS award-winning businesses that are pushing the creative envelope domestically and globally, with fast developing international trade links and pioneering workforce training initiatives.
“The CCR creative ecosystem is now in place”
The CCR creative ecosystem is now in place to grow this success even further, with industry-leading names such Bad Wolf, Bang Productions, Dragon Studios, Gorilla Post-Production and Mad Dog Casting very much part of the fabric of our creativescape. It’s no coincidence that major studios and big hitters in the creative industry are choosing Wales over other worldwide locations. Of course, our Region is blessed with incredible natural assets, but it’s not just our stunning vistas that are proving to be excellent bait for creative types. The lure is in fact economic and largely due to a long-term strategy by the Welsh Government, led by its Creative Industries Sector Panel.
Since its inception in 2010 the Creative Industries Sector Panel has played a pivotal role in attracting over £100m of investment into Wales. The panel’s support helped bring Pinewood Studio Wales and Wolf Studios Wales to Cardiff – and Bay Studios to Swansea – facilities which between them have already hosted Amazon Prime’s Paris-set drama series The Collection, the aforementioned Da Vinci’s Demons and the Netflix feature film Apostle. And when you consider that these facilities are bolstered by the proximity of three national parks – Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire coast and the Brecon Beacons – all of which have been utilised as filming locations on a variety of productions in the past; then the reasons for establishing productions in Wales are easy to understand.
“Growing indigenously as well as through inward investment”
It’s not all about encouraging inward investment, of course. Wales Screen was established in 2002 to provide logistical assistance to indigenous productions, as well as working to attract productions from outside of Wales, making use of the Welsh Government’s £30m Media Investment Budget. That vision and foresight has seen the evolution of a Creative Cluster with global ambitions – and the launch of Creative Wales in 2020 brings a whole new impetus, offering a streamlined and dynamic service aligned to the needs of the whole creative industry (and delivering immediate benefit in the shape of an £18m emergency fund for the culture, creative and sport sectors in Wales).
Looking forward, the Creative Wales focus on a more targeted regional and sub-sector approach will develop the right skills to support continued growth – recognising that this cannot be done in isolation and will need closer working with industry and trade union partners, especially in promoting diversity and inclusion across the industry.
“Wales is working hard to create the talent pipeline”
With all of this activity, it’s clear that Wales is working hard to create the talent pipeline of highly skilled native professionals the industry needs – from make-up and costume designers, special effects and sound engineers, to location managers, production managers and the plethora of craft skills needed to build the spectacular sets that are enchanting audiences around the world.
The next generation of crews are being trained through the hands-on courses right here in the Capital Region – at The Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries’ Atrium, the specialist costume construction studies for screen and stage at Coleg y Cymoedd, as well as the Animation, Games and Visual Effects course at the University of South Wales. And only last month, the National Film & Television School (NFTS) announced the creation of a national hub located at BBC Cymru Wales’ new HQ at Central Square in the centre of Cardiff, focusing its activity on supporting very recent graduates to acquire the skills required to either pursue postgraduate study or to successfully transition into the creative industries. As Jon Wardle, NFTS Director notes: “The Welsh creative industries are thriving and this will provide a clear pathway to jobs”.
“New Series in the New Year to Shine a Light on the Talent and Opportunity in our Midst”
As one of Cardiff Capital Region’s Priority Sectors, it’s incredibly heartening to see so much positive development going on in the Creative Industries, despite the pandemic impact.
To celebrate this, and to highlight both the enormous breadth and depth of talent that exists in our midst (and the opportunities the sector affords for engaging fulfilling employment for our people), we’ll be publishing a series of articles next month, featuring interviews and insights from key figures across the Welsh Creativescape – exploring the secrets behind their success and scoping the many training and career opportunities open to people of all backgrounds in this world-class sector.
It promises to be a compelling read…