A Call to Action from the CCR Creative Industries

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Back in December, Cardiff Capital Region launched a series of features, interviews and digital discussions to highlight the economic importance and diverse opportunities delivered by the Creative Industries based around the Welsh capital.

We spoke with industry experts, seasoned company executives, experienced skills providers, award-winning practitioners – and up-and-coming talent – to find out where this creative cluster stands in global terms.

The insights are compelling and hugely encouraging. It’s universally accepted that South East Wales is now a world-destination for film and screen production, with ‘native’ Welsh creative companies being joined by incoming enterprises inspired by the catalyst of “Porth Teigr” – giving a platform for home-grown talent to become a growing force in the industry.

“A platform for home-grown talent to become a growing force in the industry”

 It’s also clear that there’s no room for complacency. The creative enterprises of South East Wales have worked incredibly hard over many years to earn this place in the sun – and enjoyed game-changing investment from a Welsh government that’s backed a big and brave vision. It could also be argued that this ‘golden generation’ benefits from the natural advantages of being a close-knit community set between a stunning coastline and beautiful mountains – offering a multitude of dream locations, all underpinned by world-class facilities and a ready-made supply chain, just two hours from London. As a region, we’re fortunate to enjoy these advantages – and the next few years is all about optimising and maximising on that.

“We enjoy advantages that we need to maximise on”

 Given these advantages, there’s room to improve and scope to grow – particularly if we can open up a much wider access to training and professional opportunities, engaging with creative talent from all communities and backgrounds. That talent is ‘there’ – and so is the opportunity, exemplified by the astonishing diversity of courses available at the University of South Wales and many FE colleges throughout the region, as well as the genuine commitment shown by local production and facilities companies, eager to help develop a diverse talent pipeline.

Thank you to everyone from those companies, colleges and the wider creative community who made such a telling contribution to this series – these are some of the insights and ambitions you have put centre stage:

We Have The Talent. But We Need To Include Everyone.

Everyone we spoke with stressed the need to widen access to training and professional opportunities – and many were themselves a personal testament to where giving that access can lead. Danny Hargreaves started his professional life as an Apprentice in London and within a few short years had worked his way onto the set of the primetime TV drama, ‘London’s Burning’: learning the art and science of Special Effects on a journey that then took him to a garage in Splott, where he both lived and worked, starting up an enterprise that’s become the world-renowned BAFTA & Emmy-award-winning RealSFX company, which is now the Special Effects provider of choice to major productions around the world, from its state-of-the-art Cardiff base.

“The talent is here – and so is the opportunity”

 Pontypridd-born Richard Moss’s personal story took him in the opposite direction, starting out in the editing suites of the Welsh capital before moving to London and eventually returning to Cardiff as MD of Gorilla Post-Productions. Both Danny and Rich are evangelical in their advocacy of training local ‘raw’ talent through Traineeships and Apprenticeships – and see this as “essential” and “critical” to the next stage of the region’s screen industry success. As Rich stressed: “Both the opportunities and the training are here. We just need to get people from all communities across the region to apply.”

We’re ‘Very Good’. With The Potential To Become Truly Great.

Just how good could our creative cluster become? Tom Ware spent 15 years as a producer for the BBC before becoming Director of Production & Performance at University of South Wales – and gave us his honest assessment:  “Our students have had 17 Oscar and 15 BAFTA nominations – and we recently won the BAFTA for SFX on Dark Materials – so there’s a lot of good stuff going on. I’ve been in Cardiff since 2008 and witnessed how the industry has exploded during that time. It’s probably now 1000% bigger than when I first came – and at one point in 2020 was actually the second busiest screen cluster in Europe. Our role now is to help build the talent pipeline, supply what is now a world-class industry right on our doorstep – and provide a pathway for people in every community across the region.

“A world-class industry right on our doorstep”

 Multi-award-winning Director & Writer Phil John is a prime example of someone who grabbed that opportunity and pursued that pathway. An alumni of the Newport Film School, whose subsequent accolades have included BAFTA nominations as Director of ‘Downton Abbey’, Phil ‘found’ his true professional path at the age of 30 and believes “we in Wales just need to believe in ourselves. Learn the craft and work with people who push you and encourage you. If I can do it, anyone can do it. That’s not me being humble – the training opportunities now are greater than they’ve ever been  It’s my belief that once you focus, once you get ‘plugged in’, the experience you keep gaining will take you through to wherever you’re meant to be.”

We Enjoy A Strategic Advantage. And We Must Use It. 

A combination of Welsh government backing and a comparatively low-cost base when compared to London has seen many businesses choose to set up in Cardiff, including Vox Pictures, creators of the Welsh-born and globally successful ‘Keeping Faith’. Adrian Bates, award-winning producer and co-founder of Vox, sees the powerful blend of economics and creative excellence as a powerful factor in success: “Keeping Faith has grown into a big production beast during those five years, costing £750,000 an hour; and we couldn’t have geared Vox to achieve that without the commercial advantages of being based in Cardiff rather than London. The mathematics of being here means we could afford our own edit suites, development rooms and all the other things that help you plan ahead to create a £6 million series – and still sleep at night.

“Being here means we can afford to sleep at night”

Movietech Camera Rentals is an established part of this Welsh Creativescape, making a telling contribution to productions such as His Dark Materials, Gangs of London, The War of the Worlds and A Discovery of Witches. Andy Cooper, Movietech’s Marketing Director, has watched the industry develop in Wales over the course of his career and shared an informed perspective on the reasons why our region is succeeding and can continue to succeed. “The whole TV & Film industry is changing in front of our eyes and Wales is geared to benefit from that change. The industry in the Cardiff Capital Region and the four-wall studios in South Wales will be in even more demand. You deserve that as you have been carving a path as the destination for Film & TV production outside the M25, for several years.”

We Deliver Tangible Value And Economic Growth.

This emerging global powerhouse is delivering exceptional training and professional opportunities to  locally-based talent such as 24-year-old Alex Moore, who trained at the Welsh College of Music & Drama and has experienced a continual stream of work as Location Assistant on many different productions across the region, including Netflix’s ‘Apostle’ and ‘Pobol y Cwm’: “There’s a feeling that this is a golden moment in the Creative Industries here in South Wales – and there’s something very special happening right now and I’ve not had to look beyond South Wales for work. There’s such a great mix of production – from drama to documentary – and as a freelancer it’s good to know you can go from job to job, even with all the disruption that happened in 2020”.

A golden moment in the Creative Industries here in South Wales” 

 Alison Dowzell, MD of Screen Alliance Wales, has been a key driver in the development of the creative and media industries across Wales and summarises both the importance and the potential of a sector “that now contributes £361 million to the Cardiff Capital Region alone, with more than 1300 firms employing over 5,000 people. It’s clear that the appetite to grow much further is clearly there. Since 2018, Screen Alliance Wales has engaged with over 10,000 people to help open their eyes and minds about the wide variety of careers available. And with the National Film & Television School about to open its centre in Cardiff this April, we’re in a stronger position than ever before to support emerging talent and strengthen skills development for a sector that’s putting this part of the world on a global stage, in every sense.”