City region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tells film industry professionals that Liverpool can be the ‘Hollywood of the north’ and says he wants to open a screen academy in Merseyside. Tony McDonough reports
A new screen academy that can train the film and TV professionals of the future could be set up in Liverpool city region.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram tells an audience of film and TV industry professionals at The Heath Business and Technical Park that he had ambitions for the city region to become the “Hollywood of the north”.
Liverpool is already a popular destination for film and TV production companies. In recent years it has provided a backdrop for numerous TV shows including Peaky Blinders and Doctor Who as well as blockbuster movies such as The Batman.
Liverpool Film Office plays an instrumental role in this success. Backed with the £3m Liverpool City Region Production Fund it works hard to attract film-makers to the city. In June it announced it was supporting a second series of Jimmy McGovern’s drama Time.
However, the city has long been at a disadvantage to other places such as London due to a lack of an indoor sound stage and post-production facilities. It means once filming is complete the film-makers complete their productions elsewhere.
Manchester developer Capital & Centric is overseeing plans to create a £70m film studios complex at the site of the former Littlewoods headquarters at Edge Lane.
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is putting millions of pounds into the project although it has been beset by delays. Capital & Centric launched a public consultation on the project in June.
And Liverpool City Council has already invested £3m to create two pop-up studios on the site called The Depot.
Mr Rotheram addressed a summer party at The Heath in Runcorn for film and television production crews.
The Heath is also a popular location for film and TV productions. There are currently four TV dramas being filmed there. They include BBC’s Sherwood and ITV’s The Tower. 20 years ago it was the location for the BBC comedy Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.
Mr Rotheram said it is important for the cities of Liverpool and Manchester to “work collaboratively” to maximise opportunities within the film sector.
He added that his vision of a Liverpool screen academy would “encourage lots of young talented people to look at careers in filming”.
This, he said, would “address the skills shortage and will assist schools to better understand the opportunities and career paths the filming/TV industry can offer our young people”.
The Mayor said locations such as The Heath were strengthening the city region’s filming proposition. As well as having attractive locations, he wants to see post-production operations being developed in the region to grow the sector.
He believes Liverpool’s successful hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest will have put the city on the global map in terms of “unbelievable production”.
“It was literally the top end of everything,” he explained. “Liverpool was in the European and global spotlight, and it has changed perceptions of what this place is about.
“And that was the real benefit of Europe, not just having the wonderful, barmy, colourful, spectacle of that musical event.It was to show people that there’s lots and lots of brilliant stuff that’s happening here and (they) have gone away and loved it.
“We’re changing perceptions and that means that we can use the brand of Liverpool to attract more and more events, more and more productions into Liverpool.”
The Heath is owned and operated by SOG Group. Ryan Lewis, who heads SOG’s filming division, added: “The Heath benefits from being geographically located midway between Liverpool and Manchester.
“With representatives from the film offices of both cities and Creative England attending the event, it demonstrated there is a real buzz about collaborating and working closely together.”