‘King’s Speech’ agency hit by funding cuts

On the day that The King’s Speech was nominated for 14 Baftas, several of those who helped with its production were told they could lose their jobs because of government cuts.

Screen Yorkshire, which supported the box office hit’s filming in the region, said on Tuesday that up to 15 of its 19 staff could be made redundant.

Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, said it faced “challenging times” because of funding cuts and was reviewing staffing.

A £10.2m contract to promote and support the regional film industry ends in March and will not be renewed by Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency that is being axed next year.

The UK Film Council, which distributed lottery grants and other money through agencies such as Screen Yorkshire, is also being abolished, in spite of support from stars such as Colin Firth, who won a Golden Globe for his role in The King’s Speech.

Founded in 2002, the agency has invested in hits such as The Damned United, the tale of Brian Clough’s time as manager of Leeds United, and Red Riding, the TV trilogy also written by David Peace.

It also sourced locations and crews for films such as The King’s Speech. A scene at Wembley was filmed at Leeds’ Elland Road stadium, for example, using dummies from The Inflatable Crowd Company at Skipton rather than extras.

Screen Yorkshire says that in the past four years alone it has attracted more than £82m in inward investment, created 1,086 jobs, supported 812 businesses and invested in the skills of 1,637 peope.

Rachel McWatt, Screen Yorkshire’s spokeswoman, said it received 500 inquiries a year from around the world, competing with places such as Ireland and the Isle of Man, who had big film promotion offices.

“We are at the end of the phone to find locations, crew and other support for people who are looking to film. The danger is that there will be no one to do that job and no one flying the flag for Yorkshire. A lot of crews and small companies rely on productions coming here.”

TV series such as Shane Meadows’ This is England '86, based in Sheffield, and ITV’s recent Wuthering Heights raised the profile of the region, she said.

Screen Yorkshire has also helped Sheffield’s Warp Films, whose Four Lions also received two Bafta nominations.

Glyn Middleton, chief executive of True North, a production company based in Leeds, said it had been helped to grow.

“We were three people making 3-4 hours of TV and now there are 70 of us making more than 400 hours. They showed us how big we could be and helped with training to keep staff. Our concern is not for ourselves but for the next small independent that sets up.”

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