Why Yorkshire's film and television production surge shows no sign of stopping in 2020

The surge of major film and television productions across Yorkshire shows no sign of abating in 2020, as regional experts hail the promise of new series and video-on-demand platforms while awaiting fresh studio openings.

Though 2019 was a blockbuster period for films made in the region, providing jobs and boosting tourism, the new year is set to continue this trend with a number of high-profile schemes due to get under way.

Channel 4’s operations in Leeds will kickstart in earnest over the next few months, while a National Film and Television School hub and new world-class Leeds Studios will both open this year.

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Projects backed by Screen Yorkshire, the region's film and TV agency, hitting screens in 2020 include Armando Iannucci's feature The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel and partly filmed in Hull and the return of Kay Mellor's The Syndicate.

A Hull scene in The Personal History of David Copperfield. Picture submitted by Screen Yorkshire.

The new Dracula mini-series on the BBC, which begins this evening, was partly filmed in Whitby, and Netflix drama The English Game, created by Julian Fellowes and filmed at various locations in the region, will also land this year.

Yorkshire-born Jodie Whittaker’s tardis will land again with the return of BBC favourite Doctor Who.

The Duke - a film about a taxi driver who steals Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London, starring Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent - also begins production in the county this month.

Also scheduled for release is the film adaptation of hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, with the help of Sheffield-based Warp Films. Based on the BBC documentary Drag Queen at 16, the stage production originated at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, before being moved to the West End where it continues to run.

Screen Yorkshire CEO Sally Joynson.

A recommissioned second series of Halifax-based BBC and HBO programme Gentleman Jack is set to ensure that the tourism boom that resulted from the show’s first outing will continue in the future, while creator Sally Wainwright's next installment of Last Tango in Halifax will also run this year.

Chairman of tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, Peter Box, said: “The rise in visitors to Calderdale since Gentleman Jack hit our screens clearly demonstrates just how brilliantly programmes like this can showcase the county.

"We’d already seen the impact of Victoria on Harewood House, but the increase for Shibden Hall after Sally Wainwright’s compelling drama hit our screens is phenomenal; and such fantastic news that series two is heading into production next year.

“On top of that, 2020 sees the release of Channel 5’s new take on the Yorkshire classic All Creature’s Great and Small and the big screen release of The Secret Garden filmed in Helmsley, which should see even more people flocking to the county. Channel 4 choosing Yorkshire as its northern home is another huge boost, bringing many more productions and associated jobs to the area, benefiting not just tourism but the wider economy too.”

David Wilson in Bradford.

Sally Joynson , who has been CEO of Screen Yorkshire for more than a decade, said that a lot of its work goes on behind the scenes but added that you cannot escape the enormous economic impact of its work.

“We’re a bit like the car engine – the mechanism that make the whole thing go, and run smoothly. You don’t see it every day, but you rely on it wholeheartedly."

David Wilson, director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, said: “Once again last year saw virtually non-stop production from low budget feature films, to TV dramas, Netflix series and large scale features across our region and the Bradford Film Office has played a key role in supporting with locations, production office space, hotel accommodation, local crew and extras.

“The Bradford story very much feeds into the wider region’s strong credentials in the screen industries and in fact that of the wider UK.”

Armando Iannucci, Peter Capaldi and Dev Patel on set of The Personal History of David Copperfield in Hull. Picture submitted by Screen Yorkshire.

He said it was brilliant to see all of last year’s efforts hit the big screen and the small screen, including Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack, Pennyworth, Ackley Bridge, Downton Abbey The Movie and Official Secrets, as well as other regulars such as Emmerdale.

He said that productions "provide direct employment opportunities or supply chain such as hotels", adding "but there is also the seen on screen and screen tourism impact.

“It is very clear to me that the Bradford district is held in very high regard and with a lot of affection by production managers, producers and directors who are making repeat visits but also recommending Bradford to other productions.

“With further video on demand (VOD) platforms launching [in 2019 and 2020] there are no signs of things slowing down."

Speaking about the worldwide context, he added: “There are a number of predictions that in 2020 there will be more money spent on original scripted television than was spent in the entire decade of the 1990s.”

Sally Folkard, strategic manager at Film Hub North, a network of organisations in the North of England, said: "We’re working with cultural organisations across Yorkshire to help them expand, try new things and ensure that audiences are at the heart of the region’s film and television landscape in 2020."

As previously reported by The Yorkshire Post, in 2017 data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that between 2009 and 2015, the region’s screen industries grew faster than anywhere else in the UK, including London and the South East.

The industry generated an annual turnover of £424m across 590 creative businesses (an increase of 247 per cent against the UK average of 118 per cent).

The number of business units across Yorkshire and Humber grew 57 per cent compared to the UK average of 47 per cent.

Employment across the film and TV industries in the region grew 88 per cent against a UK average of 32 per cent.