A new book titled ‘An A-Z: Cumbria & the Lake District on Film’ is due to be published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd in 2016 – please keep checking this website for updates.
Just a little over ten years ago in 2005, Cumbria opened its own film office for the first time. It was launched with a remit to deal with enquiries from movie-makers, TV producers and advertising executives. Based at Rural Regeneration Cumbria in Penrith and Cumbria Institute of the Arts in Carlisle, the offices provided a professional liaison service to all film and television production companies. Funding came from three organisations: Rural Regeneration Cumbria, Cumbria County Council and the regional screen agency North West Vision and Media (NWVM). However, not long after the Coalition Government formed in 2010 the subsequent age of austerity ushered in a review of costs and delivery. Up until that point, around nine screen agencies had represented the UK. But after the new Government’s belt tightening they all merged into one, when the offices were deemed no longer viable. From the ashes of NWVM, Creative England was born, with the responsibility to promote all parts of the UK on the international stage. Thankfully, a number of existing NWVM staff were retained in the re-shuffle, ensuring valuable local knowledge and experience didn’t disappear with the changes. Now some five years on, it is thought the regions have become stronger as a whole. Whilst the opportunity to operate closer to Government has brought some distinct advantages – including the chance to lobby more vociferously.
Recently, one of Hollywood’s biggest ever franchises benefitted from the local knowledge and expertise of Creative England Production liaison in the North West. This occurred when a special ‘Lakes’ package was put together after initial enquiries from the Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens production team.
Due to the sensitive nature of the project a high level of secrecy had to be maintained, protecting any details of the film from leaking out. Other local film partnerships were heavily involved too, including Cumbria Tourism, the Police and Highways departments. The resultant footage of Derwentwater in the finished film is an undoubted triumph for all concerned. There were also a few memorable clips of X-Wing fighters skimming the surface of Thirlmere too. These shots featured in a series of online teaser trailers. Whether the Lake District will feature again in Episode VIII or IX remains to be seen – we all have our fingers crossed that it does!
Next up, a new BBC Films and Harbour Pictures adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s much loved classic, Swallows and Amazons is expected to land at UK cinemas this summer. Like Claude Whatham’s original 1974 film, many scenes were filmed in the Lake District at Coniston and Derwentwater during June/July 2015. Once again Creative England’s unique expertise was called for, assisting with locations and planning. According to Kaye Elliott (Director of Regional Partnerships), 2016 is already shaping up to be a bumper year. She also predicts a number of other exciting productions currently in the pipeline (including a second series of ITV’s Safe House) will see a big boom for the area.
Future plans include sharing the findings of four road shows held in collaboration with Visit England in late 2015. These sessions are expected to shape the development and guidance for local partners on how to maximise the growth of so called ‘screen tourism’. It is intriguing to think what benefits and opportunities the partnership between film, TV production and screen tourism can bring to the local area. After a turbulent winter weather-wise, enticing more visitors back is already high on everyone’s list. Undoubtedly, the massive interest generated by firm family favourites like Star Wars or Swallows and Amazons should only be of mutual benefit to all. And this year will see the Lake District offer fans of screen tourism another rare treat. For it is not often you can visit the same spectacular landscape where Han Solo and Captain Flint graced the silver screen.
(Special thanks to Kaye Elliott for her time and information).