Screen Yorkshire has launched a plan to turn its part of northern England into an international film and TV hub capable of attracting the next “Game of Thrones.” The agency has opened a new Film Office, which will be the driver of its international push, and talks are underway about a new studio complex in the city of Leeds.
Through its content fund, Screen Yorkshire has already provided support to films and series including Idris Elba’s movie “Yardie” and BBC drama “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” The newly minted Film Office will work with any producers who want to set up shop, or base a production, in the Yorkshire and Humber region, irrespective of whether they are beneficiaries of the content fund.
“We are saying Screen Yorkshire is open for business, and it’s the international market that we are very keen to hit,” CEO Sally Joynson told Variety.”
“We already have international producers working here, but what we are looking for is to secure something like ‘Game of Thrones,'” which Joynson described as “a real game-changer” for the industry in Northern Ireland. “Instead of just part of a production being based here, we want, through the Film Office, to locate the producers and productions that have the potential to base themselves in Yorkshire for the long term.”
There will be 70,000 square feet of production space in the region from 2019, Joynson said. But a key part of Screen Yorkshire’s mission is to add more.
In Leeds, where the agency is based, a potential site for a new studio has been identified, and surveying work is underway. Creating a new studio will run alongside pre-existing plans to expand the region’s Church Fenton site, a complex of former aircraft hangars that are now the studio where ITV royal drama “Victoria” is filmed. A planning application has been lodged for new sound stages and facilities.
Former Creative England exec Caroline Cooper Charles will oversee the Screen Yorkshire film office with Joynson. Seasoned location and production experts Chris Hordley and Richard Knight will staff the office, with more hires to come.
The U.K. film and TV business remains London-centric, but with Channel 4’s announcement last week that it is opening a new national headquarters in Leeds, new indie production and operations offices in the city, and now the new Film Office, attention is shifting north of the English capital. Joynson said the Channel 4 move “is an additional vote of confidence in Yorkshire as a production base.”
She added: “It’s recognition of what’s already here and the potential to build something really big.”