FINDING accommodation for Cillian Murphy, arranging road closures for the Downton Abbey crew or accompanying a Vogue fashion shoot is all part of a day’s work for Bradford’s Film Office.

This year has seen the 10th anniversary of Bradford’s status as the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, and it’s been a typically busy one. Bradford City of Film director David Wilson says 2019 has seen “virtually non-stop production, from low budget films to TV dramas, Netflix series and large-scale features”. The Bradford Film Office has played a key role in supporting productions, with locations, office space, hotels, local crew and extras.

“It was brilliant to see all last year’s efforts hit the big screen and small screens, including ABC Murders, Victoria, Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack, Pennyworth, Ackley Bridge, Downton Abbey and Official Secrets,” says David. “We’ve supported new Netflix drama The English Game, and Clio Barnard film Ali and Ava, which based its production office in Little Germany for three months and shot the entire film in Bradford. Local people were recruited for crew and extras.

“We’ve also supported development projects including a new pilot comedy for Channel 4, a film called The Banishing and factual TV including The One Show, Grand Designs, CBBC, Scrap Kings, and Barging Through Britain. We even accommodated a Vogue Italia fashion shoot in Saltaire. All this provides direct employment opportunities or supply chain such as hotels, and there’s the screen tourism impact. It’s clear to me that the district is held in very high regard and with a lot of affection by production managers, producers and directors who are making repeat visits, and recommending Bradford to other productions.”

Bradford’s film success has been a major factor in Yorkshire’s changing media landscape. The region is highly regarded as a place of film and TV production, a destination for large-scale crews, and a backdrop for big budget drama.

The much-anticipated move of Channel 4 to Leeds has fuelled hopes of further skills training, jobs and investment for the region’s media industry. Channel 4 arrived in Leeds in October and is set to move into the refurbished Majestic building, home to a news hub, a managing director, Nations & Regions department, programme commissioners and the new Digital Creative Unit. Channel 4 News will regularly be co-anchored from the new Leeds studio.

Ed Braman, senior lecturer in Film and Television Production at the University of York, says: “There’s no question the industry is on the rise based on production growth in Yorkshire. This area has grown more quickly and more substantially than any other part of the UK, including the south east. It’s not just down to big budget productions, it’s also the growth of regional TV companies and increasing activity around interactive media and other forms of creative work.”

“The arrival of Channel 4 is going to be a major stimulus. A significant amount of their business will move to the North. The real question is how much production will follow. Because historically Channel 4 has commissioned across the country, the move to Leeds will have some impact but won’t change the map completely. It will sponsor and develop a certain amount of creative activity in Yorkshire, otherwise why bother to move? Commissioning out of Leeds will create new studio space and jobs. They’re anticipating a growth in regional production because Channel 4 will be looking to commission more outside London and change its regional strategy, so huge opportunity for new jobs and training.”

Of all the regionally creative economies, Yorkshire has been the fastest-growing in recent years. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that from 2009-2015 the region’s film and TV industries generated an annual turnover of £424 million across 590 creative businesses, an increase of 247per cent against the UK average of 118per cent.

Screen Yorkshire was heavily involved in the bid for Channel 4. Says the agency’s chief executive Sally Joynson: “It involved 12 months of detailed activities with partners. Channel 4 moving to Leeds is a fantastic outcome, a vote of confidence in the region.”

Sally says one of the most significant drivers of local production growth is the agency’s Yorkshire Content Fund, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, which has secured over £157 million of new business, bringing in up to 50 productions. “Yorkshire is seen as a significant place for production in terms of producing films here, its growth and profile. The Channel 4 move has added to that,” says Sally. “Production and activity has been growing for several years, a lot of that is off the back of Screen Yorkshire activities and the YCF. It allows us to part-finance film and television. That’s a really important factor, particularly in drama, where you get big international sales.”

Reflecting on the YCF launch in 2012, Sally says: “The first production we did was a new drama for BBC2. They sent us the script, we loved it. It was Peaky Blinders. Since then we have had Dad’s Army, Ackley Bridge through to Official Secrets. Added to that our work with universities and Beyond Bronte, you can see the work Screen Yorkshire is delivering has been having a massive impact on this sector. Productions like Downton Abbey and Gentleman Jack have raised the profile of production in Yorkshire, and its reputation, and demonstrates that this is a serious place to do business.”