A new National Lottery-funded report commissioned by Screen Cornwall and the BFI has found that the screen industry in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly shows increasing potential to become a “screen cluster of national significance”.

Entitled ‘Catalysing the Cornish Screen Sector,’ the report is produced for Screen Cornwall by Olsberg•SPI and funded by the BFI National Cluster Growth Fund.

It points to the region’s recent successes in domestic independent filmmaking rooted in Cornish heritage – notably Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA-winning 2019 debut Bait and 2022 follow up Enys Men – coupled with its long-standing popularity for location filming, that attracts incoming productions like ITV’s 18-year returning drama Doc Martin and international titles like HBO’s House of the Dragon.

In addition, the study profiles a skilled and growing regional crewbase, an indigenous community of ambitious microbusinesses and physical infrastructure developments set for completion in 2024/5.

Screen Cornwall MD, Laura Giles, said: “The ambition for sustainable growth for the screen sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly builds on our popularity with production companies and audiences alike, as well as a growing bank of crew and exciting creative talent. We have a rich cultural heritage with a minority language that is rising in profile on screen – Enys Men is particularly significant; a fully indigenous critically-acclaimed feature film developed and produced by a Cornish company.”

Screen Cornwall MD, Laura Giles

The report comes at a time when indigenous Cornish filmmaking, and use of Kernewek, is rising in profile. Edward Rowe’s 2022 writing and directing debut Mab Hudel was the first Cornish language short to be selected for last year’s BFI London Film Festival, and the BBC have just launched their first content in the language on the iPlayer with a collection of four shorts from Cornwall Council and Screen Cornwall’s FylmK talent development scheme.

Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods, Carol Mould, said: “Cornwall’s strengths lie in its identity as a minority Celtic nation, an outward looking peninsula with a tradition of great storytelling that has travelled the world through the diaspora. It’s brilliant that the BBC and others are recognising the quality of this work in the Cornish Language and bringing indigenous films to audiences that show a different side of the region than that traditionally seen in the media.”

Against this backdrop of a distinctive regional voice, the Olsberg study found that although the region’s film & TV production crew base is small compared to more densely populated regions – with around 290 professionals registered on Screen Cornwall’s database – it is highly experienced and growing in number, with many having built their skills and networks on long-running shows like ITV’s Doc Martin and Sky’s Delicious over a number of years. Addressing accessibility to the sector for those in a rurally-dispersed region with high levels of socio-economic deprivation is a key feature of the report’s recommendations.

More than 270 companies were found to be active across film, television, video production, equipment hire and digital games. 65 fell under the category of film or TV, and 35 were video games companies ranging from start-ups to more established companies like AntiMatter Games, True Players and Dull Dude. The majority (over 85%) of screen sector companies registered in Cornwall are microbusinesses with two or fewer employees.

The study points to a number of studio and workspace plans in progress across the region, such as ASONE Perform business park at St Merryn near Padstow, the first phase of which is due to open in 2024, and The Hive screen and digital hub in Truro set to open in 2025. Developments like this are predicted to boost the region’s physical infrastructure and provide more year-round screen activity, as opposed to the seasonal activity that currently dominates.