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In-depth: Cardiff’s movie-making potential

Is film-making on the rise in Wales?

The Soundtrack Film Festival created a buzz among Cardiff's film community

In a city where young people are talent spotted for their movie-making skills, the film community is still buzzing after a recent festival, attended by the likes of Oscar award-winning producer Iain Canning. If you were thinking that this description refers to a popular film-making location such as Los Angeles, or perhaps even London, then think again. Welcome to Wales.

Like LA, though, the Welsh film industry has its share of ups and downs: over the river and off to the West, a large film studio faces potential closure; elsewhere, there are rumours that a popular television show may be relocating.

However, the last few months have proved to be a success for one particular group of aspiring film-makers. Graduates from the It’s My Shout training scheme – a film-making course which nurtures new talent across Wales – have had their short films screened as part of BBC 2 series Made In Wales, following their annual awards ceremony.

Caroline Arter explained how the training scheme supports new talent who want to break into the creative industry. “We have industry professionals who work alongside trainees to mentor and guide them,” she said. “This obviously gives them a unique, hands-on experience, which is difficult to find elsewhere.” 

A new Hollywood?

For members of the training scheme, having a red carpet experience in Porthcawl was not only an exciting prospect and a chance to get talent spotted by industry professionals; it also saved travelling the 5000 odd mile-round trip to California. But for some of them, the Hollywood experience might not be that far away.

“Talent scouts and agents often ‘sign-up’ members of the cast/crew after hearing about their success and seeing their hard work on film,” said Caroline.

Indeed, when looking at the scheme’s track record, its star-creating potential becomes clear. It’s My Shout has produced a number of notable graduates, including rising actor Aneurin Barnard. Aneurin, however, was also saved the journey to Hollywood when he secured a part in Jonathan English’s Ironclad. The film was the first feature to be shot in the freshly built, Llanilid-based Welsh film studio known as Valleywood.

While all this might indicate a boom in the industry, the show reel for Welsh film-making is not entirely free from outtakes. Valleywood has faced notorious difficulties, including building delays, funding issues and, most recently, problems attracting new film projects; Ironclad is not only the first, but so far also the only film to be made there.

Growing interest

While the issues with the film industry in Wales are undeniable, they do not seem to be discouraging people from getting involved in the movie-making scene. The It’s My Shout scheme has grown steadily since it was first established in 2003. In fact, Caroline Arter said that over 1,000 people from across Wales took part in last year’s course. “We have slowly spread in area, too,” she said. “When it first began we only used a small number of people from Bridgend.”

It seems that despite the inevitable uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with the film scene, young people are still attracted to the industry. Perhaps their excitement is being spurred on by the growth of events like the Soundtrack Film Festival.

The festival, which recently returned for its third outing, has succeeded in creating a positive buzz around the Welsh film scene. This year’s Soundtrack opened with an early screening of Steve McQueen’s Shame, and included a Q&A with renowned producer Iain Canning. The festival was funded by the Film Agency for Wales, and interim chief executive Suzanne Alizart emphasised its recent growth. “This year’s programme once again reflected our ability to attract major names in the film and music world, with more film previews than ever before and an expansion into Newport,” she said. “Of course, we hope the event generates more interest in the Welsh film industry.”

Local film-maker Tom Betts is a key figure on Cardiff's film scene

Community spirit

With the festival’s increasing popularity and the excitement it has created in Cardiff, it is not hard to imagine that it may be stimulating the passion of local film-makers. The event embodies the possibilities that film-making can lead to; by showcasing and promoting the creative works of a variety of film-makers, Soundtrack gives people starting out in the industry something to aim for.

But the city also has other sources of inspiration. Cardiff-based film-maker Tom Betts has recently made his first feature film, Secrecy, which was shot mainly in Cardiff and screened at Chapter Arts Centre. Something of a local film-making icon, Tom also hosts a monthly MovieMaker night at Chapter, and has recently organised Roathbud, a mini, local short film festival that was shown as part of Cardiff’s annual Made in Roath festival. Tom’s passion clearly shines through. “I do think it’s great when a director really captures a place on film in a way that really engages the local community,” he said.

Through a combination of local determination and talent, popular training schemes and an increase in film related events, it seems that Wales has secured a place on the movie-making map. With a little perseverance and some luck, perhaps one day Cardiff will be able to rival London as the UK capital of film.

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