Bristol’s film and TV production sector sees ‘rapid’ growth despite Covid disruption

Bristol’s booming film and television production sector has seen rapid growth over recent years despite Covid-19 disruption and a lack of external investment, according to new analysis.

Research from the University of West England (UWE) Bristol found turnover within the city’s screen industry increased by more than 105% from £147.7m to £288m during 2016 to 2021.

The study also established the number of independent production companies operating in the city increased during the period from 131 to 189.

Total full-time staff in the sector rose 25% from 2,200 to 2,760 while freelance numbers were also up from 1,500 to approximately 2,500.

Figures from the Bristol City Council’s Film Office have previously suggested the production of programmes such as BBC series The Outlaws and Disney+ show The War Of The Worlds had helped bring in £12.6m to the local economy during the financial year ending March 2021.

Bristol is home to one of the largest independent film and television production sectors outside London. The BBC’s Natural History Unity (NHU) and Aardman Animations, the creators of Oscar-winning character Wallace and Gromit, are based in the city while Channel 4 also has one of its regional hubs there.

Professor Andrew Spicer, one of the co-authors of the UWE report, said the city’s film and television industries “tend to be overlooked” by those outside the sector, however.

The academic added: “This report demonstrates how the strengths of Bristol’s film and television industries derive from an incremental growth based on the talents, innovation and enterprise of its labour force and a culture of DiY, self-help entrepreneurialism rather than from any large-scale external investment.

“Indeed, we argue that Channel 4’s choice of Bristol as one of its ‘creative hubs’ was based on these strengths.”

Dr Steve Presence, the report’s other co-author, added Bristol’s screen industries had seen a “good recovery” from the pandemic, with the addition of new facilities such as three new sound stages at The Bottle Yard studios was helping to “reduce London’s dominance” over the national industry.

However, the research also made proposals to “enhance the strength and visibility” of Bristol as a regional screen powerhouse.

Among the recommendations to policymakers was a so-called ‘screen sector summit’ to discuss how to tackle issues in the local sector, the provision of affordable office space for microbusinesses and freelancers to establish themselves, and the development of a direct financial incentive to support local filmmakers.

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