Granting permission can be an income generator for a council as well as an economic lever that can boost the economy. Lucy Harris and Gerard Gineika show how it helped generate £500,000 for the economy of North Somerset and helped create TV gold.
North Somerset’s landmarks and scenery have long been used as locations for some of the nation’s best loved films and TV shows.
Recent examples include the HBO/BBC British comedy-drama series ‘Rain Dogs’, primetime BBC One hit starring Christopher Walken and Stephen Merchant ‘The Outlaws’, ‘Broadchurch’ (ITV) and ‘Sandylands’ (Gold). North Somerset Council is also currently working with Disney+.
Before 2020, the council’s corporate communications team handled all filming requests, regardless of whether commercial or news. Commercial filming requests were moved into the council’s economy team as they were seen a potential form of inward investment and visitor economy. Indeed, filming generated over £500,000 in value to the North Somerset economy in 2021-22.
Having seen the economic benefits that filming can bring into the area, North Somerset Council officially launched a registered film office and accompanying dedicated website last summer.
This saw North Somerset Film Office signing up to the Filming in England Partnership. Created by Creative England, the partnership connects organisations ranging from local authorities and studios to national organisations such as British Film Commission, National Trust and English Heritage to make sure that England has the most film friendly environment possible.
Residents and businesses can also use the website to register their properties as potential filming locations. It can be financially rewarding too – if your location is used, you can earn up to £1,000 a day!
North Somerset Film Office believes that production companies are attracted by the strong infrastructure, diversity of locations, fair production costs and the positive filming experience. Over 100 filming shoots take place each year in locations across the area from Abbots Pool and Portishead to Clevedon, the Mendips and Weston-super-Mare.
Charlotte Wood, Production Liaison Manager (South West) at Creative England, said: “Creative England’s production services team works closely with Film Offices across the English regions to facilitate the filming needs of feature film and high-end TV drama productions.
“The UK Film and TV industry is booming and the South West region has a lot to offer to industry. North Somerset is within close proximity to the main production hubs and provides a fantastic addition of on location filming options, including coastal landscapes, rural villages and seaside towns.
“The amount of filming that takes place in the area is testament to the film-friendly attitude of the North Somerset Film Office in welcoming production and providing a professional and efficient service to industry.”
It’s important to remember that the film office provides a statutory service. As such, the North Somerset Film Office:
- Has a duty to authorise film permits for any commercial filming that takes place at council-owned or managed buildings (for example its offices, libraries and children’s centres) as well as in public spaces (for example in parks, on seafronts and on public roads).
- Checks that production locations/times do not clash with any other filming, events or planned works (for example roadworks on public highways).
- Grants film permits only once satisfied that:
- the production company has the necessary permission granted by relevant departments, and
- their work will be carried out in a safe way and adheres to legal requirements. This includes obtaining details of Public Liability Insurance, risk assessments and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) drone licenses.
North Somerset Council has seen an increase in the use of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), for filming in recent years. A copy of its procedure, first published in March 2021, is available on its film office website. It doesn’t grant permission to hobbyists to take off or land on council owned land or property.
Reactive media enquiries – including broadcast TV and filming requests for news –are still handled by the council’s corporate communications team (firstname.lastname@example.org).