Cornwall and Isles of Scilly could become major production hub

A new Lottery-funded report commissioned by Screen Cornwall and the BFI has found that the screen industry in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly shows increasing potential to become a “screen cluster of national significance”.

Entitled ‘Catalysing the Cornish Screen Sector,’ the report is produced for Screen Cornwall by Olsberg•SPI and funded by the BFI National Cluster Growth Fund.  It points to the region’s recent successes in domestic independent filmmaking rooted in Cornish heritage – notably Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA-winning 2019 debut Bait and 2022 follow up Enys Men, released this month – coupled with its long-standing popularity for location filming that attracts incoming productions like ITV’s 18 year returning drama Doc Martin and international titles like HBO’s House of the Dragon (2022). In addition, the study profiles a skilled and growing regional crewbase, an indigenous community of ambitious microbusinesses and physical infrastructure developments set for completion in 2024/5.

HBO’s House of the Dragon (2022)

Laura Giles, Managing Director of Screen Cornwall says:

“The ambition for sustainable growth for the screen sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly builds on our popularity with production companies and audiences alike, as well as a growing bank of crew and exciting creative talent. We have a rich cultural heritage with a minority language that is rising in profile on screen – Enys Men is particularly significant; a fully indigenous critically-acclaimed feature film developed and produced by a Cornish company.”

The report comes at a time when indigenous Cornish filmmaking, and use of Kernewek, is rising in profile. Edward Rowe’s 2022 writing and directing debut Mab Hudel was the first Cornish language short to be selected for last year’s BFI London Film Festival, and the BBC have just launched their first content in the language on the iPlayer with a collection of four shorts from Cornwall Council and Screen Cornwall’s FylmK talent development scheme.

Stephanie Marshall, BBC Head of Content Production for the West and South West says:

“Cornwall’s screen sector is distinctive both within our region and nationally due to its strong Celtic heritage and cultural links, minority language and perspective on the world as an outward looking peninsula with a worldwide diaspora. The BBC is delighted to be bringing these high quality short films to a broader audience and supporting indigenous production and talent development at the same time.”

Against this backdrop of a distinctive regional voice, the Olsberg study found that although the region’s film & TV production crew base is small compared to more densely populated regions – with around 290 professionals registered on Screen Cornwall’s database – it is highly experienced and growing in number, with many having built their skills and networks on long-running shows like ITV’s Doc Martin and Sky’s Delicious over a number of years. Addressing accessibility to the sector for those in a rurally-dispersed region with high levels of socio-economic deprivation is a key feature of the report’s recommendations.

More than 270 companies were found to be active across film, television, video production, equipment hire and digital games. 65 fell under the category of film or TV, and 35 were video games companies ranging from start-ups to more established companies like AntiMatter Games, True Players and Dull Dude. The majority (over 85%) of screen sector companies registered in Cornwall are microbusinesses with two or fewer employees.

The study points to a number of studio and workspace plans in progress across the region, such as ASONE Perform business park at St Merryn near Padstow, the first phase of which is due to open in 2024, and The Hive screen and digital hub in Truro set to open in 2025. Developments like this are predicted to boost the region’s physical infrastructure and provide more year-round screen activity, as opposed to the seasonal activity that currently dominates.

Screen Cornwall Chair and TV Producer Phillippa Giles (Sky’s Delicious) says: 

“At a time of rapid growth in the UK screen economy, this report pinpoints our strengths and the barriers we need to overcome to take the screen sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to the next level. With a diverse range of freelancers and micro-businesses spread across a large geographical area, the role of new virtual and physical hubs in the region will be crucial, as will our links to regional partners across the South West such as Bristol’s Bottle Yard Studios.”

Harriet Finney, the BFI’s Deputy CEO and Executive Director of Corporate and Industry Affairs, adds:

“Allowing our sectors to remain confined to one part of the UK limits their potential for growth and denies those across the country from the opportunity to benefit from – and contribute to – a truly diverse and flourishing screen industry. We’re delighted to see Cornwall as a rural region leading the way.”

Download the ‘Catalysing the Cornish Screen Sector’ Research Report (2023) here:

Watch the Cornish Language shorts on BBC iPlayer here: BBC iPlayer – Cornish Shorts