Yorkshire’s film renaissance gathers pace

17 April  2018......   Screen Yorkshire chief executive Sally Joynson photographed with the iconic Leeds Bridge in the background.. Picture Tony Johnson.
17 April 2018...... Screen Yorkshire chief executive Sally Joynson photographed with the iconic Leeds Bridge in the background.. Picture Tony Johnson.
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Once upon a time, if you asked the average UK cinema-goer what Yorkshire’s big silver screen moment was, you could have predicted the answer: Kes.

Many other movies created in, financed and inspired by the region have hit the cinemas in the last few months - Ghost Stories, featuring Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine’s second feature as director, Journeyman, and Clio Barnard’s Dark River.

Screen Yorkshire, which helped to create the latter set of pictures, has done its fair share to ensure that a celebrated crop of creative minds are choosing the region for their productions – and with good reason. Sally Joynson, the business’s chief executive, believes the “beautiful, varied” regional landscape has played a big part in the “huge upsurge in filming over the last six to seven years”.

“There are dales, gritty cities. A fantastic range of locations is really important,” she said. What is more, much of these are a within 30 miles of each other – another “cost-efficient” motive.

Last month, a Government report showed the company’s work has contributed to an increase in creative industries employment in the region by 88 per cent between 2009-2015.

Mrs Joynson said: “That is phenomenal growth. Yorkshire’s grown faster in the last six years than anywhere else in the UK.”

Another major reason for this is the Yorkshire Content Fund (YCF), a public-private investment scheme supported by millions of pounds of European Regional Development Fund money.

Screen Yorkshire usually finances around 10 to 15 per cent of projects.

“Since we launched the fund in mid-2012, we’ve brought in over 40 productions. Many would’ve not been made in Yorkshire without Screen Yorkshire intervention and investment. The investment funding has been absolutely at the heart of growth,” said Mrs Joynson.

The first YCF investment was for Peaky Blinders – the successful BBC gangster drama starring Cillian Murphy.

After that, the company amassed plenty of hits for its showreels, including the 2016 Dad’s Army film and ITV’s Victoria. But it all could have played out so differently. After the change in Government, the UK Film Council was abolished and the nine regional screen agencies were broadly integrated into just one, Creative England.

Screen Yorkshire, which was founded in 2002, had to cut its staff numbers from around 28 to about four (which has since crept back up to six, but half are part-time).

Mrs Joynson said: “Screen Yorkshire could have gone quietly into the distance but we didn’t – we made the decision to relaunch the business.”

Then the sign-off for the YCF came in 2011. “That gave us a fighting chance of keeping the investment going.”