Words by Wendy Mitchell
Cornwall is a place traditionally known for holidays and history, for pasties and Poldark. But there is more to modern Cornwall, as the screen sector is booming in the digital era, thanks to passionate local talent and new networks and infrastructure being developed by local organisations like Screen Cornwall and Falmouth University.
Phillippa Giles, who has produced TV hits including Luther and Silent Witness, moved to Cornwall 10 years ago, and now runs her independent production company Bandit Cornwall – alongside being one of the founding members of Screen Cornwall.
“We had shot series three of Delicious here and we kept seeing more and more talented people coming out of the woodwork locally. People who wanted to find work nearer home, so it was about curating them. It’s also become about bringing on new people…Screen Cornwall does a lot of outreach work for young people. We want them to grow up here to know that working in creative communities is an option for them without necessarily having to move to a bigger city.”
Screen Cornwall has four key objectives: fostering talent, showcasing Cornwall’s cultural distinctiveness, developing infrastructure and fostering innovation. Giles says that one thing she likes about the creative sector in Cornwall is that:
“it’s a series of microbusinesses, and everyone is keen to network and meet each other. And we are growing the infrastructure, support and resources.”
Katie Goode, co-founder of games studio Triangular Pixels, said she and her husband John decided to move from London to Cornwall in 2015 to have a better quality of life and a better chance of growing their new business; the strategy certainly worked, and they’ve now been BAFTA nominated for games such as Unseen Diplomacy, as well as being selected for the BAFTA Breakthrough Brits programme in 2018.
“We realised we could do this work anywhere, of course it made sense to go somewhere more affordable, but we thought we might as well move somewhere that you’d like to go on holiday.”
Without paying for London rents, they could afford a bigger space to work on VR projects. Katie also thinks that Cornwall feels more collaborative than other creative hubs.
Connecting creativity Goode is also involved in Cornwall Games Network, founded in 2019 as a community of Cornwall & Isles of Scilly-based game developers and businesses.
“It’s quite exciting to see how the group has grown. It’s great to have this network here – [it] helps the whole Cornish games sector be more visible. Part of the aim is to make the general public aware that there is an industry here and they don’t have to move away to work in games.”
One of the key organisations connecting local creatives is Falmouth University, which currently enrols about 7000 students and has courses across a variety of disciplines including film, TV, games, and animation. Patric Eriksson, who has a track record of building a successful gaming cluster and incubator in Sweden before moving to Cornwall, joined Falmouth University 18 months ago as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research & Innovation. Looking at the screen sectors specifically, he says;
“The University wants to anticipate the needs of the industry in 8-10 years and then join up the research needed, as well as thinking about how to integrate the capabilities our students will need in those future years.”
The diverse Cornish landscapes have encouraged all kinds of creative output. Everything from Doc Martin to Fisherman’s Friends to Malory Towers and Game of Thrones have shot in the region. Giles says:
“The landscape is obviously an inspiration for people who shoot film and TV here. There is the mellow South Coast, wild North Coast, the heraldic moors.”
Bandit Cornwall’s busy development slate now includes six projects being made with the likes of Sky and the BBC; some will shoot locally, such as a new project Giles is planning, inspired by a real social care worker in Newquay. Another Screen Cornwall-backed initiative is Cornish Voices, a programme run by BBC Writersroom.
Futureproofing the Cornish economy Eriksson of Falmouth University agrees that it’s time the rest of the world caught up with what’s happening in contemporary Cornwall.
“Even though heritage is important to Cornish people, there is also future thinking. People are resourceful. I see here individuality that I don’t see in many other places.” The university plays an important role in the evolving ecosystem of Cornwall, not just for its current students. We want to help to facilitate industry innovation and ensure graduates who want to stay here can find meaningful career paths”.
Eriksson adds that big picture plans for the regeneration of the region have “creativity at the centre.” Historically, Cornwall’s economy has been driven by agriculture and fishing as well as tourism, but the plan for the future is for the screen sector and other digital work to, as Giles says, “become a really big factor in the economy of the region”. The appeal of shows like Poldark is important, but Giles also adds,
“It’s also very contemporary in terms of technology down here, we need to make things work better and faster and more efficiently in Cornwall than in the rest of the country. We like being at the cutting edge, not just offering the retrospective view of England.”
If you are a screen business considering Cornwall as a business location, get in touch with our team today. Alternatively, to find out more about Cornwall’s screen sector visit www.screencornwall.com.
Whether you’re looking to locate in Cornwall, or to start exporting beyond its borders, get in touch with our friendly team to talk through your needs.