TV & film: Seeing the bigger picture

Lights, camera, action! Lancashire’s star is shining brightly in the film and TV world.

The county is becoming increasingly popular as a filming location, with all the economic benefits that come from being in front of the camera.

The Netflix biopic of Burnley businessman Dave Fishwick has seen film crews at work in and around the town in recent weeks.

Clitheroe and the surrounding Ribble Valley countryside have also been selected as the location for a new film based on the music of Take That.

They join a list of TV credits that include BBC’s hit Peaky Blinders, which filmed some of its scenes in east Lancashire and the Ribble Valley; ITV’s hit cop show The Bay, shot in and around Morecambe, and Netflix crime drama Stay Close, which was also filmed in the resort and down the coast in Blackpool.

Hit Sky comedy series Brassic, starring Michelle Keegan and Joe Gilgun, is based in the east of the county, with regular location filming in Tockholes, Bacup and Accrington over the last few years. The image above shows some of that filming in action.

The UK’s screen industries have bounced back faster than any other industry

It has been calculated that when a production like Brassic goes on location it spends in the region of £20,000 a day – money that goes into the local economy.

Then there is the impact a hit TV show or film can have on the visitor economy. The Bay has helped showcase the area, its natural beauty and its attractions.

The TV production industry is worth a staggering £5.4bn across the UK and employs hundreds of thousands of people. It is big business and has been boosted by the growth of ‘high-end TV’ and streaming services demanding movie quality shows such as Bridgerton.

The Take That film, called Greatest Days, will be shot at numerous locations across Clitheroe and the surrounding countryside, with a big song and dance number at the castle.

Jonny Shelton, production liaison manager for Creative England, is in no doubt the film will introduce Clitheroe’s charm to a global audience.

His role is to help production companies find locations and he says: “The UK’s screen industries have bounced back faster than any other industry post-pandemic and we are seeing a truly unprecedented demand for content.

“This content boom is providing unsurpassed opportunity and the English regions are at the forefront of it. It is our aim as the national screen agency to maximise and support the production of feature film and high-end TV in the regions to ensure the economic benefits are felt across the UK.”

Jonny believes Lancashire is well placed to benefit from this content boom and the growth of high-end TV.

He says the fact the county is close to Manchester and Liverpool, which are major production centres, is a big plus when it comes to location shooting.

So too is its diversity. Jonny says: “It can offer coastlines, good rural locations, manageable cities and a range of towns with period architecture. There’s also good support from its local authorities.”

Across the Pennines, Yorkshire has raised its global profile through TV and films and has seen major inward investment from the sector.

Spending on productions in the white rose county increased by 121 per cent to £235m between 2017 and 2019.

Jonny says it is difficult to make comparisons between the two counties but believes Lancashire can and should aspire to do more.

He says: “Location shooting in Lancashire is always popular. Location managers have a job to do, and they know that they can get good stuff done there and that it won’t be too challenging.”

The boost to the local economy comes from crews using local shops, amenities and services. Local authorities can benefit from productions paying for road closures.

Jonny says: “I don’t know any sort of industry that can just roll into a town or village and have such a positive impact.

“Productions engage local services because they are cheaper in the long term. Also demonstrating a positive influence is the best way to get local support in order to achieve their aims.”

Jonny says he urges councils to press crews to take on local trainees if they are continually coming back to film a series.

He adds that a big production can massively raise the profile of an area. The global success of period drama Bridgerton has given Bath’s tourism industry a big lift.

He adds: “The TV drama Broadchurch was shot in Dorset. Some of the scenes showed a market in a car park.

“After the show finished people looked to visit the market, only to find it didn’t exist. Today there is a market there, created and driven by the success of the show. That highlights just how a production can boost the visitor economy.”

Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, says: “Lancashire is certainly enjoying a busy period of film and TV activity and with each successful project the county’s reputation as a film-friendly location grows.

“We have worked closely with public and private sector partners, film location professionals and national agencies such as Creative England, to help raise awareness of the many stunning locations, unique properties and incredible landscapes on offer in Lancashire.

“It is good to see the co-operation and enthusiasm for more film and TV building across the county and the genuine boost this gives to our creative industries and those seeking careers in this exciting industry.”

Looking at the recent productions that have used county locations, she says: “The benefits for the local economy, to accommodation providers, local retailers and suppliers, far outweigh any temporary inconvenience and provide us with a variety of film tourism experiences that will help attract even more visitors to Lancashire as we build back our visitor economy.”