Clear vision needed to prevent loss of momentum in Welsh film & TV industry

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

Culture Committee
Film & Major TV Productions in Wales (pdf)
Published: 16th May 2019

“There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of the Welsh screen industry, Wales has produced stunning growth in this sector, by far the most impressive in the UK.

 

“We want the Welsh Government to set out a strategy showing how they will support and maintain our current success. Most importantly, we want them to use any and every opportunity to help develop home-grown talent and productions with the potential to be sold internationally.”
– Committee Chair, Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West)

1. The economic impact of the film & TV industry in Wales has more than doubled but there’s a clear finance issue

Since 1999, the economic contribution of the film and TV sector in Wales has increased by 217%, from £59million to £187million; the equivalent growth across the UK sector was 87%. Despite the impressive numbers on paper, this still makes the sector relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

The Welsh Government have aided this through their £30million Media Investment Budget, which offers grants and loans with conditions attached that 50% of a project is filmed in Wales and 35% of the production budget is spent in Wales. Of the £12million invested to date, only £3.7million has been recouped – but when other schemes are included, producers have spent more than £100million in Wales over the last five years.

There was criticism of the bureaucracy involved in applying for Welsh Government funding; the producers of S4C drama Bang described the process as “frustrating” and legally restrictive, while the producers of Y Gwyll/Hinterland described it as “onerous”.

There was also a perception that Welsh language films were commercially unviable which makes it harder for producers to secure financial support. The Welsh Government contended they’ve supported 14 Welsh language productions since 2011 backed by an offer of more than £2.3million.

2. The Welsh Government needs a new strategy for the screen industry

Witnesses told the Committee that the momentum generated over the last few years needs to be maintained and supported. There was a particular concern that a creative industry ministerial advisory panel will be scrapped and access to expertise at Welsh Government level will disappear with it.

However, the Welsh Government said a new government body (Creative Wales) will pick up the slack and take on many of the responsibilities of the panel.

The Committee wasn’t satisfied with this and recommended a clear strategy to support the viability of Welsh screen-related businesses. They also recommended Creative Wales has proper buy-in from the industry itself, is transparent on funding and is actually well-resourced in the first place.

There were calls for greater official support for film festivals*, both in terms of those hosted in Wales and to cover the cost of Welsh industry representatives to attend foreign festivals. State support was linked to improved corporate sponsorship income.

*In the interests of transparency, one of the witnesses was Bethan Sayed’s husband Rahil, who organises the Cardiff International Film Festival (which has received Welsh Government support).

3. Skills are the single biggest factor holding back the Welsh film & TV industry

The Director of BBC Wales, Rhodri Talfan-Davies, told the Committee that the growth in high-end productions for streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix has increased demand for high-end production skills across the entire industry. The closure of the Creative Skillset Cymru programme in 2015 was said by a number of witnesses to be a huge mistake.

The scale of the skills shortage is unknown. Production companies were investing in training and apprenticeships for talent – though the length of placements is tied to the length of the production schedule and vary.

There was also criticism that major casting events for productions in Wales are held in London, which the actors union Equity said was down to the quick turnaround times involved. The Committee recommended the Welsh Government investigate whether a quota for on-screen talent from Wales can be introduced for productions receiving public funds.

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