|Bethan Sayed AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mick Antoniw AM|
|Neil Hamilton AM|
|Rhianon Passmore AM|
|Sian Gwenllian AM|
|Suzy Davies AM|
|Andrew M Smith||Cyfarwyddwr Materion Corfforaethol, Pinewood Group|
|Corporate Affairs Director, Pinewood Group|
|Jane Tranter||Sylfaenydd, Bad Wolf|
|Founder, Bad Wolf|
|Natasha Hale||Prif Swyddog Gweithredol, Bad Wolf|
|Chief Operating Officer, Bad Wolf|
|Paul Higgins||Cadeirydd Dragon Digital ac Aelod o'r Panel Buddsoddi yn y Cyfryngau|
|Chairman, Dragon Digital and Member of the Media Investment Panel|
|Lowri Harries||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 6||2. Film and major television production in Wales: Evidence Session 6|
|3. Cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru: Sesiwn dystiolaeth 7||3. Film and major television production in Wales: Evidence Session 7|
|4. Papurau i'w nodi||4. Papers to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.
The meeting began at 09:31.
Diolch, a chroeso i'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu. Eitem 1: cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau. A oes gan unrhyw Aelod rhywbeth i'w ddatgan yma heddiw? Neil Hamilton.
Thank you, and welcome to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. Item 1: introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. Does any Member have a declaration of interest here today? Neil Hamilton.
I should declare an in interest in that I've known Andrew as a close friend for very many years, and received hospitality from him and Pinewood, and dispensed it to them.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fel y gwnes i ddweud yn y cyfarfod diwethaf, mae fy ngŵr yn trefnu gŵyl ryngwladol Caerdydd, felly roeddwn i jest yn moyn rhoi hynny ar y record eto.
Ymddiheuriadau gan Jenny Rathbone a gan Jack Sargeant. Mae Rhianon Passmore yn mynd i fod yn hwyr, a Siân Gwenllian. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much. As I said in the last meeting, my husband arranges the Cardiff international festival, so I just wanted to place that on the record again.
Apologies from Jenny Rathbone and Jack Sargeant. Rhianon Passmore will be joining us later, and Siân Gwenllian also. Thank you.
Yn symud ymlaen at eitem 2, felly: cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru—sesiwn dystiolaeth 6. Croeso i'n tystion, Paul Higgins, cadeirydd Dragon Digital ac aelod o'r panel buddsoddiad yn y cyfryngau; a hefyd i Andrew M. Smith, cyfarwyddwr materion corfforaethol Pinewood Group. Croeso i chi'ch dau. Os nad ydych chi'n gyfarwydd gyda'r hyn sydd yn digwydd ar ein pwyllgor, fel arfer rydym ni'n cael cwestiynau ar themâu gwahanol gan Aelodau gwahanol. Felly, fe fyddwn ni jest yn mynd yn syth i mewn i gwestiynau, os yw hynny'n iawn.
Moving on to item 2: film and major television production in Wales—evidence session 6. I welcome Paul Higgins, chair of Dragon Digital and member of the media investment panel; and also Andrew M. Smith, corporate affairs director at Pinewood Group. Welcome to both of you. If you're not familiar with what happens on our committee, we usually have questions on different themes from different Members. Therefore, we'll just go straight into questions, if that's okay.
Jest yn dechrau gyda fi, o ran rhoi persbectif ar y sin ffilm yng Nghymru, fel petai, sut ydych chi'n credu bod Cymru yn gwneud o fewn cyd-destun Prydeinig, neu o fewn cyd-destun rhyngwladol? A ydych chi'n credu bod Cymru fel gwlad yn llwyddiannus yn hynny o beth?
Just to start, and to provide us with a perspective of the film scene in Wales, how do you think Wales is doing within a British context, or within an international context? Do you think that Wales as a country is successful in that sense?
Would you like me to answer?
I think Wales is starting to do very well, yes. It's come from behind, and I think it's made some brave investments and tried to grip a sector that's very, very important to the UK economy. The UK seems well placed. It's what we seem to be good at: creating content, creating intellectual property and creating intellectual property that can be sold around the world. I think Wales is playing catch-up and has made various initiatives to try and do this. From all the statistics that I can see, it's certainly working, and the feeling on the ground is that it's working. I'm sure there are many things that could be improved, hence the purpose of this committee, but I think Wales is getting there. I think the things that have been done to try and create a solid spine of production that would be rooted here, stay here, lead into a legacy here and really care about what's happening here are very important, and there have been good efforts to do that. I think we've seen some real progress there, and I'm not involved, but personally delighted to see things like Bad Wolf trying to be based here, doing some big productions, engaging with communities, engaging with the industry and bringing people into it. Those things are needed, rather than just popping in and out and making something and leaving again. I think it's getting there, and I think it's shown more rapid growth than the rest of the UK and learnt from examples around the world—places like New Zealand and Northern Ireland, where they have had big, major, long-term developments, which they could really build around. So, from an outside view, it is looking very good, and, from an inside view, I feel like there's progress being made. I come to the table with a positive point of view of what's happening in Wales.
Perhaps I could give more of a UK perspective on it. Certainly, the UK is in a very good place in terms of film production, and we've had record levels of spend seen in the UK in the last year, I think, since records began. We've seen, in the UK Government's creative industries sector deal, ambition to increase film production to £4 billion in the next seven years. I think that is achievable. I think there are going to be some issues around skills in order to meet that objective, but I think, in terms of Wales's proportion of that, you have the infrastructure. Now you've got Bad Wolf, you've got Pinewood Studios, you are seeing—as the committee saw last week or a couple of weeks ago—things such as Channel 4's new series Jerusalem being done here, the small independent films. You've obviously got the BBC; Doctor Who is in at the moment at the studio. So, yes, I think it's in a good place. It probably had a slower start than, say, Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland had the benefit of much more intervention by their Government, and also benefited from HBO through the Game of Thrones series, so I think that has to be put into context.
Down ni ymlaen at faterion gwledydd eraill a'r arian buddsoddiad, felly nid ydw i eisiau gofyn am hynny. A ydych chi'n credu bod yna sectorau penodol o fewn Cymru a fyddai'n gallu gweld gwerth cael mwy o fuddsoddiad? A oes yna elfen o ffilm sydd yn fwy llwyddiannus ar hyn o bryd, neu deip o gynnyrch sy'n fwy llwyddiannus yng Nghymru na mewn gwledydd eraill—rhywle efallai y gallem ni greu niche i ni fel Cymry?
We'll come onto the issues relating to other countries and the funding later. Do you think there are specific sectors within Wales that could see a value in obtaining more investment? Is there an element of film that is more successful at the moment, or a type of production that's more successful in Wales than in other countries—perhaps somewhere where we could create a niche for Wales?
We're being too polite.
Go in for the kill, yes. I think Wales has got a great tradition of storytelling and I think it would be nice to see it being fully joined up from the grass roots of film making and storytelling, and to find some connectivity right the way through to the top of the chain—the top in terms of it as an industrial sector. I think there's sometimes a disconnect between the big sort of HBOs and the people coming in, which is what we need; we need them to build the sector, but I think Wales should really capitalise on the storytelling and how it can grow out of the language, the land, you know. If we can join them together and try and create encouragement for the big studios who are coming in and try and weave in a lot more of the kind of writers and things that we're very good at in Wales, I think there is—.
And I think we shouldn't underestimate the importance of smaller films. I know you've seen, from my background, that I do get involved in sometimes short films and small films and trying to give some people a start, you know—people like Craig Roberts, who was an actor in one film I was involved in, Submarine. Then he made his own film, Just Jim, and it was only a £300,000 or £400,000 film. Now he's making a much bigger film with serious backing.
Seeing these things grow, I remember back in the day being involved in a film called Brick, which was a little chap called Rian Johnson. It was a $300,000 film. We struggled to get our money back on it, but, since he did Star Wars and other things, it's shown that these small investments, down the line, can turn into some very interesting things. I think Wales should work quite hard at helping that sector. It's not just an indulgence or something people are playing at culturally; I think it's an important thing, and weaving together the strong culture of Wales with the industrial potential of the sector would be a really nice thing to pull off. It's not easy, but I think that's something Wales could really look to try and do, perhaps in a more joined-up way than we've managed yet, but I think if we can work at doing that it would be a real breakthrough.
Yes. You talked about a niche market. I think that the experience that productions have had in Wales—. If you look at, say, something like Their Finest, which was Amazon's first UK high-end television production, done here, that was a great experience. I think it's very important that productions, whether it be film or television, go away with that good experience. Certainly, the ones that I've spoken to have had that. There have been some challenges, but the servicing and small interventions, which Paul mentioned, also can have a huge difference on building up that indigenous film industry.
Jest cwestiwn olaf gen i ar hyn o bryd: beth ydych chi'n credu yw capasiti stiwdios yng Nghymru, o ran a oes yna ddigon o le? Pan gawsom ni sesiwn fforwm ar ffilm, cyn i'r sesiynau swyddogol gychwyn, roedd ITV wedi dweud nad oedd digon o le ar gyfer ffilmio yma yng Nghymru. A ydych chi'n cytuno â hynny, neu a ydych chi'n credu bod jest angen gwneud mwy gyda'r safleoedd sydd gyda ni?
And a final question from me: what do you think about the capacity of studios in Wales? Is there a sufficiency of studio space? When we had a forum session on film, before the official sessions began, ITV said that there wasn't enough space for filming here in Wales. Do you agree with that, or do you think that there is just a need to do more with the sites that we have?
Andrew will have more to say, probably, on that than I will, but, in terms of my feeling as a producer and someone looking for studio space, it's a difficult thing for Governments or anyone to click their fingers and suddenly increase. It's a big commitment. It takes a lot of thinking about, 'Are we overdoing it? Are we underdoing it?' So, it's something that you can't respond that quickly to. I think the demand and the selling of Wales has gone very well and there's a build-up of people wanting to come here. It's my understanding that the studios are very busy at the moment, and that is the experience people have—is there enough space? I believe Pinewood is full at the moment, or full and busy at the moment, and Bad Wolf is full and busy. There's Dragon Studios, Bay Studios. People are using more; it's probably getting on for nearly 1 million square foot of studio space.
I think Wales has done pretty well to create an infrastructure and a variety of types of studios, from the high end to low end, from high ceiling to low ceiling, and it's something which would be a concern, but hard to say that we should double it. I think it's put a fairly big footprint on the ground, and possibly more of an issue will be making sure we build the staff up, and the infrastructure, and the teams and the resources around those studios. It's difficult to keep investing more and more in doubling studio space. I think there's quite a lot. It's a shame having a studio sitting empty; it's a big investment for the Government. Trying to get the balance right is tricky at any one point in time. But Andrew probably knows more about this than I would.
Yes, I would agree. My gut feeling is that there are probably sufficient studios at the moment. Of course, that's not including alternative infrastructure—disused warehouses, Royal Air Force bases—which are often used, particularly, for high-end television, where you can leave your sets up. So, I think the balance is about right. Sound stages are very expensive things to build, so you need to have the high-quality sound stages, but you also need that other mixture of other facilities in order to provide all the alternatives to film and television makers.
I'd just like to ask you a little bit about the strategy of what we should be doing and where Welsh Government should be going. Obviously, one of the purposes of this committee is to influence Government policy, to provide evidence. But just the starting point, because, yourselves, as with quite a number of witnesses we've had, talk very encouragingly about the state of the Welsh industry in terms of where it's going. In reality, it's gone, really, over the past seven or eight years, from £50 million to £180 million—a substantial increase—but its proportion of the UK film industry, which has gone, over the same period, from £5 billion to almost £10 billion and, of course, you're talking about another £4 billion—. It seems to me that we're barely scraping around, that we're coming from a very, very low position. Does that really reflect—? Is it really accurate to say that we're doing well? Increasing a very, very small—even disproportionately small—proportion is not really a good position to be in, is it?
My view is that the figures you quoted there show Wales growing faster, as you say, from a small base. I think it's right that Wales has put the effort in to try and address a sector that's very important for the UK. Clearly, we're good at it in the UK, and Wales is dedicating investment and the figures you've quoted there show quite a substantial increase in investment. I think there's often criticism that people run too fast, put too much into a new area. My view would be that it's an area that Wales should look at very hard. There are lots of things that you can invest in that might not be here in a few years' time. My bet is that content—the demand for content—is going to be needed. It isn't just a flash in the pan. It doesn't matter whether it's Netflix or Amazon or BBC or ITV or anybody else. Yes, Wales has come from behind, undoubtedly. I'd love it go faster. I'd love it to invest more.
I think it's right to proceed with caution, because it's a fiendishly difficult area. I think just throwing more and more money at it would be slightly worrying. I think that it seems slightly slow and steady, but it's difficult to pull these things together. Pinewood selling it around the world and bringing Wales to the attention of some people around the world as a base for the HBOs and Fox and people like that has gone well. People are turning up here now. They're beginning to do things here. I think we'd all love it to go faster. I think we'd struggle to suddenly change the skills base that we've got to say, 'Overnight, you're switching into these new areas.' The UK is overweighted by the big cities. If you look at that, a lot of that was done in and around London and the other big conurbations. Wales is moving fast to catch up from a position quite far behind. I'd love to see more investment and more commitment to it, but things like this committee are important to sort of say, 'Where is it best applied? How do we do it?', not just charging in and then having recriminations about, 'That was spent too fast there; there wasn't the infrastructure in place—we didn't have the skills in place.' You can only grow it at a certain pace, I think, without tripping yourself up.
So, what would you say are the things that we're not doing correctly, or perhaps the things that we could be doing better? If you were to pick two or three areas and say, 'Look, these are really the key areas; this is what needs to be done to actually move up to the next level,' taking into account all the very valid points that you make about having proper rooted growth, what would you focus on?
I think that one of the things that—. And I think that, probably, the committee is going to call or has called the British Film Institute. I think one of the things it would be helpful to understand, in terms of production spend behind television and film production, which is broken down by independent British film through to inward investment, is how much of that is captured in Wales, because, at the moment, it's just a UK figure. So, I think that would be helpful to understand. These are actual figures. Quarter 1 2018 figures are out tomorrow, I think. It's something that I've been pushing for because I think it would be helpful, when we talk about the nations and the regions, to know who's getting what.
Paul makes a very important point about how you need to keep pace with not just the infrastructure; it's to have the skills base as well. There would be nothing worse than to have a production come to find that they struggled or they had a bad experience. I think that the big prize here is with the industrial strategy and the creative industries sector deal, and if we are going to aim for doubling to £4 billion, now is the time—over that seven years, which is not a long time—to ensure that Wales has sufficient space and skills and crews to take its proportion of that growth. And I think particularly in something like the high-end television, because the figures that you mentioned, I suspect a large proportion of that would be in relation to high-end television, which has had a bit of a slow start because it was one of the more recent reliefs that came in, but now you're seeing really substantial growth in that sector.
I suppose the distinction between high-end television and film is becoming less and less, really, isn't it? They're almost becoming—
Totally. It's the same set decorator that works on a big Bond-type film that would work on something like The Collection or Their Finest. So, those skills—it's the same people, so they're all competing.
And I think it's attractive to Governments and to regions to draw the high-end television in. I believe we need all of it, because all of it feeds in and helps to build the infrastructure up. It's good to have a base of small films, bigger films—you know, people who are committed to an area and producing a slate of films rather than a one-off. But the high-end television feels like a prize because it's less risky in that you've normally done a lot of the business upfront, and it's presold and you've got co-production partners. So, it's kind of more industrialised in that you're making it, you hope it's wonderful and people love it; if they don't, it's paid for anyway. It hasn't got the same risk profile as a film. A film is: you make it and you cross your fingers and hope that the first Friday evening's results are good.
So, I think that the renewable tv series seems like the Holy Grail that everyone is shooting for, and Wales is trying very hard and I think the efforts that were made to put roots in here and do things like Bad Wolf are important, and I can see why that was done because it then creates everything—the studio space, infrastructure, the skills, a long-term view—so you can say to people, 'We're here, we're staying here, there's the space you need, we've got the teams in place.'
I think the part of the argument that's slightly harder at the moment is making sure that we've got—and we are repeating the point, I suppose—the training. The training really is important; you're building people up and that's an important thing. We can sell more and more, and I think people are coming here and seeing HBO, Fox and Amblin and all these big names that are coming here. They do have a good experience. They do like Wales. It seems a soft issue, but they genuinely like working here. They like working with the crews. It looks great. People come from Los Angeles and can't believe they've got real castles down the road, a real beach, a real mountain and not just a one-dimensional kind of landscape, so they do really like Wales as a base to make things. So, I think it's being sold well. We have to be careful we don't oversell it and make sure that we deliver that and grow at the right pace.
Can I ask there just about a couple of areas that we've been looking at? I'll put them together, and perhaps if you could take them through. One is the issue of film festivals—whether we're doing enough in terms of either attending, participating in, or holding film festivals, and so on, to actually raise the profile of Wales. Is that something that is an issue? Are there issues in respect of intellectual property issues with regard to Wales? And then the other one is, really, the extent to which tourism is becoming part of the film industry and the interconnectivity between those. So, really, those three areas that we've been looking at. So, rather than put them all to you separately—because I think they overlap—what is your thinking in respect of those?
In an ideal world, I think we could be more joined up than we are, and that's another thing that I feel—. Not because anyone's done anything badly; it's just difficult. Lots of different bodies and parties are beginning to realise what's happening, they're talking furiously, trying to work out how we get a more coherent, one voice, so that when you are at these festivals—. I think that is a very good point you make. I think it would be nice to know that Wales was clearly represented at festivals, that there's a very clear route in to talk to Wales, almost as a sort of a pre-screen that it fed through. And there are a lot of bodies doing that and putting a lot of effort into doing that. It would be nice to know that we were properly represented there, and that Wales stood clearly with one voice—you know, 'Come to Wales; here's what the benefits can be.' It's possibly not clear enough exactly what's available, how it works. Other regions are very clear in terms of how they interface with productions, in terms of what's available, how the grant structure works versus commercial investment versus lots of other areas. So, I think being more represented at festivals with a more clear and more coherent story would definitely be a real positive for Wales. I'll come back on the other points after you've heard a bit from Andrew. Andrew, do you want to say something about that?
I think it is important to have a clear presence at some of the more strategic festivals. I just got back from Cannes yesterday. The UK pavilion is now badged We Are UK Film, so, it's all the agencies. Certainly, some of the other nations had a big presence. Other countries have a more significant presence. The state of Georgia in the USA—they were crawling everywhere. So, you've certainly got to make sure your voice is known at these—. Not all these international festivals—there are probably two or three that are the right ones. Equally, domestic festivals are important as well and growing your own indigenous film industry. Things such as Cardiff's film festival, it's diversity festival, you know, the Iris festival, the LGBTQ festival, that's well known now. So, I think it's not just international—it is domestic. In terms of film tourism—a key area, certainly on the large budget films. Paddington 2, Mary Poppins, I understand, and the James Bond type—Visit Britain do whole campaigns around that and I think that is probably an area that should be explored, because film tourism is a significant economic factor these days.
A allaf i jest gofyn cwestiwn bach ar hynny? Rŷm ni'n cael trafodaethau gyda rhai o'r cwmnïau sy'n creu ffilmiau teledu. Maen nhw'n dweud nad ydyn nhw'n cael digon o gefnogaeth ariannol efallai i fynd i rai o'r gwyliau ffilm yma. Nid wyf i eisiau enwi enwau, ond roedd un person yn bwriadu mynd i Cannes i werthu'r hyn roedd e wedi'i wneud, ond wedyn roedd e wedi gorfod tynnu mas achos nid oedd y gefnogaeth ariannol roedd e'n mynd i'w gael ddim wedi cael ei ddelifro. Felly, wedyn, nid yw rhywun o Gymru yn cael y siawns i fod ar lefel byd-eang. A oes yna rywbeth sydd ar gael i helpu pobl felly?
Can I just ask a brief question on that? We've had discussions with some of the companies that produce television films. They say that they don't have adequate financial support to attend these film festivals. I don't want to name names, but one person did intend going to Cannes to sell what he'd produced, but then he had to pull out because the financial support he was going to have wasn't delivered. So, somebody from Wales doesn't get that opportunity to be on an international level. So, is there something available to help people like that?
I've never applied for funding. Obviously, we wouldn't for Pinewood, given our size. But, certainly, things such as the British Film Institute, they often put calls out to producers, particularly on film. There was one recently about taking a delegation of film producers to out to Beijing—I think it was Beijing; it may have been Shanghai—for their film festival. So, just from an e-mail perspective, I see quite a lot of calls that come out saying, 'Do you need funding? We will support it.' Sometimes that's with the Department of International Trade as well.
Yes. Obviously, the BFI is a national body. So, I don't know what—if, say, Ffilm Cymru, whether they do a separate type of scheme. Attending these festivals is not cheap—just getting there and accommodation, that's—. But also, when you put your film into a competition, the fees to do that, that can be quite prohibitive as well. And that is something that a lot of young film makers struggle with, that they've got to raise the money just to pay the entrance fee.
I think it does raise a very good point, because it is that end of the spectrum, in terms of it tends to be the smaller films. The bigger films will have a sales house on board, they'll have a distributor on board, they want the film makers to be there, they want the production team to be there, and they'll just fund it. So, those films don't have to worry about it, because it will be funded. And it is expensive, as Andrew says. It's almost a bigger point as well about the fact that that whole sort of sector for the smaller films—you're hoping to break through, we're hoping to build producer skills up in Wales. It would be good if they had that experience, and certainly there is—Ffilm Cymru are involved in that. I've funded people to go there, personally, as well, because I think it's an important part of them growing their expertise and developing into the next generation of film makers, and showing we've got the talent in Wales. Certainly, help can be given for that. It's at that end of the spectrum, normally, where an issue would arise—maybe first-time film makers, or smaller independent films. That area is—it's a point in terms of making sure we are properly joined up, top end of dealing with the HBOs and the Fox, and all of the big selling that's taking place.
I particularly like the grow bag, and that end of it, and building the skills, and building production expertise, and it's nice to know that young producers in Wales are not just getting left behind, that they're able to attend these things, see how it works. A huge kind of mystery is put up about it all as very difficult. I don't think it is. I think it's nice for them to go there and have it a bit demystified—you know, grow some ambition And you see people like Craig Roberts, who can go from a jobbing actor to making his own little short film, to making his own film, to suddenly playing these games and talking to the Amazons, and being taken seriously. It's a real pleasure to watch that, and a bit of support early on—it might take quite a few years for it to pay back, but I think it's important we do it. It is done a bit, but that whole area of how you give support to the smaller independent films, as a training ground, and a development ground, and sometimes very successful commercial opportunities anyway, would be good to focus on, and see whether there is enough resource going into that. Because Ffilm Cymru doesn't have gigantic funds to invest. It does very well to spread them wide, but I think we're under-prepared in that area, personally. I think that it'd be nice to know there was more. I invest in an ad hoc basis alongside them in many of these sorts of smaller films; I think it would be good to see a bit of the money that's available to try and stimulate that area, to allow these people to really grow and develop as producers. I think it's a good point.
Thank you. You'll forgive me, Paul, some of my initial questions are for Andrew, but I'll bring you in at the end, if that's okay.
We're not financial structuring experts here, by any means at all, but I wonder if you can explain to us the relationship between the Wales screen fund and the media investment budget, because we seem to be very confused here about what the relationship is between them.
Well, I think as I may have explained before, we no longer—
Our media investment arm, which was Pinewood Pictures, which managed third-party funds—Welsh fund, Isle of Man fund, and indeed we invested our own money in, I think, 17 films since 2011—that part of the business, when the new owners came in, we closed that down, so—.
At this stage, all I want to know is, are they the same thing—you know, two different names—or is one connected to the other, or are they completely different things?
As far as I'm aware, I believe it's the same thing, which is now being managed—
Okay. So, as far as you know, they're the same thing, just different names.
I think it's more about packaging and badging it.
I think they could overlap better—
Well, if they're the same thing, they're the same thing. Genuinely, this is a question of clarity we have been wanting to ask you.
I think as a producer coming—. I think they're both trying to achieve the same objective.
In terms of the Wales Screen, it's the same—. They've got a different team. One is focused on people coming, Wales Screen is more focused on what infrastructure do you need, what studio space would you look at. So, they're the same thing but they're operating on a different part of the questions they're answering. So Wales Screen, I believe, will look more at locations, resources, what do you need, the studio space that you'll require, and the budget looking at the commercial investment needed to support that, and then—
Okay. Does the—? Well, perhaps you'll know this then: so, the £13 million pot that we all know about, that encompasses both of those?
No, I think that's—. No, that's the—
My understanding is that the MIB—the media investment budget—which is that £13 million, that is ring-fenced and managed now by the Welsh Government. Now, I suspect that is separate to the agency, but I'm not an expert in this area.
I think we’re going to have to just ask the Welsh Government, then. Okay. Well, actually, that helps to know that the confusion is genuine all round here for me. [Laughter.]
We have written to the Government on this, but you also seem to suggest that it’s a team within Government that do the sort of infrastructure thing.
They will welcome people in and they will try and find what locations you need, and you need someone dedicated to doing that.
That's Sgrîn Wales. That's right, yes.
That's different from the Wales screen fund, which is what I'm asking about.
Yes. So, you've got Sgrîn Wales, which is the agency, which—
Yes, it does the locations and the studios, and then you have the investment budget, as was, and that is now managed by the Welsh Government.
Yes. So, that's—
So, these aren't two—. So, running the agency and distributing money: are they all within the MIB envelope or are they separate things again?
Not that I'm aware, but obviously—
Okay. I appreciate you may not know, either, but while we've got our questions—. We'll give up on that one. Lovely. Thank you.
I would say, if you look at the UK, the BFI-type model, they manage their National Lottery fund, which obviously applies to Wales as well, and they invest in independent film production. But then when you come—this is a UK perspective. When you come to actually coming to the UK, you have things such as the British Film Commission, which will advise productions on locations and facilities and crews.
Yes, I think we can park the Sgrîn Wales element, just for a minute, because it's the money in the pot we're trying to learn a little bit more about.
Are you referring to the Ffilm Wales—Ffilm Cymru—fund?
No. This has nothing to do with Ffilm Cymru. That bit, I think, we're fairly clear on, which is good.
Right. So, if we can just go back to the media investment budget. Obviously, we accept that Pinewood's got nothing to do with it anymore. That was explained to us as that this was—that Pinewood was the gatekeeper to that fund. Can you tell us how that actually worked, because I've got a couple of questions on the back of that?
I can’t, because I wasn’t involved with it, but in general terms the—
Do you know how Pinewood’s involvement was procured? Was it a direct approach, or did it go out to applications?
I believe this goes back to sort of 2013 or 2012, when, I think, the official was Natasha Hale, who had a conversation with—sadly he's deceased now—Steve Christian, who ran Pinewood Pictures, about setting up a fund. I wasn’t involved with it back then, but it goes back to that kind of—. This really came from the success and some of the economic studies that were produced for the Isle of Man, for example, on how their fund performed. But, yes, it goes back to that kind of period.
I wasn't. I’ve been on that sort of panel since 2016, and I wasn’t involved at the outset, as to how that was all taking place. My understanding of it was that it's very much what we said, as headers Wales, step-up headers that start to attract investments in at scale, and the view was, with further investment, further funding, it could start to take its place and play catch-up. So, I believe that it was involving Pinewood to help to get Wales on the world stage, to knock on doors in Los Angeles and around the world and say, 'We're open for business' and having a sufficient fund as a gateway. That was the thinking behind it. The exact details of it—I wasn’t there at the time, but—.
I'm on the investment panel now, yes.
The other—. Yes, there was a process. People said, 'You should go on this. You could be helpful. You could add some'—
Who's that someone who suggested? This is not a question about whether they're any good. I’m just—
A wide variety of people in the industry had said to me, 'You should do this', and then an application went up, and I felt like it was doing good work for Wales. It’s an unpaid position where you can bring some of the expertise that you’ve developed over many years in a business and try and act as an adviser—just to join the panel to input and to help steer it.
And how do applications come before you, because they were sort of pre-approved by—
In the days of Pinewood being involved, then applications would be put together, detailed work would be done on the application, it would be considered on all its merits. It would look at what the team were, what the benefits to Wales would be, what the financial benefits may accrue from it, what sorts of sales estimates would be for a particular film or TV series. So, a lot of work was then done on the financial aspects, and then other aspects would be how would it deliver against a whole series of criteria in terms of what the Welsh Government was trying to make, and make sure that it was happening in the way that they hoped it would happen.
But you'd need something pretty well-developed before it got to you, so Pinewood would have done a lot of—
A massive amount of work, yes. It would be very, very well developed, very well prepared, very well researched, and legally put into a position where, from an early stage, the possibility—well, is it even worth taking forward? Then a shortlist would be created, and then work would be done in detail by Pinewood to put together a paper to sort of say, 'Here is a detailed opportunity for Wales to be considered alongside other opportunities.'
That's really helpful, actually, because we haven't had that information before. Obviously, at some stage, it's Pinewood themselves who would be putting ideas forward for Pinewood Pictures. How did the panel manage what could look like a conflict of interest?
It was an issue, I think, in my experience, people have been very careful about, to make sure that it was always declared and absolutely transparent. There were occasions where, for example, I would be involved in a production from one element and I would have to step away from the room, step away from it, and have no involvement in it. If, at the very first instance, it came up, and there was a connection or any conflict, every meeting was run with a conflict of interest and you'd step away and you'd have no further involvement in it.
And that's, as far as you're connected with this, what you can say as well.
Yes, because these are on the public record. For example, if you take a film like—
Well, The Collection is the one I've got in mind, because you've got Pinewood all the way through.
The Collection—that's a good example. That was co-financed by the Welsh fund. We then put additional—Pinewood itself put money in. Without the Pinewood money, it wouldn't have got made; we got it over the line. But just because we put money in, doesn't mean it used our facilities. It went to Bray, for example; it didn't use Pinewood Studios. If you look at something like Journey's End, again, that was a beneficiary of the Welsh fund, but they wanted to do their post production in one of the post houses in London. So, a lot of it is, as you'd expect, production-focused but with conditions.
We had some evidence last week from a witness who was obviously interested in accessing the fund and, actually, who had a production that was probably appropriate for it, but was actually put off by the fact that they were, shall we say, encouraged by Pinewood at this gate-keeping stage to make sure that all their post production was done at a Pinewood studio in England.
I wouldn't be able to comment. The only two examples I know for these that are on the public record, but—.
Can I just ask—sorry, Suzy—when you say about you having to step out of the room and stuff, what governance structures are there for the panel? You said you sent your application up. I'm just a bit confused as to the processes. I assume it's a question we can ask the Government, but could you tell us what you know about—? Because it's quite a powerful position, isn't it, because you decide, basically, on what goes forward and what doesn't? And it seems to be—apart from Ffilm Cymru—the only game in town. So, how are you making these decisions so that people can be assured that it's open, accountable, and that they can be confident that the right decision has been made?
Can I just add to that? Because, of course, Pinewood—and I'm talking about Pinewood without 'studios' or 'pictures' or anything written after their name—they're in a really influential position, as Bethan has just pointed out, but they also get to see the options that are coming forward as well. You say that Pinewood used to take the opportunity to invest in certain things, but also they're the first people who get to see them in many cases.
Look, at any given day, even now, I will probably find—during the course of this hearing, I'll have got half a dozen scripts that have been sent to me. We have a no-script policy, so we don't actually accept unsolicited scripts, and we certainly didn't—[Inaudible.] But by the nature of British independent film, you will go out to all kinds of funding partners to look for—whether that be Film4, BBC Films, BFI and some of the funds that we manage—. So, yes, we will look at them. A lot of them will just simply not be appropriate or too risky—that would've been assessed by our colleagues before we—[Inaudible.]—the media investment side.
Bethan, just in terms of my productions, these would be—.
Not your productions, your role on the board, and also, then, when you're having to leave the room because you're—I guess the same is true of Pinewood. We don't know the structures.
The governance, when you had to go in and talk to the civil servants as to how the—. The governance is very strictly administered, and in every meeting, there's a very clear, 'Here are the items on the agenda; here's what's coming up to be discussed.' Often there's a range of—you know, there could be 30, 40 productions at any one time coming forward. These are being considered, and then people have to very strictly declare any conflicts arising. Is there anything that means you shouldn't be in that conversation? And people very clearly mark up. And if there is, and there's something that you may be doing some post work on, or you may be doing some element, then you declare it and you step away, and you step out of the room for those bits of the discussion, so you'll have nothing to do with that at all.
So, the governance procedures are run, to my understanding, very strictly. It's from the beginning of the meeting, all the way through the meeting and as soon as there's no discussion, there is no discussion afterwards. It's completely taken away, you don't see any correspondence and no papers are sent to you in connection with that. It's very strict governance, you know, and you can address that to the civil servants and ask them to explain how they make sure that it's complied with. To me, it's super strict and they seem to be meticulous about that. No issues have arisen, as far as I'm concerned, at all.
Okay. We'll take that up with the Government. A final question if that's okay, Chair—.
Thank you. Just on this issue of super strict, I want to come back to some of the evidence we had last week about people who've been put off from applying for MIB because the entry requirements were pretty stiff. From what I understand from the—. Obviously, we're going back a little bit now, but the only way in was through the Pinewood website, if you like—they say you have to make any applications for MIB through Pinewood. I think that's right, isn't it? There were no other ways into that fund. But what's your response to some of the evidence we've had that it was actually too difficult to comply with the requirements of the MIB fund? Does it resonate with you?
Do you want me to answer that?
Yes, you probably—[Inaudible.]
There's an era when I wasn't involved, so I can't really comment on when this was set up. I only joined in April 2016, so I don't know, prior to that, in terms of—yes, there would've been a process to go through and to register an interest with Pinewood and then come through. And there was a process to go through—it isn't easy; maybe it could be easier. I think there is some merit in that, but I think it's important that clear guidelines are established. It should be a fairly difficult process to get through, but in a logical way. I think people should be clear and almost pre-screen themselves to say, 'What I'm trying to put up isn't the sort of thing that Wales wants.'
So, I think it maybe needs to be easier for people to not work through a process that was never really going to end up with the answer they wanted. I think some people will get frustrated because they're going through something that they're never going to come out at the end in a positive way with. So, it's perhaps too open as to, 'Come one, come all, get through—.' And there were people, maybe not being clear enough as to the terms of the criteria and the guidelines. That would be one view that I've had—that it would be nice to know that there was a very clear, 'What are we trying to achieve with it? What are we trying to do?', and that would whittle down, I think, a lot of applications, where people could clearly see that there wasn't a fit.
Well, I think there would already have been a sift by Pinewood in the very early stages on that, but the point that you make about lack of clarity about the criteria has been borne out by other evidence, actually.
Yes, I've heard a bit of it, and I think it will be important, as it goes forward, that that is really, really clear, and that that can be well established and there are clear things that fit into the agenda of Welsh Government to make sure that that has been achieved.
These processes are difficult, and the team, to my mind, are looking around at every other kind of agency and around the world at whether there is anything we can do to improve that, make it smoother and make it an easier process, and if it hasn't been easy to do, I think that's definitely been addressed and worked on.
I mean, film financing is very difficult. The BFI has just changed their whole structure of how to apply for National Lottery funding in the hope of trying to make that more accessible, and with clear deadlines—they have to respond by, I think, six weeks of the initial sift and so on. So, I'm sure that there can be improvements, but a lot would also depend on what the original criteria were by the Welsh Government on the fund, because my understanding was that larger budget type of films would share—
Because my understanding from the info we've had back from Welsh Government is that by the time applications got as far as the panel, the vast majority, I think, then went on—the panel didn't reject very many, from what I can tell. But, no, that's really helpful. Thank you.
Yes, you would expect, in film financing that, by the time it got to that final sift, it would've been thoroughly worked through and that other co-financers were in place as well.
The Government's interest and the public interest in this topic is twofold, really: to grow the economic side of the business in Wales, jobs, and to generate income et cetera, and also, of course, the cultural side, which is to tell Welsh stories or stories about Wales, and also, importantly, in the Welsh language, where that's possible. Can you give us your thoughts on whether the indigenous production sector in Wales is sufficiently large to be able to support a lively and creative industry making films and tv programmes? Is there anything more that the Government can do? We heard evidence last week from director Euros Lyn and an actor, Julian Lewis Jones—unfortunately, I wasn't at the committee hearing, but, overall, what they said was that further conditions should be attached to the media investment budget to guarantee jobs for Wales-based actors and production crews. Would that be feasible? Would it be a good thing? Would there be any negative repercussions on interest in making productions in Wales, if there were such conditions?
I'm sure Andrew's got comments on it. I think that the indigenous production sector is small. There are a small number of production companies, people like Red and Black Films, Mad as Birds and various others that have got real potential or are really growing—Severn Screen and people like that. They are to be built on, and I think it's a good point to address as to what you can do to help them scale up, build confidence and build expertise. I think it'd be very good to try and work out a way of involving these indigenous companies with the bigger productions as well, so that, instead of just bringing a big production in and then watch it go away again and not leave any legacy, to try and weave in, in some way—I think people are always, rightly, very careful not to have too many strings attached, to the point where people start to say, 'We're not going to come. It's easier to deal with another area. We're not going to do it, we'll do it in Canada, we'll do it in Estonia, we'll do it in Northern Ireland or Scotland.' So, it's important you get the balance right. I think that's always the fear. Possibly, it goes too far sometimes, the 'Let's not try and push that.' So, I think it would be good to try and, almost, in terms of the funding, attach some sort of points structure to the fact of are they really going to involve Welsh writers, are they really involving Welsh actors.
It is done, but I think it would be good to look at that and see whether that could be pushed a bit, and I'd really love to see some of these production companies in Wales woven in a bit more into the process and see whether they could become part of the production teams and build the credentials up that you need so that when another project comes together—. It's not that people in Wales don't know what they're doing; there are some fantastic operators in Wales. Euros Lyn—he's fantastic, in terms of Broadchurch and Kiri, he's a real operator; we backed him to make his first feature. People like that—backing them and helping them just build up a body of work that means that they're the people that become showrunners, and they're Welsh and they're Welsh rooted, would be fantastic. In Gareth Evans, you've got a world-acclaimed—he's now based here in Wales and doing stuff. There are some really, really good people. Michael Sheen coming back from LA—these sorts of names are people you can start to build around, and people take them seriously as centrepieces in big, high-end drama series or big films, and they're here in Wales. So, I think more could be done, definitely, and it'd be nice to see that—that there was some kind of joining up, without overdoing it and then scaring people away, I guess is the—.
Andrew, Pinewood sees this from an international perspective, really. You make films all over the world, so what's your view of this?
I think that it's right that if the Welsh Government is funding productions there have to be some conditions of spend in Wales. I think the one thing that we—when you look at it internationally, though, you have to also consider that there are other conditions on funding in the UK. So, the BFI now have, quite rightly, their new diversity standards, so you need to think of them as a funder—that you've got to comply now with those from 1 April, all those standards, to access the National Lottery fund. This afternoon, there's a meeting with the Labour frontbench Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport team about the thoughts that have been in the paper about adding on conditions to the film tax relief, animation tax relief, high-end, on diversity as well.
In order for a successful jurisdiction to attract inward investment films, you need to have a fairly light touch, because this is international, and you are competing with the likes of other EU member states, New Zealand, Atlanta, Georgia, and so on. So, yes, there should be conditions, but they need to be light touch, in my view.
Hitherto, the Welsh Government has taken a sectoral approach to funding projects in film and tv, and there's a creative industry sector panel that is chaired by Ron Jones of Tinopolis. That's all now under review, apparently. Ken Skates has announced that the sector panels are going to be replaced by what he describes as an overarching ministerial advisory board, which would be a tight, focused group of individuals providing strategic advice on economic development. I wonder if you can give me your view, from your experience of the current system, of how successful this sectoral approach has been in developing the film industry with creative industries, and given that the system is under review, whether it should be changed in any way. Can it be improved?
I think, if you look at it from a UK perspective, there is what's called the Creative Industries Council, which brings together all the disciplines, and it's chaired by two Secretaries of State. Under the creative industries sector deal there's going to be this new body, which is going to be launched in the summer, which is the local, regional and nations forum—so, this is going to comprise the nations, the combined authorities and the 37 English local enterprise partnerships. So, that's going to bring it all—. And that will be, again, on a creative industries basis.
In Wales, I think it is right to look at it in the whole rather than just looking at individual screen sectors. Certainly, with things such as television and film particularly, there is very little difference these days. To some extent, you can cross that over to animation and games. In terms of sound post-production, it's the same sound post-production teams at Pinewood that are delivering films, animation, video games and television, and in fact doing international re-versioning as well. That's the same discipline across that, so I think it's right to look at it across the board.
I think the sector's potentially even broader as well, to take it into short-form content and to take it into maybe non-drama as well. Because they're building up those bases in Wales, right across the whole broad sector, so that non-drama, not tv or film, and short-form content for the people making things like YouTube, and there's a huge amount of content, corporate—everything is told through the language of film and narrative now. People don't prepare websites and infographics; they're actually producing videos, and there's a gigantic volume of video and this type of content being prepared, and it's good for Wales to play a role in that. So, I think the sector in the broader sense is—
Sorry, Paul. I think, Neil, to pick up another point you made about culture, of course there's the children's programming tax relief as well now, so again, if you're bringing through the next generation in terms of Welsh language, there is that opportunity as well to access those tax reliefs.
Can we just go back to something Suzy raised earlier on, the media investment panel and the support that that provides to the Welsh Government? I didn't get any real idea of how big this panel was and how it's constructed—who's on it, how diverse is it? Could you flesh that out a bit more for us?
Sure. I think it's all published on the record, who is on the panel. It's all out there. It's made up mainly of civil servants in the sector, and then it has the addition of Peter McInerney, who's Welsh and a leading media lawyer, who chairs it. There's Ron Jones, myself, John Giwa-Amu, a very successful Welsh film producer, and a range of individuals who are on the panel. It's all published on the website there; there's a list of who they are. The papers are put together, civil servants work on it, they will take advice from people in the industry, from sales companies, accountants and lawyers, and put together a package. So, the advisers like me would come in at quite a late stage, and as I say, this is something that we've done a lot of work on. 'We've negotiated, it feels like there's an opportunity for Wales; it's been screened, it's been triaged, and these are seen as something to go forward with. Here's why the recommendations are being made. Do you have any views on this? Is there anything you could add into it, anything that we should be careful about before we proceed?' So, this bunch of experts will then comment on that and say, 'If I were you, I'd check on that, and maybe ask for different terms on that, and maybe—'. So, we will add some thoughts into the process as it moves forward, so it's taken forward with the help of independent, unpaid experts from the industry who will try and help to steer it and shape it in a way that meets the objectives of the panel.
So in your view, evidently, the Welsh Government has access to an adequate amount of expertise in order to make good decisions.
Yes, I think there is a good base of expertise. I think if it were to carry on, I would add to it; it would be nice to broaden it. Not everyone wants to: 'I'm really, really busy trying to run my business and doing it, and it's very hard for me to take the time out reading papers, attending meetings and dealing with all sorts of stuff around the—'. It's an unpaid role. It's not easy to get people who are in the business, fully involved in the business, to take time out of what they're doing, but I think it's important that the panel is built up and broadened.
When you say 'broadened', do you mean just more people doing what you do now, or adding to—?
I think both. I think it would be good to have more subs on the bench. Sometimes it gets tight in terms of, people are off in LA making a film, they're off at a film festival, and trying to make sure that a relatively small number of experts, that enough are available to give a broad independent view. I think it would be nice to have more people, whatever the structure, and I think the structure will evolve and change. I have no doubt that Ken Skates and the team will continue to look at better ways of doing this, and the findings of this committee, I'm sure, will help to reshape things. But, whatever happens, I think a broad base, so that there are plenty of people to input, even though you might only need a few at any one time, but also to make sure that all the bases are covered and that there is depth in terms of animation, Welsh language, diversity. There could be other people brought in there and it could be broadened, in my view. So, I think it would be nice to have more members or experts.
In particular, as you've just referred to the Welsh language and diversity, you think that those are areas that currently are deficient. I'm not using that as an opprobrious term, but—
No, I think every effort was made to try and cover that, and I think that we can all continue to make efforts in that area. So, it's not necessarily deficient, but I think it's an area that everyone should always try and improve and take further. But I think broadening in terms of other sector expertise would be good as well, but it's a good team. They cover things well, and I think having more to help would be great. It's good to feel like you're doing something good for the Welsh economy, but it would be nice to know there were more people willing to get involved as well.
Just very briefly on this, during your period on the panel, Pinewood has obviously stepped away. Have you noticed any really major difference in the capacity of those who were left behind, if you like, to deal with this level of work? Are there enough civil servants working on this now?
There's a period of adjustment, I think. It's an important area. I think Pinewood were preparing a lot of the work in terms of it, and now you'd imagine there's a vacuum after. I think what there is is now a period of reshaping where the expertise needs to be sought, and linking up to other people who can do the role that Pinewood are doing. So, there is a transitional period, and I think there's a lot of work being done and some smart recommendations coming together, which I think will form the basis of whatever new configuration takes place. So, yes, I think that there's a change, and I think it will be a big, not improvement, but a kind of a reshaping of that to deal with the post-Pinewood period.
Is it actually open at the moment? I've heard that people can't apply. Do you know—
There's only a certain amount—. I'm not an expert; I'm not employed by it, but there's only a certain amount of funds, I believe, in any one period. There's been a very active selling of the panel. I think some frustration could have built up, because there's a lot of people applying and a lot of people have got into the position of applying to the panel—
Not to the panel—to the media investment budget. Is that open at the moment?
As far as I'm aware, there are still things being considered and still things being looked at, but there is only a certain amount of funds that can be applied in any one period, and a lot of people will then have to be told, 'I'm sorry, it doesn't fit, we're not able to fund it.' I know that things are under review, so I think there's potentially a hiatus coming up, but I'm not sure of the exact details of that. But we're having meetings every month and considering prospects.
Just to go back to one point that Neil made, and I think I made it when you came to the studio, if you are looking at funding in the future, it is very important that when productions receive money that they take on local trainees. The trainee finder scheme, that is important, and I would make that a condition. I think that there were lots of efforts to try to do it, and sometimes it's not always possible, but much more emphasis on that.
The other point, which I think I made last time to the committee, when you were down, was I do think that Creative Skillset closing their branch was a very bad step, and skills have suffered as a result of that. And now we've got this 10,000 shortage of new entrants, now is the time to really look at that, and look at it very quickly, quite frankly, because Creative Skillset have got the money to deliver those 10,000 new entrants and, again, going back to Mick's point, it's important that Wales has that share of new entrants.
I think I'd 100 per cent endorse that, because I think the training and the discussions earlier about 'Why can't we move faster, why can't we do more and take a bigger share of it?', we can put in as many buildings as you want, and you could put in as much funding as you want, but it needs to be addressed into that area of making sure that—
—it really is coming forward fast and in a joined-up way.
Yes, if it's okay, because we are tight on time. Siân Gwenllian. Thanks, Neil.
Rydym ni wedi cyffwrdd â pheth o hyn yn barod, ond symud i ffwrdd rŵan o'r gefnogaeth sy'n dod gan Lywodraeth Cymru at y cyllid a'r cyngor sydd ar gael yn gyffredinol i'r sector yng Nghymru. O gymharu efo gweddill y Deyrnas Unedig, ac o gymharu yn rhyngwladol hefyd, a oes yna fodelau y gallwn ni fod yn dysgu ohonyn nhw mewn gwledydd eraill yn y Deyrnas Unedig neu ar draws y byd?
Well, we've touched on some of this already, but I want to move away now from support provided by the Welsh Government to the more general support and funding available to the sector in Wales, the non-Welsh Government support. As compared to the rest of the UK, and internationally, are there models that we could learn from in other nations within the UK or internationally?
I feel that it's nascent, or it's a new sector, and I think you'd need to have some heavyweight production businesses here and it's beginning to happen, that they will then draw in private investment alongside any support from the Government. There probably has been a tradition of, 'If we're going to get something made, and we're a local company, we need to get our hand out and try and get some support to help get it done.' It will be nice to see, and it is beginning to happen, that these producers are stepping up and are able to put things together. There's a lot of films getting made that don't come anywhere near the Government. I've been involved in films and I've not come to the Government and asked for any support. I'm making films in Wales—
They're purely independently financed, and they're financed with sales input and with other production funding. They're smaller films, but they're ones that are commercial enterprises and they're then sold into the market. It is beginning to happen, and I would love to see those kinds of people that are doing that—companies like Great Point who made four films in Wales, to my knowledge, without any kind of Government support. I think that it would be good to see that they were encouraged, that there was a way to encourage them to do all of their stuff here, to root themselves here and to try and build up. As I said, Bad Wolf was a very good idea and was something that was encouraging major production to be rooted here and supported here. And I think trying to draw other people in to be based here, so that they will privately invest alongside Government, would be a very good thing to do. I'd love to see that, more encouragement for those people who have already got a view that Wales is a good place to make things, to come here more, invest a bit more, and we are trying to do that at the moment. We are trying to draw more private investment into Wales.
I think one of the—. Again, perhaps it's a question for the BFI, but they do have the National Lottery fund, they have a development funding pot. I don't know how widely that is known in Wales, again, or whether it's even actually in the Welsh language, for example, but I think that's something that should be exploited more. There is money there. They do manage the National Lottery fund, and development funding is obviously a really good way to start off. Content producers in Wales should be aware of that.
Beth ydy'r berthynas felly rhwng yr arian yna sydd gan y BFI a Ffilm Cymru?
What's the relationship between that funding provided through the BFI and Ffilm Cymru then?
It's very similar. My understanding is, and I'm not on the board of either, that it is lottery funding. So, the BFI, and if you look at the guidelines of the BFI, they're very, very similar to the lottery-funded guidelines from Ffilm Cymru, and I think they might even allocate some of the funding from BFI to Ffilm Cymru. So, it will be the same criteria. It will be culturally relevant. It's not a subset of the BFI, but it's very closely linked, and I think the funding comes from the same source. So, they do really good work, I think, and they have a relatively small budget to try and make that happen in Wales.
But I think that having all the slices of the funding requirement into film—there's the tax credit in the UK, which has been very successful for film and tv—most filmmakers and tv companies will look for some support, I think. Whether you go to west Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, people are normally saying, 'I'd like to try and find some way of bringing in another near 10 per cent of the budget, as long as I'm investing eight, nine, 10 or 12 times as much myself.' And then they will put together a package of equity, mezzanine, gap, senior debt, deferrals and everything else. And, so, most of the productions that are made in Wales are already bringing in an awful lot of other independent finance, equity finance and funding from all over. So, it is already happening. There are already those kinds of other funding sources coming in here. Because if grant is allocated, it won't be allocated unless there is a commitment to people putting in 10 times as much from other sources.
I think also, the British Film Commission, which a representative of the Welsh Government sits on—again there was a major inward investment delegation in the last few weeks, from the US, of the big heads of production, physical production, from the high-end television studios in the US, and they certainly came to Wales to have a look at the facilities and the skill base here. And I believe that was quite—very successful. And that was funded by the British Film Commission.
Are there any lessons to be learned from other countries, internationally?
Very much so, and I think the first lessons were looking very much at Northern Ireland, where you had Game of Thrones. A lot of regions look slightly jealously at what's happened there, how has that worked. So, it seems that, when you have something that is a renewable, heavyweight production, such as that, it's a great example then, you can build up a whole sector around it, and a real cluster around that, where you can build—. And Northern Ireland have done that very effectively, and they've learned a lot, they've really scaled up, they're operating on an international dimension. So, people are looking at that as a good model, which I think is what Wales has tried to emulate, to an extent, with what's happening with Bad Wolf.
And it's the same thing—not so much in tv—in New Zealand, where you have a big successful production like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and you can build a whole sector around it—studio space, expertise, credibility. So, these things are what people are fighting for, I think, and that's what the team are trying to do, I think the Welsh Government are trying to do, to try and draw on these structures and learn these lessons from other places.
People are also offering flexible funding; places that Wales is competing with continually—Canada—they do offer—. You know, if someone's going to say, 'Should I shoot in Wales or shoot in Canada?', they will feel they're going to be getting 10 per cent at least from the Canadian Government, of their budget, to shoot there. And Wales has to be able to compete with that; it's almost a given that they will be looking for that. The rest of it is about proving that you've got the people and expertise to do it, and the way to do that is to have big productions like A Discovery of Witches and His Dark Materials and stuff as well, where you can say, 'Look, we can do it, we can do it well, so please come here with your production'.
Ocê. Rydym ni wedi rhedeg mas o amser—sori, Siân. Diolch am roi gwybodaeth i ni heddiw. Os oes unrhyw beth ychwanegol gyda chi i'w roi i ni, plis cysylltwch â ni, ac rwy'n siŵr y byddwch chi'n cymryd diddordeb yng ngweddill y gwaith rydym ni'n ei wneud fel pwyllgor ar hwn. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwy funud o seibiant.
Okay. We have run out of time, I'm afraid, Siân. Thank you for providing us with evidence this morning. If you have anything in addition that you would like to provide to us, then please get in touch, and I'm sure you will take an interest in the rest of our work as a committee in this area. Thank you very much. We'll take a two-minute break.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:37 a 10:43.
The meeting adjourned between 10:37 and 10:43.
Croeso i'r pwyllgor. Eitem 3 ar yr agenda yw cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru, sesiwn dystiolaeth 7. Croeso i'n tystion, sef Jane Tranter, sylfaenydd Bad Wolf, ac hefyd Natasha Hale, prif swyddog gweithredu Bad Wolf. Croeso i'r pwyllgor.
Rydym fel arfer yn gofyn cwestiynau ar sail themâu gwahanol, felly os yw'n iawn, fe awn ni'n syth i mewn i gwestiynau gan Aelodau'r Cynulliad. Jest yn fras, cwestiwn cychwynnol gen i: sut ydych chi'n credu y mae'r byd ffilm—y system ffilm—yn gweithio yng Nghymru o'i gymharu â gweddill y Deyrnas Unedig ac yn rhyngwladol? A ydych yn credu bod digon o stiwdios yma yng Nghymru neu a ydych yn meddwl bod yna le i ddatblygu hynny er mwyn tyfu'r sector yn hynny o beth?
Welcome to the committee. Item 3 on our agenda is film and major television productions in Wales, evidence session 7. Welcome to our witnesses, Jane Tranter, founder of Bad Wolf, and Natasha Hale, chief operating officer of Bad Wolf. Welcome to the committee.
We usually ask questions that are theme based, so, if it's okay with you, we will move immediately to questions from Members. Just a broad-ranging question from me first of all: how do you think that the film sector is working in Wales compared to the rest of the UK and internationally? Do you think that there is sufficient studio space here in Wales or do you think that there is room to develop that further in order to grow the sector?
Good morning and thank you for having us here. Since the introduction of the UK tax credit for high-end television, the film and tv sector across the UK has been really buoyant. It was quite transformative. As such, Wales has undeniably benefited from that overall transformation. Bad Wolf chose to set up its production company in Wales when my partner Julie Gardner and I were based in Los Angeles. This is anecdotal, but we could have gone anywhere in the world. We could have been funded by one of the Los Angeles-based studios. We could have gone to other places in the UK. We could have set up in Canada—anywhere. We chose to base Bad Wolf in Wales because we believed that there was almost a perfect storm of elements in Wales, which would be dynamic for the future growth of a production company that based itself 100 per cent of its time, 52 weeks a year, in Wales.
Really, that perfect storm was a combination of, at that time, under the strategy that Edwina Hart was operating, a very active commitment to the creative industries. Julie and I had experienced that through a relationship with the Welsh Government on Da Vinci's Demons, which was actually a high-end television piece of drama funded entirely from the US, before even the UK tax credit came in. So, we saw through that, first, what the Welsh Government could do if it was mindful of doing it, and secondly it gave Julie and I an ability to test what the crews and talent in Wales had to offer outside of the more local context of Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, which we had done through the BBC.
What we were doing there was making a piece in Da Vinci's Demons that had a budget of £3.5 million an episode, it was for a major US broadcaster, it was sold all around the world, and it had to hit the kind of standards that we commonly expect from Netflix, HBO, et cetera et cetera. We did that in Wales and we found it delivered to us, and then some and then some. So, we thought, okay, if we come to Wales, Wales will at the very least keep pace with what the rest of the UK's got to offer, and if we work things in the right way we think it could overtake it, which is the whole ambition and strategy of Bad Wolf. So, I would say that I think the film and television industry in the UK is a thriving industry for it, and I think that it has got the potential to be a good pacing industry for Wales.
No, I've got nothing to add.
Could you give us your view on how important film festivals are and how important it is for Welsh Government to support our indigenous film makers et cetera through film festivals?
Film festivals are—. I think film festivals have—. I'm not an expert on film festivals, Neil, I have to say. But I think, to my industry brain, they fulfil two functions. One is they're a great piece of branding. You don't talk about a French film festival, you talk about Cannes. There's a Berlin film festival, there's a Venice film festival, there's a London film festival, and they can be a fantastic piece of branding if used in the right way and they can set up an association and flavour for that particular place. So, that's one thing.
Then, as far as the industry is concerned, we as an industry love nothing more than to huddle together in a group and award each other prizes—and make speeches. For an industry that is an absolute meritocracy of talent, we love to get into competition somehow. I think it is encouraging. I do think that the more specific it can be, in my view, the more specific a film festival is, the more locally targeted it is, either to an area or a particular talent, the better it is, because then it becomes more about growth and less about competition. But, to be clear, it's really not my area of expertise.
I would just agree with exactly what Jane said and also say that a good example of that, I think, is the Iris film festival, in terms of being very focused on what it's about, organic growth, and also a Cardiff focus and a Chapter focus. I think the Iris festival is a good example of that targeting.
Because obviously these institutions can be great catalysts. A meeting place to start with can then generate new contacts, new ideas, et cetera.
Totally. It's a good huddle, for sure.
And an opportunity for actors to make political speeches, as they do sometimes. [Laughter.]
And why not?
We had evidence from academic Ruth McElroy that intellectual property is very important in this business. It's obviously important that that should be retained in Wales if that's possible. Have you got any reflections on intellectual property in this context?
Intellectual property is the heartbeat of an independent production company. If you have intellectual property, if you have the rights to A Discovery of Witches or His Dark Materials or I, Claudius or whatever it is, you have something that someone hasn't got. Or if you have an original idea to create a series, that's a piece of intellectual property that will then grow into development, which will in turn grow into production, which will in turn grow into jobs, and your company will go on to succeed and so will the businesses that are working with it.
Bad Wolf: being a Welsh-based, independent production company, all of Bad Wolf's intellectual property is here in Wales, and for us that works in two ways: (1) that's just the normal pattern of business; if a company is based in Wales, its intellectual property is based in Wales. But, secondly, for us, because of the particular nature of our relationship with the Welsh Government, Bad Wolf's intellectual property that is to be shot in the UK has to shoot all of its studio-based elements in Wales. So, its a kind of double-down of intellectual property: (1) it's based in Wales in terms of the basic IP, and (2) the tangible execution of that intellectual property also, when it comes to interiors, has to be based in Wales.
These are not related questions that I'm asking you now, if it sounds a bit bitty, but, nevertheless, they're all important issues that we're looking at. In March, the UK Government published its creative industries sector deal. As far as we're aware, the Welsh Government's not yet responded to this, but the deal recognises the devolution settlements, because many of the policy issues that surround the sector deal are themselves devolved issues, and so the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland potentially have quite an important part to play in the roll-out of this. Can you give us any idea of how you think that the Welsh Government should respond to this opportunity? There's a reasonably large sum of money in issue here that we could access.
I'm going to pass that to you.
Okay. I think that the main way in which Welsh Government need to be harnessing all the opportunities right now is to be focused on a strategy that's about training and growth. I think we've had large growth in creative industries in Wales in the last five or six years. We've done very well. The problem is, if we keep growing too much without developing our talent and our skills, we will stop being able to deliver for the industry. So, I think we need to focus our strategy on developing the skills and the training of young people and all people, all across and right across Wales. I think if we don't do that we will lose momentum in terms of our ability to create jobs in the future.
Are you referring to jobs in the creative industry or the production side, or what?
I think the thing with the creative industries, certainly in high-end drama, which is what I've been focused on, is that the jobs are right across the board. They're everything from the right carpenters, the right electricians, the scaffolding companies. It's an industry that covers many, many, many different jobs and many different roles, right from the person who's writing the script to the person who's building the set to the person who's doing the post-production on the computers. So, it's right across the board, and I think we need to be really focused on developing very specialist skills, whether it's a carpenter to build a set, or whether it's the way in which you build a piece of scaffolding, or the way in which you write a script. Unless we get down into the deep detail of exactly the types of skills and talent we need, we could lose an opportunity going forward.
It's the single most important thing for our production company that there is a virtuous circle, if you like, of relationship between Bad Wolf and the local creative and production community, and the local creative and production community and Bad Wolf, because we will build our industries on each other's shoulders, if you see what I mean. There comes a point when Bad Wolf—. If it fulfils our ambitions at the rate that we are currently going, we will get to a point that, if we don't train and encourage and educate fast enough, Bad Wolf will not have, from the local production and creative community, the bodies to do the work. And so, if we want to grow we need to grow the surrounding community. I think that when you ask the question about Wales and how that compares with the rest of the UK—which Bethan asked right at the start—I would say that in the rest of the UK there is a longer history of growth in those areas. In Wales, we've got to start that.
One of the things I quite often talk about when asked why we based Bad Wolf in Wales is I talk about the experience that I had when filming a piece for HBO that I produced called The Night Of. That was a very, very large-scale eight-part drama set in contemporary New York. It was a long piece of filming for a variety of reasons—which I could go into on another day, quite fun—but I was in New York for a very long period of time. During that time—and I worked on another series in New York as well, and during that time I met a lot of the crews, a lot of the drivers, a lot of the teamsters, a lot of the standby props, everybody. And as I talked to them and as I worked from studio to studio in New York, I got a sense of that community, and it was a community not only in the size and scale of those people, but it was a community, often, in the sense that their fathers were teamsters or standby props, and their fathers before them. My ambition is to make it their mothers and their mothers before them, but we're working on that very hard as well. But that's the way it is at the moment in New York, and I felt, if New York has that, why can't Wales have that? Why can't Wales have a tradition of this breadth as well as depth of job? Our industry isn't all about performance and hair and make-up. As Natasha says, it is the widest variety of jobs, with a very, very inclusive set of skills demanded. If we do this right and if we dig deep and if we look for people like Bad Wolf, and not just us but others as well, to commit 52 weeks a year to making a production here—not going in and out, helicoptering in and out for one production—why can't we create that kind of sector?
I was very, very moved, as well as very impressed, as well as extremely fortunate, to get that feeling of that New York filming community. That's come about through decade after decade of input from the New York film commission: the grants, the tax credits, those sorts of things that you get there. It's one of the best places in the world to film, but I have to say my experiences in Wales better those of New York. It's just it's not so well known about and there's not such a wide investment in the training and the talent as there is in New York.
So, what do we need to do that we're not currently doing, do you think, in order to realise this ambition?
You need a strategic investment in training, and that's training—. Often, when we talk about training, everyone sets up a writers' group or whatever it might be. It is the writers, for sure it is, it is the directors, but it's not just that. It's about ensuring that there is training. And I think this is something that Paul Higgins was talking about just now, actually. Every production who comes into Wales, I think, needs to have an obligation to train, and not just in a minor way. So, for example, across A Discovery of Witches and His Dark Materials, at the moment, we're currently standing at a dozen proper trainees. These aren't like little bits of work experience—we've had masses of those—these are proper actual jobs. I think that we could do more and everyone could do more, but production companies need to have their feet held to the fire to do this. We need to have whatever form of strategic training there can be for each of the different areas of specialism, but I think it's also about more than that.
One of the things that I feel very strongly about—. I think those of you who've been to the studio will have seen our classroom, which for me is almost like—you know, there are a succession of gateways. There's a gateway, I think, of education, through to the gateway of training, through to the gateway of full-time employment within our industry. I think it's about us letting people know at the earliest age, which in the case of Bad Wolf studios is nine, that there is an industry on the doorstep of Wales. If we tell those children in early education that there are these jobs and there are these possibilities, then they will have a choice.
Our industry can seem very distant to people, and I think that, sometimes, the industry works very hard to put up those smokes and mirrors and make itself feel distant to people—you know, some of those film festivals and things that you referenced. But, actually, it's not a distant industry. It's a heavily industrialised industry. A lot of the jobs that it does are jobs that can be represented in other industries, but why not work in the creative industry? And we just want to find a way of getting into the hearts and minds and consciousness of those schoolchildren, so, when it comes to them making a decision about jobs, they know that there is some hope and good employment in our industry. I always say that if I could end up doing what I am doing now, having come from a background that could not be more contrary to the place in which I currently work, then anyone can do it. And the classroom that we've opened in our studio to get those students, from the age of nine onwards, in to have a look at what we're doing, I think, is fundamental, and the more help that we can have with extending that, the better. And the more other productions can be encouraged to do that, the better, so that the word gets out that there are jobs in our industry.
Can I just add one thing to that? I don't know what areas are being spent on from the Welsh Government on skills and training, but the training that has been done on A Discovery of Witches and His Dark Materials—these are widely advertised, proper, paid, trained positions. Of the people that went on to A Discovery of Witches for training—six were on the training—five of those have now been given proper jobs on His Dark Materials. Of all of those trained, they were all paid 100 per cent by Bad Wolf and the production. If Welsh Government were to match the funding, there would be double. It's as simple as that. So, there is no support, at the moment, for that. But if you want to talk strategically about how you begin to support those traineeships, it's like, 'Let's share the load with Bad Wolf and the productions and get more people into the training.'
That's very interesting. Have I got time for another question? I'd like to ask you also—. One of the areas where there's huge potential for economic spin-offs is in tourism, and film tourism in particular, which has now become a major industry in its own right, as I understand it. Do you think that we do enough in Wales to benefit fully from the opportunities that some of the more well-known productions that have been made here can offer?
I think if—. That's a hard question to answer because, I think, in fairness to Wales, it hasn't had the production as yet to do it. That film tourism comes from a particular type of production. So, Downton Abbey is probably the best most recent example, and I think the task for us is to find that piece that will encourage that tourism. In the event that we get that piece that finds that tourism, I don't doubt, actually, that the Welsh Government would pull together to do that.
It's no secret that Bad Wolf worked with HBO to make a bid for The Lord of the Rings, to bring that to Wales. That, ultimately, went to Jeff Bezos and Amazon because they—again, it's no secret—paid $250 million for the rights to make it, and we couldn't even vaguely compete with that. But part of our bid was actually the opening up of Wales for The Lord of the Rings, and it was my ambition that Wales would become Middle-earth in the same way that New Zealand did. Now, I have to tell you, with my producing hat on, I am actually secretly quite glad, as much as I totally adore those novels, not to have to cope with the elves, the orcs and the dwarfs and the hobbits. I'm very, very glad, thank you, to be dealing with my witches, demons and vampires in A Discovery of Witches, and my children and my demons and my parallel worlds and dust in His Dark Materials. And that is more than enough to be getting on with.
But has Wales got the capacity to support one of those types of productions in tourism in that way? Absolutely. And I do think that one of the great pulls of Wales for film makers is the fact it has got such a broad range of locations, either representing Wales directly, or that we can use in other ways. I do think that moment will come, and it's the right thing to ask, because that absolutely is a great spin-off benefit.
Well, we've got great castles and mountains and landscapes and so on—we just need the creative idea to capitalise upon those.
Well, we're making full use of them, but I think the point you're making is a good one—that, actually, it's about world building within a studio and it's about world building outside of a studio. You should know that on His Dark Materials—I don't know how many of you are familiar with that, but it's set in part in our world. In the first season, an adaptation of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, it's set in something called Lyra's world, which is like ours and not. That journey starts in Oxford, and it ends in the most arctic of arctic wastelands, before Lyra walks over a bridge into another world, which resembles some kind of Mediterranean city. We are building every single solitary location in Wales, because the locations, as you say, somewhere or another, are here.
Yn ogystal â defnyddio lleoliadau Cymru—yr amrywiaeth sydd ar gael—pryd ydych chi'n rhagweld y bydd y symudiad yma yn digwydd tuag at ddweud ychydig o stori Cymru a hanes Cymru a diwylliant Cymru hefyd o fewn y cynyrchiadau mawr? Achos gallaf i weld pam nad yw'n digwydd rŵan, ond pryd ydym ni'n mynd i gyrraedd at y pwynt yna?
As well as using locations in Wales—the variety that's available—when do you foresee that this shift will happen towards telling some of Wales's story and the history of Wales and the culture of Wales also within these major productions? Because I can see why it's not happening at present, but when are we going to reach that point?
I would normally say that—. I have this theory that most—. For what it's worth, I have a personal theory that most really, really strong pieces of strategy have an eight-year cycle. I think you normally have the first three years to test out what you're doing, and by the end of the first three years you should know what you're doing. By the end of year five, the world should know what you're doing, and by the end of year eight you've actually enjoyed what you're doing. So, I could give you a kind of flip example, which is that, actually, I think it's going to be eight years as far as Bad Wolf is concerned, and we are beginning—we will be three years in in August.
Having said that, I think that one of the peculiarities with our drama development business is you never really quite know on the timescale. Bad Wolf had a business plan that didn't actually see us going into production until between years three to five, which is the way most independent production companies work. You actually have a scary big burn of money in the first three years while you are developing that intellectual property. It's a scary time, unless you're in the business and you know that, and then you go into production in years four and five, and then you actually start seeing real proper rewards for your endeavours in years six to eight.
But Bad Wolf is approaching year three and we've already filmed one thing, and we start filming His Dark Materials on 11 June, so we're way ahead of target. So, I would say to you, in eight years' time, Wales will be singing its own stories as well as those representing other places, but it could be earlier. It's dependent on a number of different things. But do I think that Wales is going to get its moment to tell its own story? I absolutely do. When that happens, in Bad Wolf's hands, I want to make sure that that happens and is broadcast to the world. I want Wales to be in a position to tell its story to the world, not just to ourselves, which is the thing that I think has been missing.
Often, we peer down—I know this from my previous time doing my job at the BBC. It was very important to me, when I was at the BBC, that I put Doctor Who into Wales, so that the Welsh talent, including writing talent, both in front and behind the camera, and the crews, could be broadcast to the world, rather than us continuing to make stories that, perhaps, brilliant as some of those pieces were, peered down the microscope a bit. I don't think they're mutually exclusive, but I think that the particular skills, experience and strategic ambition of Bad Wolf is about making in Wales for the world. So, when we have a story that is about Wales to tell, I want to do that in the same way and treat it no differently than any of the other stories we're doing. So, it will come, and we are ambitious for it.
So, that's part of your vision, obviously. Does it depend a lot on the skills aspect? Because unless you get the local, indigenous producers—
It's about the writer. It really is all about the writer's vision, because, as you can tell, as a producer you can—. I'm not from New York; I was able to do The Night Of. I'm not from Wales, although Wales is now—it's my spiritual home. It's my home and where Bad Wolf is; I think I could do honour to that in the same way that I could do honour to the New Yorkers in The Night Of. So, it's not about—. It's about the writers.
So, is the focus enough on the writers, at this precise moment in time, to get to your eight-year kind of—?
I think that from a Bad Wolf point of view, absolutely; we are out there and talking and meeting. But it's a growth process. As far as everyone else is concerned, I think there are lots and lots of initiatives and support for new writers. Sometimes I think there could be a bit more support for middle and older writers, but—. Honestly, finding the right idea is often not—. In terms of the creative bit, I think that is slightly different, to be honest, than part of the crew and the production bit. You need to make sure that there are as many opportunities for writers' scripts to be read and for them to be supported in their early ambitions in writing. And then it's about having that fulcrum of the right idea, with the right producer, with the right director, with the right people cast, with the right broadcaster, at the right time. And there is a—. It's not a science.
I do think, as well—. I don't want it go missed, the huge importance within Bad Wolf that developing Welsh writers and Welsh ideas happens right across all of the staff in Bad Wolf. It's kind of a constant: where are the new writers? Where are the people? Where are the ideas? What are we doing? It's a constant theme running through Bad Wolf all the time.
We have development of directors and producers who are constantly across that—
Yes. Absolutely. Totally focused.
There is a very, very clear strategy, looking—
For Wales. Definitely. And the other thing I wanted to say is if you look at where those talented people have come from in the past in terms of the writers, the producers, the key talent, a lot of those organisations have been in Wales for a long, long time developing that—whether it's Theatr Clwyd, It's My Shout or West Glamorgan Youth Theatre. And, actually, there are people out there who have been developing this kind of talent for years and years and years, who do get very, very little support in doing that, and are working on the ground with young people. West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, It's My Shout, Theatr Clwyd are three of the really easy ones to pinpoint who are doing that, day in and day out.
And in the Welsh language sector as well that's been going on for a long time. There are some very talented Welsh language writers, who should be nurtured into telling the story.
Totally, totally, but I think that's the advantage for Bad Wolf of being based here: our development teams and producers can be out and about the whole time. It's not about helicoptering in and out; it's about being here.
Okay. Mick, I was wondering if you could address the skills questions as well as the ones you're asking now, if that's okay.
I was going to ask—. Yes, I'll ask them; I'll try and summarise very quickly. Firstly, in terms of Welsh Government support and the media investment budget and so on, I'll summarise it, really in just two ways. With your experience of it, and, with the way the panel works, what is good about it? What is working about it? And what is not working about it and what should change in it?
And, perhaps, just following on from that, then, just to add it all into one global question, you mentioned very much the issue of skills and so on. The media investment budget doesn't seem to me to be anything to do with, or very much to do with, the skills development side. What do you think should happen on the actual skills side? What would be the best way of actually inventing? Is it in terms of the educational institutions? Is it in terms of on-the-job training? Is it a combination of those? Is it the absence of a strategy on skills or—? So, really, three parts there, I suppose.
That last part is the easy one, really. It is a combination of all of the above. It is absolutely about education, I think, and getting into those classrooms and letting people know that this is an industry that is accessible, and here are the jobs. I mean, there's nothing better than knowing what the jobs are, than actually leading a child on a path of hope that there is going to be employment there, and how they work their own educational choices, therefore, to give themselves the best chance to do that. And you can't start that—. In this day and age, you cannot start that at an earlier time, I think. It is absolutely about training, as Natasha said. If we had double the—. I mean, Bad Wolf is investing money into full-time trainee positions. If that was matched by Welsh Government, we would do twice as many. Or, frankly, we could do three or four times as many.
Through Screen Alliance Wales.
Okay. Can you just tell us a bit more about that? That would be useful.
Yes. So, basically, Bad Wolf's board of directors have made a commitment to training in Wales, but that isn't directly through Bad Wolf because Bad Wolf's job is to make tv shows. So, they have made a commitment to invest a certain amount of money every year into Screen Alliance Wales with which Screen Alliance Wales will then employ people to go and work in those training positions, and they do it through (1) some core money from Bad Wolf every year that goes to Screen Alliance Wales, and (2), each production that comes in, a percentage of the budget will go towards training. And that is all of it: the money that comes from the production is 100 per cent then spent on the trainees. And the reason that Bad Wolf does it through Screen Alliance Wales rather than themselves is because they want to have a very open, inclusive and transparent employment process, because what can often happen is, you know, 'My neighbour's niece needs a job, can you sort it out please?' and she's the one who gets the training, and, actually, it's very important that Screen Alliance Wales takes the time to advertise the post, equal opportunities for that post, and make it as wide as possible. So, that's why Screen Alliance Wales does it.
Can I just ask on that? With the educational institutions we've got, there's media studies and film studies and all those sorts of things. How effective are they within Wales? To what extent are they integrated within the development of it? Are they a key part of it? Are they—?
The person whose senior art director on His Dark Materials came out of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I think lots of the people employed on his His Dark Materials have come out of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. We have a very strong art department because of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and they are creating people who are ready for jobs, definitely. And then, again, the University of South Wales—for His Dark Materials there is a huge special effects department and post-production department and Screen Alliance Wales—. We were asked by the art director to bring in some local students. We brought in 15 students from the University of South Wales and more than 10—I think it was 11—of those were taken on to work on His Dark Materials. So, they're certainly coming out with the skills. I think, sometimes, we—. It's all about the deep focus. So, it's about is it just media studies, or is it about special effects in this very key area that the industry needs right now? And that's why any education and training strategy needs to have real focus and specialist input, because I don't think we would all think, 'Oh, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama is amazing at creating set designers and set builders', we probably wouldn't, but, actually, they really are, and it's the same with the University of South Wales. It's 'creative industries'—well, actually, the area of special effects that it's working on is absolutely tremendous, and it's about knowing where they are and focus.
Just very briefly, and I apologise if you've covered this earlier, but Screen Alliance Wales—obviously I understand what you said about the core funding—how holistic is it? And in terms of how well-known it is, could you give me a little bit more meat on the bones, because, earlier, witnesses were a bit in the dark about it?
I don't think Screen Alliance Wales has even launched—
No, it hasn't.
And that's a bit of a problem, but the reason it hasn't done that is because the productions came so fast and hit so fast that the main point of Screen Alliance Wales has been to do really boring things like get policies in place, like get contracts in place. So, we've been so getting the trainees in—. People are always like, 'You've got to launch, you've got to launch' and Screen Alliance Wales absolutely does have to launch, but we can't launch until we've got all our ducks lined up in terms of what's our offer, how are we offering it, what are our policies, what are our contracts—
Okay, and in regard to the importance of such an organisation—and we were talking about something of this ilk earlier in this inquiry—has there been any Welsh Government interest, awareness or input within it?
So, Welsh Government originally offered £80,000 in grant for Screen Alliance Wales, which was very, very specifically not for trainees; it was to employ a teacher to run the classroom. Screen Alliance Wales, because we've been getting all of this—it hasn't actually had any of that money yet. We borrowed, very kindly, from Trinity Saint David. They lent us one of their lecturers to be our teacher, who has been tremendous—Amanda—but she has now left, and we will need to recruit a teacher, and there isn’t money for that apart from this £80,000 from the Welsh Government, which we haven’t had.
You do make a very good point, I have to say, just on the comms. I understand that Bad Wolf's existence probably seems like we're a really, really slow kind of waddly old thing, as we kind of creep towards various productions. In terms of our industry we have moved uncharacteristically fast—faster in many ways than I would have liked. There are a lot of things we have not communicated about, both in terms of Screen Alliance Wales and Bad Wolf, because we’ve just been getting on and doing it. So, we have been behind the curve on that one.
If I can just pursue, then, the first two parts, which is really to get your, I suppose, expert understanding of the way the Welsh Government investment is actually working, and what’s good about it and what's not good about it. What can we do in terms of influencing policy? What would you say to us on those two areas?
Well, I can only really talk about the Welsh Government’s media panel investment into Bad Wolf. I think that was quite clever. I’m not certain I would have said that during the two years of due diligence that it took to get us to that point, but the only thing I would say is that it was like having the most thorough workout of all workouts. Like a medical health check or something, by the time you got to the end of it, you thought, 'Okay, we're clean and tidy here'. I think what they did was clever all round. So, essentially, what the Welsh Government did was, in giving Bad Wolf a £4 million loan—in terms of its actual finances, that loan really was an advancement on production grants. So, Bad Wolf has to hit a certain level of spend in Wales, which is on a 12:1 ratio, as compared to a 4:1 or 6:1 in Northern Ireland or Scotland. So, it's a very high kind of ratio. We have to hit that in order to release—
Sorry, for clarification, when you say—. In what respect, when you say 4:1 or 12:1—?
Spend. Welsh spend.
Yes, so is that—? I'm sorry to be a bit dull on this. Are you talking in terms of it's a higher ratio in terms of that you have to make more?
It’s very, very challenging for—
Oh, sorry. Yes.
So, if a production goes into Northern Ireland, they need to spend 4:1 in order to get their grant. Bad Wolf have to spend 12:1 in order to fulfil their grant. It's much much higher what Bad Wolf have to do than if they were in—.
So, it's quite stringent. In the event that Bad Wolf don’t meet that, then Bad Wolf pay it back, because it wasn’t a production grant, it was a loan. It was an advance on the production grant, if you see what I mean. So, it’s very de-risked, as far as the Welsh Government's concerned. As far as Bad Wolf's concerned, essentially, what that money did was hold the feet of myself and co-founder Julie Gardner—held our feet to the fire in that, in exchange for that loan, I basically can’t work—and not 'I can't really work' but 'I can't work'—anywhere else while that loan is in place. It’s been very good for us because it meant that, because we took the money in that way, it gave Julie and I the freedom to set Bad Wolf up, in Wales, as we wanted to, and it meant that, when we turned around and were looking at, 'Okay, so we're going to do this with HBO, we're going to do this with Sky or whatever it is', along with that came, 'And by the way, we have to film it here. We can’t go to Leavesden, we can't go to Elstree, we can’t go to the Paint Hall, we have to do it in Wales.' So, it meant that it was like a massive magnet to pull those broadcasters: 'If you want to work with Bad Wolf, then you have to come here to do it', and it gave us the freedom to do that.
So, I thought it was quite ingenious, in a way. It sounds obvious, when you say it out loud. It often lost its obviousness during the 24 months it took to negotiate, but I think it was very good, and I think it's been very good for Bad Wolf because it means that we have inhabited the kind of Welshness of our base as part of our core DNA. And it gave us a chance, really, to fulfil what our key passions were, which is a key passion for high-end drama, a key passion for creating a work environment for people that has got the kind of ethos and stability and moral centre that we want a work environment to have, a key passion for looking to create a company on the shoulders of a local community, and for that local community to create itself on the shoulders of Bad Wolf, and, in my case, a key passion for that sense of education. It was a wonderful fulcrum to be able to do all of those things and then leave us free to be able to go out and bring in the investment that we have.
So, on the basis of a £4 million loan in the way the I've just described, Bad Wolf was then able to go off and raise £13 million investment into Wales, of which £3.9 million was spent on Wolf Studios. We bring in £134 million of production through Bad Wolf into Wales. We have created 245 jobs, we contracted 193 local businesses, we've had the 12 full-time trainee positions that we've talked about, we've had 160 schoolchildren through our studio, and 97 per cent of money on that studio was spent in Wales. So, I think, in exchange for that £4 million, which is a loan until the conditions of the production grant are achieved, I think that was quite a nifty piece of business by the Welsh Government. As I said, it didn't feel remotely nifty at the time, but now, I would say that it's beginning to—. You'll be judge of whether or not you think that's a good thing, but I think, for us, it's been mutually beneficial.
In terms of the fund itself, it sounds like the key is that it was bespoke for you, so it was the interaction and the actual construction of it that was key. And I suppose the one-size-fits-all approach really doesn't work. In terms of how the situation might have been improved, or what you think might have been done better, what would you say were the downsides to it, or the things that, on reflection now, if it had been done, would've made it easier, or would've worked better, for the industry generally?
Do you want to answer that one?
We heard from Pinewood—and I don't know if it's correct, but I think I'd like to have it on the record—. They actually said, Natasha, that you set it up, the media investment budget, within Welsh Government at the time. So, perhaps you'd want to clarify your involvement just so that we understand, for the record, otherwise, their words will be—.
I'm not sure. I mean, I would have to look back into that. I definitely brought Pinewood to Wales, the first time they ever came here, and I definitely worked on the studio. The media investment budget, I wouldn't say that I did lead on that, but I'm quite happy to say, 'I might be wrong, I'll go back and look at it'. But for me, I mean, I was there, I was deputy director of sectors and business, certainly. So, I don't know, but what I would say is that the Bad Wolf deal specifically was not part of the media investment budget; it was very bespoke and done outside of the media investment budget.
The key is, then, that you're not really in a position to tell us much about how the fund is working now and in terms of lessons that we can learn about that.
I think the only thing I can do is give a global view, for what it's worth, because that's all I can, which is that I think that where the investment in Bad Wolf has been of benefit to Wales is the fact that it's not a production helicoptering in and helicoptering out again.
One of the reasons that Julie and I wanted to do what we have done is because we spent eight years in Los Angeles, and the kind of modus operandi of how you film there is the same as the modus operandi of most producers across the UK, which is that, essentially, you put your production budget together, you decide where's most suitable to film, you look at, then, where can you get the most money and put that into the production. And the whole circus flies into town, and when it flies into town—and I often speak about this, but this is exactly what it's like—when it flies into town, suddenly every hotel, every pub, every bed and breakfast, every restaurant, every newsagent, every dry cleaner, every taxi, minicab firm, whatever it is, is bursting at the seams and there's boom. And then everybody leaves and there is a piece of tumbleweed and an empty crisp packet blowing across the road and the remnants of what once was, and pictures of the film unit up somewhere. It's its own form of colonisation, really, and I'm not certain that that is the best—. That is not the way I want to work. I think that it is better for everybody if you have some degree of stability and continuity so that you can build that community around you, so you're not going in, taking all the best and then leaving and then 'What happens next?'
The way that Bad Wolf has structured itself is that it has leant its development towards filming things that can be filmed inside a studio or can make use of the locations of Wales, so we have strategically, having made this decision to come here, editorially and creatively pushed our brains in a certain way to make it work. But I think that the building up of—. The best next step, really, would be, 'Okay, we've invested this £4 million into Bad Wolf, can we ensure that the community around it is going to keep pace with what it is doing in order to ensure that it doesn't have to ship people in across the borders?' Or, if it is shipping people in across the borders, how can we, then, ensure that they are going to stay—that there's another job and another job and somewhere—? But, how can we build this from the inside out, as opposed to, 'Let's just give them a bit of money, them a bit of money, them a bit of money, them a bit of money'. I think that was a good strategy in its time in terms of turning the spotlight of the world onto Wales and thinking, 'That's a great place to film'. I mean, it's no coincidence that, after Da Vinci's Demons, my friends in FX filmed The Bastard Executioner there and then TNT came in and did Will. Success breeds success, but that is not a strategy, that is tactics and that's not the same thing. Wales needs a strategy and if it wants a strategy to promote film and television, that strategy needs to be about training so that that crew, production and a creative base are there.
Can I just say one other thing on the funding?
I just wanted to say that whether it's the media investment panel or whether it's the Bad Wolf deal, whatever they are, the one thing that constantly stands in the way of supporting the creative industries in Wales is Welsh Government's inability to recognise that freelancers are proper jobs. They're constantly looking for a three-year permanent job when they're looking to fund things, and if you want to support creative industries, you have to recognise that freelancers are proper, real jobs. Sorry—that was all I wanted to say.
I think that was a very interesting point, because actually, continuing professional development for freelancers has come up as a question mark, and obviously, that's why we're so keen to hear about Screen Alliance Wales.
I do want to ask you a little bit more about the MIB, but can I ask you first of all about Screen Alliance Wales? I appreciate we are in the early stages yet, but does this forward look include an intention to include other studios as well?
Okay, that's great. I just wanted to confirm that.
I wonder if you can just help us out with the difference between the Wales screen fund, the media investment budget and, indeed, business finance schemes, because information we've had from Government in the past has alluded to all these, and I'm really struggling to find out what the difference between these things is. Are you able to help us out with this one?
I mean, moving your bespoke arrangement to one side—I'm not including that—can you help with this?
They all sound marvellous. That's what I can say—they sound great. [Laughter.] They just need to invest in training is what the recommendation there would be.
I think Wales screen funding—. Is that one of the ones you said?
Well, the Wales screen fund, because I want to ask you a question about that specifically.
The Wales screen fund is grant and the media investment fund is investment.
Right. It's as simple as that, is it? Are there different routes to get them?
Whether they're different pots of money or not, I couldn't answer that, sorry.
I'm not sure whether—. I think you may be asking the wrong people.
Oh, I see. Okay.
Ask me what the capital of Ukraine is. I'll find that one easier to—. [Laughter.]
Can I ask you, then—? Obviously, Bad Wolf Ltd has had access to the Wales screen fund end of things. You mentioned that you'd had £13 million of investment—
Yes—one three. I've got figures here that Bad Wolf Ltd—. For a slate of Bad Wolf productions, with no detail, I'm afraid—this is from Welsh Government—you had £9 million for that, of which £4.5 million has gone back. What was that for?
The £13 million?
Sorry, the £9 million—. Isn't the £13 million—? No, sorry, I'm lost.
Perhaps I could—. I just asked a question of Welsh Government through written Assembly questions—you know the WAQs: can you give us a list of production companies and productions that have had Wales screen fund support? Bad Wolf Ltd came up as one of them—'Slate of Bad Wolf Productions'—£9 million, but it is on a repayable basis, so that's not a grant.
And they haven't had £9 million.
Yes, that must be the loan.
It's the loan, plus, if they fulfil that loan, spend all their money and it becomes repayable, then they can, potentially, get another £4.5 million at the end of it.
If we do the same again.