Wales has become one of the UK’s most film-friendly production hubs in recent years, aided by prolific companies such as Bad Wolf setting up shop, and big-budget projects like Disney+’s new iteration of Willow showcasing Welsh locations.
Several high-profile dramas are currently filming in Wales, including World Productions’ Delia Balmer, based on the true story of Delia Balmer, who survived a near-fatal relationship with murderer John Sweeney. Anna Maxwell Martin and Shaun Evans star in the 4 x 60 for ITV.
Men Up, a single, feature-length drama about ordinary Welshmen taking part in historic clinical trials for the little blue pill that would become known as Viagra, is just about wrapping a Welsh shoot. A co-production between Quay Street and Boom, the drama is for BBC One and BBC Wales.
Also shooting is Tree on the Hill, a 6 x 60 dark comedy set in the upper Swansea valley, for delivery to S4C and BBC Cymru Wales. Filming began in late February.
Historical epics The Winter King and Boudica are among other productions to have recently completed Welsh shoots.
Men Up via BBC
Due to film in various south Wales locations later in the spring is The Way, Michael Sheen’s TV directorial debut. With funding from Creative Wales, the BBC One series imagines what happens when a civil uprising takes place in a small, industrial Welsh community.
Creative Wales, an internal agency of Welsh Government, provides major support to many productions filming in Wales. The organisation is responsible to Dawn Bowden MS, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip.
Creative Wales also runs a variety of funding pools, including Young Content Fund, Ffilm Cymru Wales feature film production fund, and general production funding.
The Pact via BBC
Many of the productions that film in Wales use the services of Creative Wales, with 29 projects having been supported since the creation of the agency in 2020, totalling an investment of £16,084,201 and generating over £177,840,000 into the Welsh economy.
Willow via Creative Wales
Head of Creative Wales, Gerwyn Evans, exclusively told The Knowledge: “For nearly a decade, the creative industries have been one of the fastest-growing parts of the Welsh economy, generating jobs and wealth, contributing to a strong national brand, and helping to promote Wales to the world.
"Creative Wales was established specifically to provide focussed support to these industries and to nurture the current and future workforce. We are delivering this through our continued investment in a range of projects, including film and television productions, and in further strengthening our skills base. Our recently published Creative Skills Action Plan, which is supported by £1.5 million of funding, demonstrates exactly how we plan to achieve this.
His Dark Materials S3 behind the scenes
“We know there is growing demand for studio space across the UK, and are determined to capitalise on that opportunity. We have recently invested in Aria Studios, a brand new facility in North Wales, which will offer sustainable long-term employment opportunities in the region and will help us to build on the supply chain and skills that already exist in the area. We also hope to announce another major investment in studio space in Wales in the coming weeks.
“With Wales providing a backdrop for big-budget films like Havoc and series like Willow, His Dark Materials 3 and Sex Education, the national creative economy is growing proportionally year-on-year. Our epic filming locations, ample studio space, and our skilled and highly experienced talent pool means Wales appeals to and provides valuable resources for international production and film houses alike.
His Dark Material S3 VFX
“But it’s not just about attracting inward investment. Independent Welsh production companies are an important part of the picture. We are pleased to be supporting a number of recently announced high-quality dramas in this sector and look forward to supporting the development of Welsh-owned production companies and their productions in the coming years."
Projects supported by Creative Wales include:
• The Pact S1 & S2 – Little Door
• Sex Education S3 & S4 – Eleven Films
• War of the Worlds S2 – Urban Myth Films
• His Dark Materials S3 – Bad Wolf
• Willow - Disney
• Y Golau / The Light in the Hall - Triongl
• Wolf - Hartswood
• Black Cake – CBS UK Productions Film
• Havoc - Severn Screen
• The Almond and the Seahorse – Mad As Birds
Wolf via Hartswood Films/BBC/Simon Ridgway
Studios have been making headlines too, as demand for Welsh filming facilities grows. Dragon Studios near Bridgend has recently hosted Willow, Brave New World and Eternal Beauty, among others.
Great Point Seren Studios (previously Pinewood Studios Wales) in east Cardiff has plans for major expansion, having already hosted the Tom Hardy film Havoc for Netflix, BBC drama Industry, A Discovery of Witches and the fourth series of Sherlock. The site is also set to include a new virtual production hub, due to open in autumn this year.
Wolf Studios, near Cardiff, owned and run by Bad Wolf, provides 125,000 sq ft of filming space across six sound stages. Productions hosted include Industry, A Discovery of Witches and His Dark Materials.
North Wales is now getting a look-in too, with the recent opening of Rondo Media and S4C’s Aria Film Studios on the island of Anglesey.