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Behind the screen: the UK’s growing film industry  holiday cottages

Behind the screen: the UK’s growing film industry

Cath 28 November 2023

The UK and Cornwall’s film industry is booming. Since the introduction of tax relief for high-end TV (HETV) production back in 2013, the spend on UK TV and film production has increased by 295%. 

Malcolm Bell, Chair of Visit Cornwall has previously stated “Film and TV is proven to have a significant influence on holiday decision-making” and with web hits to the Visit Cornwall website up 65% in the 12 hours following the first episode of Poldark, we’d agree! 

In this blog, we’ll be looking at how much more filming is now taking place throughout the UK, and with big blockbusters such as House of the Dragon, Fisherman’s Friends 2 and Beyond Paradise all being filmed in Cornwall over the last couple years, we wanted to look ‘behind the screen’ at all the locations throughout the county which you can visit for yourself. 


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Spending on HETV and film production in the UK

Bar chart showing HETV and film production in the UK

Last year, film and high-end TV production spend in the UK reached a record-breaking £6.27 billion. Film production in the UK accounted for £1.97 billion, up 27% on the previous year (2021), with high-end TV production topping over £4.29 billion – more than £2 billion ahead of pre-pandemic 2019 levels. 

With huge amounts of money being spent on expanding existing studios and building vast new complexes, it’s likely that this enormous growth will continue for a long time to come. Ben Roberts, British Film Institute Chief Executive recently said: “Our world-class talent, craft and production services, and vital film and TV tax reliefs, have enabled the UK to be a major player in a highly competitive global industry. Further investment in expanding studio space UK-wide to meet production demand will continue to build on this economic success and create further jobs.”


The UK already has some of the biggest studios in the world

Map of production studios across the UK

The UK boasts a network of studio space, including purpose-built and converted sound stages, which together with temporary build space, are capable of accommodating feature film and television productions of any scale and genre.

The UK has some of the biggest studios in the world such as Pinewood and Leavesden where The Little Mermaid (Disney), Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Warner Bros), The Batman (Warner Bros), Mission: Impossible 7 (Paramount), Jurassic World: Dominion (Universal) have all recently been produced. 

The UK already has 44 studios with over 5 million sq. ft. of stage space which allows a number of blockbuster productions to be made simultaneously, however the growth in production in the UK requires an expansion of studio space and thus there is further studio development underway.


A total of 290 films went into production in the UK in 2022

Graphic listing productions made across the UK

The total number of films going into production in the UK in 2022 was 290, with a total spend on film production being £1.64 billion, up from £1.55 billion in 2021. Productions made across the UK last year (also counting TV shows) included The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, The Crown, Beyond Paradise, Happy Valley, Sex Education, Bridgerton, Snow White, Breaking Point, Mission Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Silent Witness, Lionesses: How Football Came Home and Ted Lasso to name a few! 

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, recently stated: “The UK TV industry continues to experience remarkable growth in production, generating billions of pounds for the UK economy and thousands of new jobs in production hubs throughout the UK’s nations and regions. It’s a real testament to the strength of our regional as well as metropolitan offer that so many major film and high-end TV productions choose to base themselves through the length and breadth of the UK. With the right levels of ongoing investment in skills, support and infrastructure, the UK is well-positioned to attract major international film and TV productions for many years to come.’’


Cornwall is a real favourite with filmmakers…

… and it’s likely because Cornwall has such a diverse landscape. From a spectacular coastline with wide sandy beaches and picture-postcard harbours to wild moorlands and ancient mystical forests, there are potential filming locations aplenty. Over the years, Cornwall has been the backdrop to a wide variety of popular films and TV shows. Some of our favourite filming locations which you can visit for yourself include: 

Looe

 Looe harbour and beach - harbour wall in the foreground and waves are lapping the shore

The BBC One drama, Beyond Paradise, although set in the fictional town of Shipton Abbot, is filmed in the very real, coastal town of Looe. Filming takes place in West Looe, Looe Guildhall, East Looe Quay, Banjo Pier and Looe Beach to name a few locations!


Mount’s Bay

 Colourful image of the causeway leading to St Michael's Mount

St Michael’s Mount was used in the Games of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon last year as the compelling setting for Driftmark (the ancestral seat of House Velaryon). Nearby Kynance Cove also features in episode two of House of the Dragon as the stepstones of Westeros as well as scenes at Holywell Bay, near Newquay. 

Notably, House of the Dragon was also the first production to be shot on the new virtual production stage at Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden.


Port Isaac

 Boats coming and going in Port Isaac harbour on a blue sky day. the sea is very clear

Back in 2004, the TV series Doc Martin put Port Isaac on the map. The fishing village was fictitiously called Portwenn, and the show has 10 series with some episodes attracting as many as 10 million views. 

In 2019, the film Fisherman’s Friends was also filmed here and is based on a true story about Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends, a group of Cornish fishermen from the village who were signed by Universal Records. The sequel, Fisherman’s Friends 2 was also released in 2022 with some scenes filmed at The Minack Theatre. 


Charlestown

 Charlestown harbour looking out to sea past an old-fashioned ship

Famously known for its role as the harbour at Truro, on the Poldark TV series which aired between 2015 to 2019, you may have seen the quaint village of Charlestown in a few other hit films too. If you are a real Poldark fan, take a look at our guide on Poldark filming locations to visit.


Cornwall’s film industry

There are many more films which have featured locations in Cornwall including Blue Juice (1995 – St Agnes/ Chapel Porth), Enys Men (2022 – Mullion/ West Penwith), Alice in Wonderland (2010 – Antony House), Die Another Day – James Bond (2002 – Eden Project), Brown Willy (2016 – Bodmin Moor) along with many, many more. To find out more, why not check out our guide to the top 10 movies and TV series filmed in Cornwall?

In addition to these fantastic filming backdrops, there are a number of studio and workspace plans in progress across the region, such as ASONE business park at St Merryn near Padstow, the first phase of which is due to open in 2024 and The Hive screen and digital hub in Truro set to open in 2025. 


References/ sources - data correct as of April 2023

British Film Commission 

British Film Institute 

iNews

Screenskills 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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