Hooray for Yollywood: New fund puts region in lights

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A film and TV agency that survived the Government’s “Bonfire of the Quangos” is putting Yorkshire’s name up in lights with its £15m investment fund.

New figures show that Screen Yorkshire’s content fund has given the region an economic boost worth at least £20m and helped bring Yorkshire to the attention of Hollywood producers and directors.

Hooray for Yollywood?

Hooray for Yollywood?

The organisation was the largest and probably most successful of the regional screen agencies set up under Labour in 2002.

But its funding was cut in 2010 when the coalition Government came to power and axed its main benefactors Yorkshire Forward and the Film Council.

It was a tough time for Screen Yorkshire, which lost the majority of its staff, but it managed to cling on and win backing from the European Regional Development Fund to launch a £15m content fund.

It started investing the fund in February 2012 with four staff and a lean, hard-edged approach to doing deals.

Hooray for Yollywood?

Hooray for Yollywood?

Sally Joynson, chief executive, told The Yorkshire Post: “The vision for the fund was to make Yorkshire one of the most sought-after destinations for production in the UK.

“The impact that the fund has had over the last two years has been absolutely extraordinary.”

Yorkshire has been dubbed “the Hollywood of England” because of the amount of production in the region, she added.

Screen Yorkshire’s 24 major investments since the fund’s launch include TV series Peaky Blinders, The Great Train Robbery and Death Comes to Pemberley and films Dad’s Army, Get Santa and Testament of Youth, which opened in cinemas yesterday.

The fund co-invests alongside the private sector on a project-by-project and match-funded basis.

Ms Joynson said the first £6m - invested in 17 projects - has produced £20m in local spending, including £3m in location fees and £3m on hotels and accommodation in Yorkshire.

In total, the fund’s investments have generated employment for more than 2,800 cast and crew as well as 8,000 extras and supporting artists, she added.

Ms Joynson said: “We invest; we get our money back with a share of profits; meanwhile, these productions come in and spend a lot of money, which means there are really significant benefits for the community and local economy.”

Yorkshire has a strong heritage of film and TV production, but big changes over the last decade have taken their toll on the industry, she added.

Ms Joynson said: “This fund has turned a lot of that on its head. It has put Yorkshire back on the map and under the spotlight.

“It has demonstrated to the UK as a whole that Yorkshire still has what it takes to produce very significant film and television projects.”

She added that the fund is helping to create investor confidence in the region and acts as a magnet to producers in an industry where access to finance is the biggest obstacle to growth.

The region is blessed with beautiful as well as diverse scenery for film locations to double for places as distinct as Piccadilly and Switzerland, she said.

Success breeds success

Screen Yorkshire’s vision for its future will stir the hearts of all those with an interest in the success of the region.

Sally Joynson, chief executive, said: “Giving private investors and businesses the confidence to invest in Yorkshire, set up in Yorkshire, employ Yorkshire talent and attract more talent from the rest of the UK into Yorkshire is absolutely the long-term goal.”

The current fund runs to the end of 2015. Screen Yorkshire will then start to invest the returns.

Ms Joynson said: “Success definitely breeds success. When we have very high-profile projects coming in, you get noticed and people are interested in what we are doing here. There is a confidence when they see very substantial projects being filmed in Yorkshire with A-list cast and A-list directors then that gives them confidence you can do it really well in Yorkshire.”