Bristol's independent film and TV companies generated £140.3 million in 2016

Issue date: 13 March 2017

Dr Steve Presence and Professor Andrew Spicer

An in-depth analysis of the commercial film and television industry – 'Go West! Bristol's Film and Television Industries' reveals independent companies in the region employ around 3,700 people and generated £140.3 million in 2016.

The research was conducted by Professor Andrew Spicer and Dr Steve Presence at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and will be launched at the West of England Royal Television Society awards ceremony at the Bristol Old Vic on Sunday (19 March).

Research lead Professor Spicer said: “Bristol is the third largest film and television cluster in Britain and this report, the first analysis of its kind, shows that it consists of far more than the BBC and Aardman Animations, important though they are. We found that a further 131 film and television companies – mostly micro enterprises and small SMEs – exist in the region, and together comprise six core specialist sub-clusters: natural history, animation, post-production, factual, corporate and facilities.”

In addition to the £140.3 million generated by the independent sector, a further £17.7m of inward investment was generated by companies from outside the region that chose to use its locations or facilities at The Bottle Yard Studios.

The BBC does not provide figures for its spending so its contribution is unknown. The sector employs around 3,700 people; around 1,000 at BBC Bristol; 1,200 at independent companies and a further 1,500 freelancers.

Dr Presence said, “We describe the evolution of the film and television industries in Bristol, why they are located there and the various ways in which they compete but also cooperate in order to ensure that talent is attracted into the region rather than always gravitating to London. Natural history and animation remain Bristol's principal strengths in terms of turnover and jobs, though a significant proportion of revenue is now generated by companies producing factual programmes.”

The report also identified a number of challenges that Bristol will face if it is to continue as an important film and television centre. Because UK film and television industries remain centred in London and the South East it is difficult for Bristol-based firms, particularly smaller companies with fewer staff and resources, to develop relationships with programme commissioners who are located in the capital. There was also a need for greater diversity and to attract more drama productions to the region and grow regional drama companies.

Dr Presence said, “Although Bristol is an attractive city we found that there are problems created through the increasing cost of living – especially house prices and rents – transport and congestion, and with the digital infrastructure. There is increasing competition in some sectors and the need for a unifying voice to represent Bristol's film and television companies and freelancers.”

The report is part of a major strand of research within UWE Bristol's Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education. Professor Spicer and Dr Presence are developing a broader project to establish the bigger picture across other nations and regions in the UK as well as a number of more detailed studies of the film and television industries in the South West.

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