Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu - Y Bumed Senedd
Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee - Fifth Senedd06/06/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Bethan Sayed AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Jenny Rathbone AM|
|Mick Antoniw AM|
|Neil Hamilton AM|
|Sian Gwenllian AM|
|Suzy Davies AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Berwyn Rowlands||Gwyl Iris Prize|
|Iris Prize Festival|
|Kelvin Guy||Gwyl Ffilm Bae Caerfyrddin|
|Carmarthen Bay Film Festival|
|Rahil Abbas Sayed||Gŵyl Ffilm Rhyngwladol Caerdydd|
|Cardiff International Film Festival|
|Steve Swindon||Gŵyl Ffilm Arfordir|
|Coastline Film Festival|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Adam Vaughan||Ail Glerc|
|Lowri Harries||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:33.
The meeting began at 09:33.
Croeso i'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, y Gymraeg a Chyfathrebu. Eitem 1, cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau—a oes rhywbeth gan Aelod i'w ddatgan? Yn amlwg, Rahil yw fy ngŵr. Siân.
Welcome to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee. Item 1, introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest—does any Member have anything to declare? Obviously, Rahil is my husband. Siân.
Mae gen i gyswllt personol efo cwmni teledu yn y gogledd.
I have a relationship with a television company in north Wales.
Rwy'n nabod un o'r tystion yn bersonol.
I personally know one of the witnesses.
Ocê, grêt, diolch yn fawr iawn. O ran ymddiheuriadau, rydym ni wedi cael ymddiheuriad gan Rhianon Passmore.
Okay, great, thank you very much. In terms of apologies, we've had an apology from Rhianon Passmore.
Felly, symudwn ymlaen at eitem 2, cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru—sesiwn dystiolaeth 12. Rydym ni'n croesawu'r tystion: Kelvin Guy, sef sylfaenydd a phrif weithredwr Gŵyl Ffilmiau Bae Caerfyrddin, Rahil Abbas Sayed, cyfarwyddwr a chyd-sylfaenydd Gŵyl Ffilmiau Rhyngwladol Caerdydd, Berwyn Rowlands, cyfarwyddwr Gŵyl Gwobrau Iris, a hefyd Steve Swindon, sef prif weithredwr Tape Community Music and Film, arweinydd prosiect Coastline Film Festival.
Os nad ydych chi'n ymwybodol o'r hyn sy'n digwydd, fel arfer, rydym ni'n cael cwestiynau ar sail themâu gwahanol, ac felly, os yw'n iawn gyda chi, awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau gan Aelodau gwahanol. Felly, mae Siân Gwenllian yma i gychwyn.
Therefore, we move on to item 2, film and major television production in Wales—evidence session 12. We welcome the witnesses: Kelvin Guy, founder and CEO of Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, Rahil Abbas Sayed, director and co-founder of Cardiff International Film Festival, Berwyn Rowlands, director, Iris Prize Festival, and also Steve Swindon, CEO of Tape Community Music and Film, the project lead for the Coastline Film Festival.
If you're not aware of what happens, usually, we have questions on different themes, so, if it's okay with you, we'll go straight into questions from Members and Siân Gwenllian will start.
Diolch yn fawr a chroeso atom ni y bore yma. Rwyf jest eisiau trosolwg i ddechrau, efallai gennych chi i gyd yn unigol, o'r gwaith rydych chi'n ei wneud yng Nghymru. Pa fath o ffilmiau ydych chi’n eu sgrinio? Beth ydy’r gweithgareddau addysgol, a hefyd y cyfleoedd buddsoddi anuniongyrchol sy’n dod yn sgil eich gwaith chi? Lle ydym ni’n dechrau? Efo Berwyn, efallai?
Thank you very much and welcome. I just wanted an overview, first of all, from you all individually perhaps, of the work that you do in Wales. What kind of films do you screen? What are the educational activities that you're involved with, and also the indirect investment opportunities that come about as a result of your work? Perhaps we could start with Berwyn.
Ie, ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn am y gwahoddiad i ymuno â chi’r bore yma.
O ran Iris, mae pawb yn meddwl am wobr ffilm fer hoyw fwyaf yn y byd, ond mi fyddai hynny efallai yn rhy syml o ran beth yr ydym ni’n ei wneud. Rydym ni’n ŵyl ffilm draddodiadol, felly rydym ni’n rhannu storïau efo'r gynulleidfa. Ond yn wahanol i nifer o wyliau ffilm, rydym ni hefyd yn creu cynnwys, a dyna rydw i’n credu sydd yn ein gwneud ni’n wahanol. Rydym ni’n dangos ac yn rhannu cynnwys, ac rydym ni’n buddsoddi mewn cynnwys ac yn buddsoddi drwy’r wobr. Mae’r wobr ar hyn o bryd yn £30,000 i greu ffilm fer newydd, felly pres go iawn ydy hwnnw, ac mae hwnnw ar y bwrdd. Ond mae adnoddau ychwanegol, felly mae’n werth ychydig bach mwy na hynny.
Ac mae’n wobr ryngwladol. Felly, rydym ni wedi cael tri enillydd o Awstralia yn dod draw i Gymru i greu ffilm fer newydd—Israel, Norwy, America, ac yn y blaen, ac yn blaen. Dweud ein bod ni’n mynd i gynhyrchu ffilm gyda’r enillydd ydy un peth—a ydym ni wedi ei wneud o? Do. Rydym ni wedi cynhyrchu naw hyd yn hyn, ac rydw i newydd ddod yn ôl o Toronto lle cafodd Wild Geese y première rhyngwladol cyntaf. Roeddwn i’n ychydig bach yn nerfus, ond mi ddaru’r gynulleidfa chwerthin yn y llefydd cywir, felly mae hynny’n rhywbeth yr oeddwn i’n reit hapus yn ei gylch o. Rydym ni’n gwerthu’r cynnwys yn ogystal.
Mae gennym ni waith yn y gymuned, ac neithiwr cawsom ni 130 o fenywod o’r Women’s Institute Birchgrove, a oedd wedi bod yn rhan o gynllun sydd wedi cael ei ariannu gan y loteri—cynllun tair blynedd lle yr ydym ni’n mynd allan i gymunedau yng Nghymru ac yn gofyn i bobl ddefnyddio ffilm ac archif Iris i greu gwyliau ffilm bach iddyn nhw eu hunain. Ond hefyd maen nhw’n creu ffilm. Mae hynny’n rhan o’n gwaith ni.
Rydym ni’n mynd i ysgolion hefyd—mae’r gwaith yna’n cael ei gefnogi gan Ffilm Cymru Wales—lle rydym ni’n creu, ar hyn o bryd, ryw pum ffilm fer efo ysgolion, eto yn defnyddio archif Iris. Beth yr ydym ni wedi ei wneud sydd yn weddol anghyffredin, rydw i’n credu, ydy sicrhau’r hawliau, lle mae gennym ni rŵan 12 mlynedd o hawliau mewn ffilmiau byr sydd wedi cystadlu yn Iris. Ac mae gennym ni’r hawl i ddefnyddio’r cynnwys hwnnw mewn unrhyw ffordd yr ydym ni’n dymuno.
Felly, i orffen—rydw i’n ymwybodol bod amser yn brin—eleni, rydym ni wedi bod yn teithio Iris o gwmpas Prydain. Felly, un o’r pethau mawr yr oeddwn i eisiau gwneud efo Iris oedd—. Roeddwn i am i Iris o’r cychwyn fod yn broject Prydeinig, ond bod y berchnogaeth yn aros yng Nghymru a bod yr ŵyl yn rhyngwladol. Yn sicr, pe na baem ni wedi mabwysiadu hynny yn y lle cyntaf, ni fyddwn ni yma heddiw, oherwydd mae’r ffordd mae Iris wedi cael ei hariannu yn gwbl ddibynnol ar gefnogaeth ryngwladol, Brydeinig, ac, wrth gwrs, yn agosach adref.
Yes, okay. Thank you very much for the invitation to join you this morning.
In terms of Iris, everybody thinks of the world's greatest gay short film prize, but that is too simple a description of what we do. We are a traditional film festival, so we share stories with the audience. But, unlike a number of other film festivals, we also create content, and I think that's what makes us different. We show and share content, and we invest in content and invest through the prize. And the prize currently is £30,000 to create a new short film. So, that's real money; that's on the table. But there are additional resources, so it's worth a little bit more than that.
And it is an international prize. So, we've had three winners from Australia coming over to Wales to create a new short film—Israel, Norway, America, and so on and so forth. Saying that we are going to produce a film with the winner is one thing—have we done it? Yes. We have produced nine so far. I've just come back from Toronto where Wild Geese had its first international première. I was a little nervous, but the audience did laugh in the right places, and so that's something that I was very happy about. We sell the content as well.
We have work in the community, and, last night, we had 130 women from the Women's Institute Birchgrove, which was part of a scheme that was funded by the lottery—a three-year scheme where we go out to communities in Wales and ask people to use film and Iris's archive to create small film festivals for themselves. But they also create a film, and that is part of our work.
We go to schools, and that work is promoted by Ffilm Cymru Wales, and we are creating at the moment around five short films with schools, again using the Iris archive. So, what we've done, which is quite unusual, is to ensure the rights. So, we now have 12 years of rights in short films that have competed in Iris, and we have the rights to use that content in any way that we wish.
Just to finish—I know time is short—this year, we have been travelling with Iris around the UK, on tour. One of the things that I wanted to do with Iris was—. I wanted it, from the beginning, to be a British project, but that the ownership rested in Wales and that the festival was an international one. Certainly, if we hadn't adopted that in the first place, we wouldn't be here today, because the way in which Iris is funded is completely dependent on international support, on British support, and on support closer to home.
Ocê. Diolch. Iawn. Symud at Rahil, efallai, i gael jest ychydig bach o wybodaeth am eich mudiad chi, beth ydych chi'n sgrinio, a beth ydy'r gweithgareddau addysgol sydd ynghlwm wrth yr ŵyl.
Okay. Thank you. Moving to Rahil, perhaps, just to get some information about your movement, what you screen, and what are the educational activities related to the festival.
So, our film festival is slightly different to Iris. We focus on three elements, exhibition being our primary film festival initiative. But we also focus on training and development, and, when we say training and development, we're talking about masterclasses, talks, et cetera, by industry experts and leaders.
Exhibition-wise, we had about 1,700 entries last year. We showcased 100 films over five screens in Odeon cinema, Vue cinema, the Pierhead building and the Wales Millennium Centre. We've had a few world premières. We had an Indian film called Khyanikaa, which had our UK première by a national award-winning director Amartya.
So, yes, that is our remit as a festival, but we also work with a lot of charities. So, last year, we partnered with Race Equality First and we partnered with Swansea Young Carers YMCA, and we arranged a special screening for carers between nine and 12, and they had a chat with Joe Ferrera, who is a Hollywood and British actor. So, that's the type of work we do.
I run the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, and one of the main things I started the festival for was to promote local student film making, and also to try and promote Welsh language film making as well. The festival is based at the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli, and it's been running for seven years now. It's totally self-funded; we don't rely on any external funding. Most of the funding comes from the submission fees and some local sponsors like Felinfoel Brewery, and lucky enough this year, S4C sponsored the awards night. With them moving down to Carmarthen now, I think that will make a big difference, hopefully, to local film making, which is what the festival is all about—Welsh language film making and inspiring young film makers and getting their films screened and then looked at or judged by media professionals. And it's all about encouraging young film making; that's the main thing, really, about the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival.
Okay. And Steve.
Hello. I'm from Tape and we're a community arts charity. We turn 10 years old in two weeks' time. The Coastline Film Festival was born out of our activity of screening films, usually for free, and after an outdoor screening of Jaws at the inaugural LLAWN festival in Llandudno—we screened it using our open-air cinema, screening to about 200 people next to the sea—people asked us, 'When are you going to bring this to Rhyl? When are you going to bring this to Prestatyn?' So, off the back of that interest, we applied to the coastal communities fund and set up the Coastline Film Festival, which we've done for the last three years. Over the last five years of film screening, we've screened over 130 features, we've had 26 Welsh premieres as part of the film festival and we work alongside partner organisations for our screenings—over 50 partner organisations—who co-programme with us. So, the co-programming works through offering awareness raising or raising the profile of organisations or charities or work that's taking place in our community or nationally. The screenings support those organisations.
We've also managed to link our festival to the last two years of delivery of the BFI Film Academy network programme. There are three in Wales, and we're the only one in the north. But, really, the festival is a small part of the way that we use film in terms of engaging and training and offering learning and employment through creative film making. Our use of the funding that we got for the Coastline Film Festival allowed us to produce our first full-length feature film, which we've been touring for a year. The BFI have got behind that and are using it as a case study for an inclusive model of film making. We are in pre-production for three more feature films and that is using an inclusive model of feature film production. And that was born out of our experience of people coming to us and saying that there's no aspirational presence of the screen industry in north Wales, certainly not in terms of long-term opportunities or meaningful opportunities for people of all ages who we work with. So, we're developing this model and a community production facility at Tape in response to that. And all of that has been born out of the festival delivery.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr. Mi wnaf i, efallai, ofyn cwestiwn tipyn bach mwy heriol rŵan, gan gychwyn efo Berwyn. Rydw i'n gweld gwerth Iris ac efallai’n gweld ei bod hi'n pet project, ond tybed beth ydy'r gwerth ohoni i Gymru ac i'r sector ffilm cynhenid yng Nghymru. A'r un cwestiwn i bawb, mewn ffordd, er y gallaf i weld y cysylltiad yn gliriach efo dau o'r bobl sydd yma y bore yma. Efallai nad ydw i'n gweld y cysylltiad uniongyrchol, so mae'n rhaid i chi fy narbwyllo i.
Okay. Thank you very much. If I could ask a slightly more challenging question now, starting with Berwyn, perhaps. I see the value of Iris and I understand that it's, perhaps, a pet project, but what is the real value of it for Wales and for the indigenous film sector in Wales? And then I'd ask the same question to each and every one of you, although I can see, perhaps, the links more clearly with two of our witnesses this morning. I don't see that direct evidence, so you might have to convince me.
Rydw i wrth fy modd eich bod chi wedi gofyn y cwestiwn, oherwydd un o'r problemau ydy sicrhau bod pobl yn gweld sut mae popeth yn gweithio. Rydw i'n credu mai'r sialens yw sut mae rhywun yn gwerthuso rhywbeth fel Iris. Felly, os ydy rhywun eisiau gwerthuso Iris o ran faint o bobl sy'n troi i fyny, mae rhywun yn edrych ar y gwerthiant tocynnau. O ran digwyddiad yn y brifddinas, mae rhywun, wrth gwrs, yn gallu defnyddio beth bynnag ydy'r fformiwla ar gyfer yr economic spend ac yn y blaen ac yn y blaen. Beth sy'n fwy anodd, wrth gwrs, ydy edrych ar sut mae rhywun yn gwerthuso'r ffaith fod gennych chi 25 o wyliau ffilm mewn 20 gwlad sy'n mabwysiadu ffilm i gystadlu'n flynyddol yng Nghaerdydd, yng Nghymru, i fod yn rhan o ŵyl ryngwladol LGBT.
Yn ôl yn 2006, pe bawn i wedi dweud, 'Lle ydy'r lle mwyaf delfrydol i greu AGM ar gyfer y diwydiant ffilm hoyw yn y byd?' mi fyddwn i, mwy na thebyg, wedi cytuno ar Sydney—efallai San Francisco. Yn agosach adref, rydw i'n credu y byddwn i wedi sôn am Brighton neu hyd yn oed Manceinion. Wel, na, Caerdydd, ac roeddwn i fel cenedlaetholwr yn benderfynol. Pam ddim? Mi oedd pobl yn chwerthin; dyna oedd y jôc fwyaf. Beth rydym ni wedi ei wneud ydy—. Ac roeddwn i'n gofyn yr un cwestiwn rydych chi wedi'i ofyn ynglŷn â sut mae hwn rŵan yn cysylltu efo'r sector adref, fel petai, i fod yn blwyfol a meddwl am Gymru fel adref, ac beth rydym ni wedi'i wneud ydy creu rhywbeth sydd yn rhyngwladol—mae o'n bodoli—ac wedi gweld sut mae Iris rŵan yn gallu troi yn ôl, fel petai, i gefnogi'r sector.
Felly, un o'r pethau a wnaethom ni, ryw chwe blynedd yn ôl, oedd sylweddoli bod gennym ni lot o gynhyrchwyr, ysgrifenwyr, awduron ac yn y blaen yng Nghaerdydd ar gyfer yr wythnos, felly beth wnaethom ni oedd creu'r producers forum, digwyddiad mainstream a oedd yn cael ei greu gan ŵyl hoyw. Fel arall rownd mae hi fel arfer: mae pawb yn mynd, 'O, rydym ni wedi anghofio'r bocs LGBT; beth wnawn ni ynglŷn â chynrychiolaeth?', ac yn y blaen. Ond beth wnaethom ni, yn hyderus iawn, oedd dweud, 'Wel, na, mae'r anghenion'—neu'r problemau, os wyt ti eisiau meddwl am y peth yn y ffordd yna—'o greu ffilm yr un peth os wyt ti'n creu ffilm drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg neu os wyt ti'n creu ffilm hoyw.' Ac felly, mae'r producers forum yn un ffordd rydym ni wedi sicrhau ein bod ni'n cael digwyddiad yn ystod Iris sydd yn ateb anghenion y sector cynhyrchu sydd eisiau cynhyrchu cynnwys sydd ryw £1 miliwn o bunnoedd neu'n is.
Ar gyfer y degfed penblwydd, fe wnaethom ni gydnabod bod yna ddiffyg cynnwys LGBT drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, er enghraifft, ac roeddem ni'n teimlo'n ddigon hyderus bod y brand yn ddigon cryf i ni wneud rhywbeth lleol heb danseilio beth roeddem ni eisiau ei wneud yn rhyngwladol. Felly, fe wnaethom ni greu rhywbeth o'r enw Straeon Iris efo Ffilm Cymru Wales ac S4C, ac rydym ni bellach yn cynhyrchu ffilm yn y Gymraeg. Ond mae'n fwy na hynny. Mae yna gystadleuaeth i ffeindio nifer o sgriptiau, ac eleni roeddem ni'n hapus iawn; fe gawsom ni Ceri Sherlock i ymuno efo ni i ddatblygu'r tair olaf, ac rydym ni rŵan wedi dewis ffilm, ac mi fyddwn ni'n saethu'r ffilm yna yn y gorllewin, yng nghyffiniau Aberystwyth, dros yr haf. Ac mi fydd y ffilm yn cael ei premiere ar noson agoriadol Iris, o flaen cynulleidfa ryngwladol, ac mi fydd hi'n cael ei dangos ar S4C yn ogystal, fel bod y gynulleidfa yn fwy.
Felly, rydw i'n gobeithio bod hynny'n ateb y cwestiwn. Nid yw e'n amlwg, oherwydd roeddem ni eisiau creu rhywbeth a oedd fel petai Cymru yn rhoi i'r byd, yn lle ein bod ni'n disgwyl i'r byd rhoi i ni, ac rydw i'n credu bod hynny'n bwysig. Ond, rydym ni'n sicr wedi sicrhau bod yna ffyrdd i ni gael perthynas efo'r sector yng Nghymru, a dyna, er enghraifft, pam wnaethom ni greu'r wobr ffilm fer Brydeinig orau. Beth nad oeddem ni'n ei wneud oedd cynnwys ffilmiau Prydeinig yn y brif gystadleuaeth er mwyn cyhoeddusrwydd, ond roeddem ni'n gweld bod angen i ni gael perthynas efo'r sector Prydeinig a oedd yn creu cynnwys. Felly, beth wnaethom ni oedd creu gwobr arall, ac mae hynny wedi ein galluogi ni i siarad efo nhw.
I'm glad you've asked the question, because one of the problems is to ensure people see how everything works. I think the challenge is how you evaluate something like Iris, because, if we wanted to evaluate Iris in terms of how many people turn up, one looks at the ticket sales. In terms of an event in the capital city, of course, one can use whatever is the formula of the economic spend and so forth. What is more difficult, of course, is to look at how one evaluates the fact that you have 25 film festivals in 20 countries that adopt a film to compete on an annual basis in Cardiff, in Wales, to be part of an international LGBT film festival.
Back in 2006, if I'd said, 'Where is the most ideal place to hold an AGM for the gay film industry in the world?', I probably would have agreed on Sydney—perhaps San Francisco. Closer to home, perhaps I would have mentioned Brighton or even Manchester. But, no, Cardiff, and as a nationalist, I was determined. Why not? People laughed; that was the biggest joke. What we have done is—. And I was asking the same question as you asked in terms of how this now links in with these indigenous sectors, so to speak, to be parochial and to think of Wales as home, and what we've done is create something that's international—it exists—and we've seen how Iris now can go back to support the sector.
One of the things that we did about six years ago was realise that we had many producers, writers, authors and so forth in Cardiff for the week, and then what we did was we created the producers forum, a mainstream event that was created by a gay festival. It's usually the other way around: everybody says, 'Oh, we've forgotten the LGBT box; what shall we do about representation?', and so forth. But what we did very confidently was say, 'No, the needs, requirements'—or problems, perhaps—'of creating a film are the same if you're creating a film through the medium of the Welsh language or creating an LGBT film.' So, the producers forum is one way that we've ensured that we have an event during Iris that meets the needs of the production sector that wants to produce content that's £1 million or lower.
For the tenth anniversary, we acknowledged that there was a lack of LGBT content through the medium of Welsh, for example, and we felt confident enough that the brand was strong enough for us to do something on a local basis without undermining what we wanted to do on an international level. So, we created something called Straeon Iris in conjunction with Ffilm Cymru Wales and S4C, and we're now producing a film through the medium of the Welsh language. But it's more than that. There is a competition to find a number of scripts, and this year we were very happy; we got Ceri Sherlock to join us to develop the last three, and we've now chosen a film, and we will be shooting that film in west Wales, in the Aberystwyth area, over the summer. The film will have its premiere on the opening night of Iris, in front of an international audience, and it will be screened on S4C as well so that the audience will be bigger.
I hope that answers the question. It's not obvious, because we wanted to create something that was, so to speak, Wales giving something to the world rather than the other way around, and I think that's important. But certainly, we have ensured that there are ways for us to have a relationship with the sector in Wales, and that's why, for example, we created the prize for the best short British film. What we didn't do was include it in the main competition for publicity, but we saw that we needed a relationship with the British sector that was creating content. So, we created a different prize, and that's enabled us to talk to them.
A Rahil, o ran cynyddu'r sector ffilm gynhenid yng Nghymru, pa gyfraniad mae'r ŵyl rydych chi'n gyfrifol amdani yn ei wneud?
And Rahil, in terms of promoting the indigenous film sector in Wales, what contribution does your festival make in that regard?
We work in establishing partnerships for Welsh cinema, taking Welsh cinema abroad and bringing international cinema to Wales. We've partnered with the University of South Wales this year, and we intend to use the University of South Wales as one of the screening venues of our international premiere, so that gives the flavour of real cinema and commercial cinema to the young students. But then, also, what we plan to do is we are inviting screenings. So, this year we're having a premiere of a film called Kurdistan Kurdistan, which was made by one of the top directors in Kurdistan. It's going to be the first international screening ever for the film. So, what we're trying to establish here is that we provide a platform to Welsh film makers to showcase and screen, but more importantly create an engagement and networking environment where communities and countries can interact and share ideas, share platforms. And, that, we see, has already happened. So, last year, the winner of best international film was an Italian film called An Italian Midsummer Adventure. Based on the award, they got funding in Italy to make a second feature, and they want to make that feature in Wales now. So, I think that's the type of engagement that we want to promote. It's not just about exhibition, but it's also giving a platform where people can meet and make collaborative projects.
The Carmarthen Bay Film Festival—one of the reasons I set that up was to promote Welsh language film making, especially short film making. There seems to be a lack of that. Certainly, that's what I've found over the last seven years. We partnered with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Carmarthen—so, again, working with students from there and the Swansea campus to showcase and screen their films. We've also partnered with S4C this year, and a couple of years ago as well, again to kind of encourage more Welsh language film makers to submit into the festival.
What are the challenges?
Finding the films. Getting people to submit. We created the John Hefin prize. Maybe some of you know who John Hefin was. So, with the blessing of the family, and Elin, we created the John Hefin Welsh language film award. But, again, it just seems to be an ongoing problem. We get a couple in. In the first couple of years it wasn't a problem, but over the last four years it's a real struggle to kind of encourage Welsh language film makers to send films in. From my experience, they just don't seem to be about or out there, you know. But, then again, with the festival and community film makers, student film makers—there's not a problem getting those films into the festival at all. But, that's what we're about: promoting that side of things and encouraging that.
A ydych chi'n credu eu bod nhw'n gwneud y ffilmiau yn Saesneg, efallai, achos eu bod nhw'n sylweddoli eu bod nhw'n mynd i fod yn fwy masnachol, yn lle eu bod nhw'n creu y ffilm yn y Gymraeg yn y lle cyntaf?
Do you think that they are making the films in English, perhaps, because they understand that it would be more commercial for them, rather than making it in Welsh in the first place?
Yes, I think that's part of the problem, because if people want jobs, they've got to go outside Wales. You've got the BBC and you've got other production companies based in Cardiff, but if you want to go into major film, you are probably looking at London or LA, or—.
Sorry to go out of turn, but we found a similar issue last year as well—that there weren't many Welsh language films. What we have planned this year is roadshows across Wales. We will have one in Swansea, one in Aberystwyth, and one in probably Rhyl, to try and engage local communities just to understand, if the films are being made, why are they not screened and are there any challenges. So, it is just to try and take our festival. So, that is something that we will be doing this year.
I think one of the other reasons is the obvious one, in a strange way: the success of Welsh language television. Our talent is needed there. There's only so many of us, and funding for television is slightly better than funding for film. If I was somebody who maybe had a mortgage and all the other stuff—. You have got to be a committed person to decide to have a career in film. It's slightly more difficult. So, I think that's probably one of the places where all our creative talent is being used successfully, but it would be nice if there was a mechanism so that we could get more of them to maybe consider creating film.
Steve, a oes gyda chi sylwad ar hwn?
Steve, do you have a comment on this?
Well, I'd follow on from what everybody has said previously about the lack of opportunity for people. Certainly, in north Wales, we've seen—for example, graduates—people moving away, studying film and television outside of Wales and then coming back to north Wales and there being no opportunities. They either have to move away, which, for a lot of people, is very difficult—. So, we are finding a lot of graduates knocking on the door, saying, 'How can I make use of my studies? Because I'm just about to go and get a job doing something completely different.' I think that then tracks back to grass-roots development.
The mainstream screen industry, if you like, is a very excluding environment at most levels. I know that there's a push towards making things more inclusive, but I think that needs a long-termist view. I think that there are lots of fantastic projects that draw people in: 'Come and do something for a week. Come and be on set and have an experience.' But, actually, to be truly inclusive and to present things in an inclusive way, you need to remove those time restrictions. You need to give people the opportunity to learn at their own pace. You need to give people an aspirational platform, and that doesn't necessarily mean getting on to S4C or having your film at Sundance, or whatever. That means actually being able to do it and making use of your creative ideas and developing your creative ideas. And the current mainstream structure doesn't support that. There needs to be an alternative to that. That's not my opinion; this is our experience, certainly over the last five years of creative film making, that those opportunities need to be much more widespread, and certainly in north Wales.
Mae gan Jenny gwestiwn.
Jenny has a question.
Yes, I just wanted to explore this lack of cross-over between television and film, because what one would normally expect is that people would cut their teeth in television, where there's a range of production values involved, and, as you become more skilled, then you're in a better place to go and make films where there's more artistic freedom than you might have in television. So, I really want to understand why people aren't doing their apprenticeships in television and then, once they are more confident and have a track record, why they're not then exploring the greater freedom of film.
I think I could talk for the next hour, probably, in some detail, but cutting it—
We don't have that [Laughter.]
I know. Cutting it briefly—I'll do it shortly, as we do with shorts, obviously—I think there are a couple of things, really. I don't think it's a Welsh problem; I think it's a British problem, and I think it is finance in that there is more money in television. So, that's the starting point.
I'd also say, in the digital world that we're living in, an awful lot of television is where good stories are being told anyway. So, I don't think there is necessarily the hierarchy that existed and I think the elephant in the room is how the film industry globally is dealing with things like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the relationship. You've got the content there, you've got the audience there, and all of us here are used to what I would call the old analogue system of distributors buying and exhibitors screening in the cinemas and we were the consumers. Now, of course, you can bypass all of that completely and more and more of us are watching films in different ways. One of the things that concerns us—I'm going off on a slight tangent—is the age of people who go to film festivals—they're getting older, because young people are watching and consuming in different ways.
Okay, thank you for that.
Jest i ddweud, nid oes angen i chi gyd ateb pob cwestiwn os nad ydy e'n rhywbeth sydd yn eich tanio chi, ond hapus i chi ei wneud os ydych chi'n gallu bod yn fyr. Mick Antoniw.
Just to say that you don't all have to respond to every question, unless it's particularly pertinent to you, but you're welcome to do so if you can be brief. Mick Antoniw.
Just following on, then, from that particular point is the role and the function of film festivals in Wales. I'm not completely clear—. I mean, clearly, they're having an impact, but what needs to happen to actually boost the role of film festivals? How do you actually evaluate what the success of the film festivals is if you're in a position to say, 'Well, this is what needs to be done'? What does need to be done? Is it just about money, or is there something else that we could recommend to Government, for example?
I think it's the ambition. So, if we see major film festivals—Toronto or Cannes or Berlin or even Edinburgh—there's an ambition to promote that festival at a city level, at a national level. I think that's where we need to head. Obviously, funding and support is part of it, but also supporting the infrastructure of the festival and promoting at a level where you're almost giving it a semi-official status. Because, at the end of the day, the success of a festival is (a) bringing big stars—names sell; that is a true reality of any festival—and (b) do we have the right audiences to attend? Like Berwyn was saying, it's about engaging audiences. So, for example, for animation films, you need to have that type of audience, and a feature film has to have a certain type of audience. Are we creating that prestige in our festivals, in our cities, where people are willing to pay or travel from around the world and say, 'Let's go and attend Cardiff International Film Festival' or Berlin festival or any other festival? I think that's what we need—the support and the infrastructure; not just the funding, but the support and infrastructure.
We have a lot of—. It seems that, all over Europe and all over the world, there are loads and loads of film festivals taking place at a very local level, which obviously exist to develop and nurture talent and provide opportunities and so on. Are you suggesting that, for example, there ought to also be a national Welsh film festival, and, if so, what would be the purpose of it? Is that something you would actually recommend and think should happen?
One of the things I confuse my team with is: the festival isn't the be all and end all. The purpose of Iris is really simple: it's to get more LGBT stories out there and to get a bigger audience. Now, a film festival, as I alluded to, is quite an old-fashioned formula, and so, for us, we feel we're justified in looking at making sure we have a relationship with the broadcasters—and we do, with the BBC, who have screened some of the winners, and S4C now, with Straeon Iris, and that's a local Wales project. But in the same way, we're looking at whether we should be having a relationship with one of the other digital platforms. The festival, at the moment—in case they're watching and getting a bit nervous about their jobs—is still important, and it's important for bringing decision makers, it's important for bringing film makers. And again, we also work with Cardiff University, University of South Wales, and we've been doing more work in north Wales in the last couple of years. So, that's to do with the development of talent, et cetera. So, it's kind of like a pie chart with lots of bits to it. But, trust me, the idea of, 'You must have a film festival'—I think you're behind the times if you think like that. You should really be thinking of audience, content and what's the best way of getting that content out there.
One more thing to add to it is that I think a key element of a good festival and a successful festival is what they call the marketplace, where business happens. So, you want exhibitors, distributors and film content makers under one roof, creating business. That's what boosts your economy. That's where the real trade happens. That will only happen once. So, once you have a festival at a certain level where you want the big guys to come and you want MUBI, Netflix and Amazon Prime coming in, scouting for content and taking content back. So, again, I don't think a national festival, really, is a solution. We need the local festivals as well. We need to engage local communities. We do need prominent festivals—I think that's the word I'll use—where people do actually think, 'Well, actually, it is worth attending it, it is worth going to it.'
Could I ask you, then, because one thing that follows on—and it ties in a little bit with some of the other evidence we've heard—is, in actual fact, that it's not even so much the case that you have your own national status festival or whatever, but the opportunity to actually participate internationally in events that are happening around the world: how important is that to Wales, to film producers and so on? Are we perhaps just looking at this a bit too parochially?
We made our first feature film, as I've said, as part of the delivery of our film festival, and that's probably more important than the festival itself. It was just an extension of our work of using film screening to engage with people. Actually, what Rahil said is really important—about the business aspect of putting on a film festival, but also to give people an opportunity to feel like going to a film festival that's taking place in their community is also for them, which currently I don't feel is most people's perception of going to a film festival: 'Is that for me?'.
But in terms of the international question, we've had more success in terms of people having an understanding of the film that we've made outside of Wales than we have in Wales. It's been much more difficult in Wales to get any sort of traction or interest. Internationally, we've been able to take our film to a couple of festivals and elsewhere in the UK where there is more support for the ethos that's behind our film. We were actually told by somebody in a senior position within the Wales screen industry that our film wouldn't get looked at because there wasn't a name that they recognised attached to it. That's utter nonsense. You'd never go and see anything new. Music—you know, you're not going to see a new band because Noel Gallagher's not playing guitar. That's ridiculous, isn't it? So, that was really disappointing. That's the sort of thing that we're battling against. The film makers, actually—. If we're talking about Welsh content that people are battling against, and if you are not of a proactive nature or part of a charity that has some infrastructure that you can support one another, that's incredibly offputting. So, I think that film festivals that welcome—as all of these festivals do—Welsh film makers and support that stuff, and do it at a grass-roots level as well, are hugely important. I think that's to be supported.
Okay. Suzy Davies.
I just wanted to ask a question about Welsh Government support, actually. You've all got very different film festivals. Am I right that Iris is the only one that gets any direct Welsh Government financial support?
Yes, we've been supported now for a long time through the major events unit.
Right, because that's what I was going to ask: which particular pot of money does that come through? So, it's the major events.
The major events unit, yes.
Okay. The rest of you clearly don't get support from Welsh Government. Is that because you haven't gone to them to ask for money, or is it that you can't identify a stream of money, like Iris has been able to, that might be able to help? Or do you think there might be a perception within Welsh Government that because it's not actually clear what film festivals are for—because you've all got different reasons—that it's difficult for them to create a pot of money that's an obvious source for you all?
We've approached the major events unit, and we are in talks with them.
Yes, I don't want to prejudice anything here.
But I think it's the awareness of what's available. It's not very clear what's out there. You really have to dig to know something like that even exists. But once you get there, obviously, then it's on merit and you have your application and everything.
Have any of you explored other routes? You talked about the work that you do in the community and, of course, there are different ways of looking at your work using film not as film but for some other purpose. Is that something that might be of interest?
This year we're not running the Coastline Film Festival. This year we've been focusing on the theme of inclusion and promoting that, so we're setting up the first inclusion film festival that is going to be part of this year's Llandudno Arts Weekend—LLAWN. That festival is going to be a weekend-long event and we're partnering with other organisations. So, 104 Films, who are a leading disability film-making production company from Sheffield, they're coming to partner with us and with the BFI as part of their disability on-screen strand. The idea of that is to take the idea of inclusion, put that into a public event and have that conversation at a more public level.
So, do you have any support for that?
Not financially, no. We're going to be using our own, but, because it's part of LLAWN and it's part of a bigger public event, we're able to draw some funding that way for the running of that festival, and then also through involving partners, but it's small-scale funding. Hopefully, we'll go to Film Hub Wales as well; we've been talking to them about funding, too.
Sorry, just to stick with you, Steve, what about Ffilm Cymru Wales as well, as you're actually making films as well as exhibiting? What's your relationship with them?
We don't really have one. We've gone through the application process for funding on a couple of occasions for specific projects, and also on behalf of people that we're supporting to make their own films, but it's a very structured process that maybe doesn't necessarily immediately recognise the way in which we're working differently. To their credit, when we approached them—. There's a young man who we're supporting to make his first live action animation short film, and he requires support to do that. He's a very talented man, and so we approached them to say, 'Can we make an application on his behalf, and our team would be playing the role of producer and offering support to him as the director?' And they were open to considering that, which is as far as that went. But beyond that, it's a very mainstream process for all of those things and we don't necessarily fit that model.
I think one of the issues, really, is that the pots of money, for example, available by different organisations tend to be quite small. When we were developing Iris in 2005-06, the role of local authorities was very important. At the time, we got traction and buy-in from a UK level. We got buy-in from a Wales level, both national Welsh and also local authorities. We had Capital Region Tourism, and I can remember the phone call—I did pull in the car to stop, obviously—with £10,000 on the table from Capital Region Tourism before we'd done anything; they'd bought into the vision. That helped your confidence hugely, and I was asking myself, not just looking at Iris 2, or whatever, but, if there was a similar project in 2018, what is the landscape? I'm certain that the local authority one—I'm not sure whether everybody would agree—but it looks to me as if funding from a local authority point of view has vaporised completely, not a bean, and that is quite scary. So, we've got Lord Glendonbrook, through the Michael Bishop Foundation; they now give £50,000 a year to Iris, but that's because they know that it supports, as he puts it, locally in Wales, and also from a UK point of view. So, the mix, I think, of where you can go for different kinds of funding.
That's what I wanted to ask, really. The minute you got that sort of Welsh Government badge on the bottom of the posters, that opened the doors for other levers then, did it?
It definitely does, yes. And that's the concern—
Okay. As the BFI one probably would as well.
Kelvin. Sori, jest eisiau deall a oeddech chi wedi ceisio am unrhyw fath o gefnogaeth Llywodraeth Cymru neu beidio.
Kelvin. Sorry, I just wanted to understand if you had sought any sort of support from Government, from the Welsh Government particularly.
Ffilm Cymru is one of the ones I've looked at, which wasn't very successful. As I said earlier on, we're totally self-funded, so we don't rely on any kind of external funding, which has worked for us up to now, because of the amount of submissions we get in, and local sponsors, as I said—Felinfoel Brewery; University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen; and, this year, S4C. So, that's helped a lot. Fortunately for us, we don't have to pay for where we show the films—the Stradey Park Hotel has been really supportive over the years. And, over the years, with the money coming in, we've been able to acquire equipment to show the films. So, the money has always gone back into the festival, to make the festival bigger and better every year. It's never been about, 'How much money can we make out of this?', or making money off the back of film makers; it's always been about getting films out there, out to the audiences.
But, as Berwyn said earlier on, the audiences are getting older—younger people don't seem to want to come and sit down in front of a big screen and watch films anymore; they'd rather watch it on their iPads, or when they want to watch it, rather. So, that side of things, the audience side of things, it definitely is a big struggle for us—getting people in to see the films. Even, sometimes, film makers don't come to see their own films; that's another thing as well. But, on an international level, the festival is really doing well, as far as submissions go. But, yes, totally self-funded.
Another reason why I've kind of gone that way is that I don't want to be tied to a particular organisation that says, 'You've got to spend the money this way; you've got to spend the money that way.' That's another thing as well that I've been really on over the years, but it's worked for us at the moment. But, yes, it would be great to get some form of funding, so that we could concentrate on other things, on maybe employing somebody full time. That would be great, yes.
Na, mae'n iawn, diolch. Diolch yn fawr.
No, that's fine, thanks. Thank you very much.
I just wanted to ask you what you thought about the previous Welsh Government economic strategy, which had the creative industries as one of its nine priorities. Looking at the facts on money, they seem to have had difficulty spending the money they'd set aside. So, I suppose the first question is: there's money there, why is it not being taken up?
Well, from my personal opinion, I think things haven't really changed over the last 20 years. And it's the—
Haven't changed over the last 20 years, in that there still seems to be this desire to differentiate between economic development and cultural development. And, for me, they're two sides of the same coin.
Well, except that wasn't the case with the economic strategy, which had the creative industries as one of its nine priority areas.
Yes, but I would still say that they were focusing on economic benefits, and not the cultural benefits. And I think that, as a small country, with some amazing stories that haven't yet been told, we should be taking a gamble, and believing that we should be sharing some of our indigenous stories. So, you could ask, is that a cultural priority, or is that an economic priority. And I think that is part of the problem; it's two sides of the same coin.
So, I think it will be interesting to see a situation where there wasn't, say, a silo within the civil service, for example—you know, this is one group who wants to protect because it's culture, and this is another group who wants to protect because it's economic. I think it would be really exciting to see a desire to bring those two together in a more active way, which will allow us to support inward investment, and get more people to use our locations, which we've been doing wonderfully well. But, in the same way, I think we should also be in a position to say, 'Yes, there are some really amazing Welsh stories that haven't made it to the big screen', and we should be investing in those because if we're not willing to gamble on sharing those stories, I can't see why we should go to the international market and ask them to support us.
Okay, so moving forward, and I take that point completely: how do you think the Welsh Government should be approaching this? Is this something that you've discussed with the new Minister for culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas?
I think it's difficult because you're trying to get a relationship between public money and the private sector. So, by its nature, the film industry is going to be wary. It's ravenous because it wants money to invest in projects, but what is the best mechanism? I'd say arm's-length, so I would say an organisation like Ffilm Cymru Wales is in a good position to do the job and I've always thought that a one-stop shop, for example—. If it were left to me, I would say, 'Give the money to a person and give them five years to do a good job', if they do it well, you can ask them to stay for another five years. I think there are issues inherent with committees and that whole process—it's not my money; it's public money—but if it were my money, I'd probably find a really good person who knows what the sector is looking for and say to them, 'Here you go, you've got five years to come back with loads of successful films.'
Agreeing on who this wonderful person is is quite complicated. The media investment budget was obviously focused on things that were commercially viable, which would have the capacity to pay back and to generate funds as well. So, what about the Wales screen fund—has that not been a suitable vehicle for promoting Welsh storytelling?
Yes, I think, again, it's about how you measure the success of your intervention. So, for me, again, I would put equal focus on the cultural side: the festivals globally that the film gets into, the audiences through television, when it gets onto television—I would give equal status to that with also getting your money back.
Okay, but the Wales screen fund is rather different. There you've got to ensure that you're not introducing market distortion, but other than that, if you've got a good creative pitch, why are people not coming forward? Because there is £75 million set aside and, so far, we seem to have spent short of £10 million.
It's an interesting question to ask the sector.
Okay, but you people are working with creative talent, why aren't they pitching for this money?
I would stick to my earlier comments that, if we're talking about Welsh creatives, they are very busy working in television.
Okay, thank you for that. One of our witnesses said that the Welsh Government lacked access to enough expertise to be able to spot what was something worth investing in. Is that something that you would have a view on?
That's a difficult one. I don't think you can just pick up a project and say, 'Oh yeah, that's worth investing in.' I don't think that even your big studios can do that. You have a £200 million Spider-Man film and it tanks at the box office, so I think for Welsh Government to say where it will invest, as a community project or an economic project, it's not a simple decision.
One thing is something that, commercially, is going to fly and previously there was a relationship with Pinewood, but there's a question mark as to whether that's the sort of thing—. That doesn't necessarily tell Welsh stories; it may be good for the economy, bringing in business, but if we're talking about how we're going to develop Welsh storytelling, how are we going to do it? There is money on the table, but it doesn't seem to be being picked up.
I think one of the issues is, if you're asking the civil service to do a job, it's how risk-averse they want to be or not. I think if they're nervous about, 'We've got to be careful how we're investing and what we're going to get back', I would suggest that if a project is that good, you could ask the question, 'Why does it need public money?' That's No. 1, which is why I think what should be amazing about public money, in whatever guise it's been made available, is that it should be used to gamble, to maybe intervene where there is a market failure. So, the idea of supporting maybe something that doesn't get the support elsewhere, that that's what we could be doing. But, it's a big ask, isn't it, to ask civil servants, for example, to be taking on that responsibility? So, I think an element of building in failure and accepting what is the failure rate is huge.
Fair enough, but of the 21 projects the Wales screen fund has backed, only one had repayable conditions attached. So, they weren't having to make those assessments in most cases, it was whether or not it was intrinsically something worth putting money into, and obviously there's no point in putting money into it if it's going to commercially fly anyway.
It's drawing from a very limited pool as well. The natural process, as I've mentioned before, is very excluding, so to get to that point where there is a person or group of people who are drawing on that financial support, that's a very, very small group of people you're drawing from. So, consequently, the stories are going to be limited by virtue of the number of people involved. There needs to be a wider investment in supporting more people to be able to access those sorts of opportunities, because currently the gatekeepers to that money have a very fixed specific view on what those projects should look like. I think, as Berwyn rightly said, some risk taking would be really exciting to see.
So, you want to see more risk taking involved in—
One hundred per cent, yes.
A allaf i jest ofyn cwestiwn fan hyn, Jenny, os yw'n iawn? A ydych chi'n credu bod rhai pobl yn ymwybodol o'r cyllidebau sydd ar gael ac wedyn yn 'iwtileiddio' hynny, a bod eraill efallai ddim yn gwybod o gwbl ac wedyn efallai ddim yn cael yr un fath o gyfleon? Hynny yw, a ydy'r bobl sydd yn rhoi'r arian mas o ran y BFI neu ba bynnag bot o arian, er mor fach yw e, ddim yn ei hybu i'w lawn botensial er mwyn bod mwy o bobl ar draws Cymru yn cael mynediad i'r adnodd hwnnw—yng ngogledd Cymru, efallai, yn fwy nag unrhyw le arall?
Can I just ask a question at this point, if it's okay, Jenny? Do you think that some people are aware of the budgets available and make use of them, and others perhaps aren't aware at all and perhaps don't have the same opportunities? That is, are those people who provide the funding on behalf of the BFI or whatever pot of money it is, however small it may be, not necessarily promoting it to its full potential so that more people across Wales can access the funding and have an opportunity to use it—in north Wales, perhaps, more than anywhere else?
I'd completely agree with what you've just said and I think that echoes what I was saying before about the numbers of people who are accessing. I think that's one of the reasons why there is a lack of access, because people don't have an awareness of it. Certainly, from our experience at Tape, having people coming to the door and asking for support to make their films, or to be involved in film making or meeting other film makers in the area who are struggling who don't have that—. One of our roles as a charity is to support people to make those applications. People find it very difficult and also very excluding. So, I think there does need to be some work done there, absolutely.
On this point, we need to understand the governance of how these funds are executed. For example, from our experience, we approached Chapter as we know Chapter accesses a few funds. We approached Chapter to discuss our festival and we were given an outright response, 'We don't have the capacity.' So, we didn't even have a chance to put that project on the table to understand what we were wanting to discuss. It was a flat out, 'We can't even discuss', and that raises questions about whether these funds are governed properly and whether these gatekeepers—it could be any organisation. Are there mechanisms in place? If you go with your project, the least you want is a fair chance where your project is assessed. That's No. 1. Whether you get the funding or not, that's down to the merit of your project, and obviously there are criteria, but at least you're getting that visibility of the fund. Secondly, is my project being seen by the right people? I think those are the two crucial elements we need to really look into.
I'd agree with that.
I think we've probably covered this subject as far as we can at this time.
Would it be fair to say that all four of you are of the view that whatever money is available at the moment is divided in a way that isn't very helpful to film makers—too much of it goes into the big, high-end pot, and not enough into the development pot? Would that be fair?
Just very generally, obviously. We need both, I think.
Yes, and like Steve and Berwyn said, community projects aren't £1 million projects, they're £100,000 or £150,000. When you go for funding, they say, 'We only support projects over £1 million', but then if a project is £1 million you might not even need public funding, you might go corporate.
I'm just checking that you think the balance is wrong, not that both jobs of work shouldn't be done. Is that fair-ish?
Yes, I think it's—
It's not a critical comment, it's just an observation.
No, I think so. I think for me, there is also the disappointment at the lack of engagement with the sector—the sector isn't coming forward with ideas. But I think also, as well as the television things you've mentioned more than once, it's just a tradition as well. So, if the sector thinks that that fund is for that type of project, and they know that their project doesn't fit into the mould, well, they're not going to bother, are they? So, I think that could change as well: the idea that what they could invest in is broader so, therefore, they've got a greater chance of having interaction with the indigenous sector as well as the international sector, which is crucial.
A quick question: do television commissioners attend your film festivals?
Yes. Do they attend your film festival?
No, ours is more focused on films.
But that doesn't matter, they're looking for talent—they don't come to you?
They haven't come to us actively.
Okay. Neil Hamilton.
Just moving away from money and back to people, for a minute. You gave evidence earlier on, Berwyn, about the tension between tv on one hand and film on the other as something that sucks up the pool of talent that exists. We had a workshop, earlier in the year, for stakeholders—I remember Rahil was at it but I can't remember whether anybody else here this morning was. And one of the outcomes of that was that those who came to it said that the film and tv workforce in Wales needed to be upskilled, that we've had a rapid advance in activity and output of media and creative work in Wales in recent years, and that that has perhaps opened up gaps in the supply market for the skills that are needed in order to serve the existing operators in the market, and is acting perhaps as a bit of a drag on expansion. So, I wonder if you could give us your views on what gaps there are on the production side and the creative side and what we could do to help fill them.
I wouldn't necessarily agree that they need upskilling. I think it's more capacity and it's like feast and famine. We produce about two pieces of work a year, on average, and depending on when we're shooting, it's either going to be very difficult crewing up, because they're all busy working on lots of different projects—. It's kind of like the chicken and egg—you know, at what point can you justify increasing the workforce and those who are capable of benefiting from being involved in the sector? I think it's those two things, and it's always scary, because what you don't want is hundreds and hundreds of people who are not employed twiddling their thumbs.
I would suggest—and it's not my area of expertise—that having to need to use the sector, having the need to crew up and whatnot, is probably more a matter of timing as opposed to upskilling. I think that the skills force we've got—. I wouldn't dream of needing to bring people in, for example, and it's more expensive—you have to put them up in a hotel.
Just to intervene, I think it was evidence we'd received—executive producers, especially women. I think it was Bad Wolf who said about the drop-off, because of life circumstances, and then they're not coming back. So, that was where the skills gap issue was coming from.
On that one, there's a totally different answer—yes. [Laughter.] And that was the case 30 years ago and it's still there—the people who can—. It's a horrible, difficult job going out there looking for money, because it's not like going to a tv commissioner where hopefully they'll fund the whole project; you're looking to find bits here, bits there, and then you're looking to say one thing to one set of funders and another to another set who have other priorities. And at the end of the day, you could be working for maybe a year, two years, or 10 years on getting a project developed and nothing happens. So, you need a special kind of person. I'm not that brave. I have produced, but you've got a mortgage to pay as well. So, I think (a) they're really amazing people and we need more of them, but I think there are encouraging signs with what's happening and some of the work that is taking place by some of our national bodies. But the reality is that it's a horrible, horrible job to do.
You're really selling it there. [Laughter.]
But if you're successful, it's amazing. [Laughter.]
Does anybody else want to comment on that or not? No. I'd just like to go on for a moment, as time is getting on, to—
We've got a bit of flexibility, because it's one person in the next session.
Have we? Right, okay, fine. I want to ask about Creative Skillset Cymru closing down. We had evidence from Faye Hannah, who was the director of Creative Skillset between 2010 and 2014, and she described the closure of Creative Skillset Cymru and its impact as follows:
'Since 2015, screen industries in Wales have experienced a gap in terms of the challenge of joining up, funding and supporting the skills development and the talent pipeline across the board.'
Could you give us your views on whether the closure of Creative Skillset Cymru has created problems in this—?
Catastrophic. I think Faye is accurate—even the fundamental matter of being able to knock on the door and meet somebody in an office and have a conversation, and that they understand Wales and the fact that Wales isn't just Cardiff, but Wales is mid Wales and it's Ynys Môn where I come from. So, purely on that basis it's catastrophic, I would say. It's very disappointing and it would be amazing if they could reconsider that priority, so if there was any way that you could influence—. [Laughter.]
I'm meeting with Gareth Ellis-Unwin next Tuesday, actually, in London, who is the new head of film for Creative Skillset, and he's overseeing the future skills initiative for Creative Skillset, and I'm going to have that conversation with him. Part of that is around setting up centres of excellence and supporting grass-roots film making. I think there's certainly an opportunity for the work that we're doing, around creating an inclusive community production facility, which I don't think exists anywhere else—that as part of their five-year plan, they could come back to Wales and support something like that, alongside centres of excellence, which I understand the need for, but certainly, I think that, again, is an excluding phrase to use and perhaps 'centre of opportunity' would be a better thing to do. And I'm going to have that conversation with him on Tuesday.
Please let us know how you get on.
Can I just ask a question on the back of that? Sorry, have you finished?
It's all right.
It was just to ask whether you think, if there is any public funding available for any of the bits of work that you do, there should be conditions attached to them, connected with—I don't know, raising skills or making sure that local talent, creative and production, is used.
We, for example, have an agreement with Cardiff University, where we have placements. We won't take placements generally, because I believe that you should pay them et cetera, and there are issues of social inclusion and stuff, which bugs me a lot, but students who need to be placed as part of their degree course, we take them on board, so we have three a year. And then we make sure that the percentage of the crews et cetera on productions—that that goes into training et cetera. So, it's kind of in our DNA, really, and I think—
Yes, but that's you, though. There'll be other, as you say, production companies, who may not feel quite so benevolent and would want to take the cheapest way out, if I can put it that way. Or do you think that public money has already got too many conditions attached to it? You were saying earlier that it's quite difficult to get into what's there already.
I don't think conditions would help, but, obviously, it's good to have that ethos, like Berwyn. We do a lot of work around the University of South Wales and placements and volunteers, but I think having hard conditions will only make the application more challenging, because, obviously, a lot of the time your venture is circumstance-driven as well, and then—
And time-driven as well.
Yes, exactly. So, getting someone from outside is not ideal, but sometimes you may have to. So, having those hard blocks would be a detriment, but, definitely, having that ethos of using Welsh talent and supporting Welsh communities definitely should be seen or maybe measured in some way.
I think it depends on the size of the organisation. To begin with, Iris was part of a portfolio of about six projects and there was a core team of about five people, so we were able to process requirements et cetera. But if you were a single person starting a project, or if you were relying on volunteers to run your festival, it's another layer, so I think it depends on who's—
So, it's not the best route to capture skills, through conditions, is what you're saying. That's great. As you can tell, my voice has completely gone now. Thank you.
I think most of the finance questions have been covered that I wanted to explore. Just one particular item, though, and that was in terms of any examples that you've come across, abroad or things that we can learn within Wales. Have you come across anything you think, 'This is a really good idea, why aren't we doing this in Wales?' Is there anything that we could particularly learn from, or could be recommending?
I think all of the—. I don't get to travel as much as people think I get to travel, but one of the things I have noticed is that of our partner festivals—those that are successful will do more than just the festival. There will be all-round activities, so they will be doing local outreach work and education work. More and more of them are looking at facilitating and supporting film making through economic development initiatives. So, I've just come back from Toronto where they've added two days to the beginning of their festival, which was specifically looking at financing. So, they invited people to pitch their ideas. They chose eight projects and then they had two days of direct access to international funders who had experience in LGBT content, and I was able to negotiate. So, next year, Iris will be choosing a co-production that will automatically go into that two-day project in Toronto. So, I think, to answer your question, arallgyfeirio—diversifying—and not becoming reliant on that audience member who's getting older and older and older, and realising that we need to go out there.
I just have a question. You were saying about getting funding and such. Would it be an idea for film festivals to get together to—? I know, Berwyn, you were saying you create your own fund, and I think, Steve, you were saying you were making your own film. I mean, we're saying there are lots of pots of money. Would there be a situation whereby film festivals could be that pot in and of themselves—whether that could work collectively, so that if there was the media investment budget, which we know is out of reach for lots of people, and you've got Ffilm Cymru that serves a certain purpose, and then we're talking about this middle ground—? Could there be something that film festivals could add to creating the availability of funding for those Welsh and Welsh language productions, and would that be quite difficult to orchestrate? I'm just think—you know, the tendency is to ask Welsh Government, 'Can you create a new pot?' Is there another way of doing it, as opposed to going cap in hand and saying, 'Please give us more?' I'm just thinking off the top of my head here.
I think there is scope for greater co-operation. For example, we sponsor Cardiff Mini Film Festival, which happens later this month, which basically means we give them a desk and some support. I'm on the board of Wales One World Film Festival, again in my free time. We've met with the Italian Film Festival Cardiff and offered advice there. So, I think there's a practical thing we can do together, because I don't think—. There is a tendency—because the amount of money available is quite small, so everybody kind of thinks we're after the same money so we're going to be fighting each other, but I think there is a different way, and I think there are examples where it is happening. So, yes, I think your idea that it could happen in other areas, i.e. supporting production or whatever, or initiatives—that's beginning to happen as well. So, yes.
Okay. And then just to finish now on non-commercial—. I mean, you've been talking lots about public funding. Would you think that, if you got core funding from Welsh Government or from whatever, you could then not rely on that in future years, if you could get enough commercial funding? Are there enough businesses or philanthropists out there that are willing to invest in film festivals, or is it something that they might not see worthy of supporting, or have they just not been asked, or—?
It's one of the dangers, I think, in that, yes, there is. It is horrendously difficult at the moment. Iris started in 2006, the first festival was in 2007, and something quite catastrophic happened in 2008, which everybody was dealing with. But I think the issue with Iris—one of the wonderful things about the major events unit is they make it very clear with their intervention over three years that they want to see you bringing in extra funding, and we've managed to reach that. So, we had another three years and we're getting up to that level. So, the danger, or my concern, if that's the right word, is that we've reached a plateau. So, we've got turnover of, say, £250,000 a year, or whatever it is. Now then, if there's a desire to see Iris go that next step, to the next level, which makes it sound like a reality TV show, but, if people felt that that was the natural process, can the sector in Wales, and the UK—you know, are there mechanisms to allow it to go up to that next level? So, I would say I would be a bit devastated if—you know, public investment to begin with, you bring in private sector, but, if you bring in private sector with the intention of just taking away the public sector, I could just see the whole thing collapsing. What I'd be interested in is that investment from public sector goes up, and then with the private sector it goes even further up. And that model—. But I know, within the sector at the moment in Wales, there isn't that much money. So, it's very difficult, I would imagine, for some of the organisations that would like to join Iris on the journey to be able to do that, and it's something we're looking at.
I think there's definitely a strong appetite from corporates to fund international events, definitely. But, like Berwyn said, you have to have that infrastructure, backbone funding, and that will help you elevate to the next level. The risk is that if your backbone funding is taken off then you don't have the resources to invest, to reach out to the corporate. So, yes, it's a—.
Yes, same for us as well, yes. It would be nice to have that public funding to start, to encourage the private investment to come in then on top of that, yes.
We had lottery money for our festival, the first two years of it. And it was a significant amount—we were able to employ people, and the hope was that we would be able to draw in that sort of investment. It is incredibly difficult, because we didn't have a track record, and also there was an expectation of what the film festival should be—people having a very specific view on what they would be investing in. And because there wasn't a competitive element, because there wasn't a lot of the usual trappings of a film festival, people shied away from that, because it wasn't as attractive.
In the beginning, the whole thing about Iris, for example, going back to the beginning—it was built on the back of my love of curry, and curry awards and the fact that we had—
We share that interest.
—a corporate video department. So, we were creating lots of activities, which was allowing me to indulge—as Siân suggested—my pet project. And then there came a point when the pet project was demanding more and more attention, so we literally got rid of everything and focused. But, for about five years, there was a commercial company responsible for allowing Iris to grow.
Well, diolch yn fawr iawn—thank you all for coming. Diolch yn fawr iawn. I think it's been really good to hear all of your experiences, and good luck with your projects, or endeavours, in the future.
Byddwn ni'n cysylltu o ran unrhyw wybodaeth ychwanegol sydd ei hangen oddi wrthoch chi, ond diolch yn fawr iawn i chi heddiw am ddod mewn atom.
Rydym ni yn mynd i gael seibiant o gwpwl o funudau.
We will contact you in relation to any further information we need from you, but thank you for joining us this morning.
We will take a few minutes' break now.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:43 a 10:52.
The meeting adjourned between 10:43 and 10:52.
Rydym ni'n symud ymlaen yn awr felly at eitem 3 ar yr agenda, cynyrchiadau ffilm a theledu mawr yng Nghymru, sesiwn dystiolaeth 13. Y tyst heddiw, nid tystion, yw Simon Curtis, trefnydd cenedlaethol a rhanbarthol Cymru a de-orllewin Lloegr, Equity. Croeso yma heddiw. Fel arfer rydym ni yn gofyn cwestiynau—rwy'n siŵr eich bod yn gwybod erbyn nawr—ar themâu gwahanol. Felly, byddwn ni'n cychwyn gyda chwestiynau, os yw hynny'n iawn. Byddaf i'n cychwyn: beth yw eich barn chi ynglŷn â'r sefyllfa ffilm yng Nghymru ac ar draws Prydain ar hyn o bryd o ran a ydy'n llwyddiannus, a oes yna le iddo wella a datblygu—beth yw'ch barn gyffredinol yn hynny o beth?
We move on, therefore, to item 3 on the agenda, film and major television production in Wales, evidence session 13. The witness today, not witnesses, is Simon Curtis, national and regional organiser Wales and south-west England, Equity. Welcome today. As usual, we have questions—I'm sure you know by now—on different themes. So, we'll start with questions, if that's okay. I will start: what is your view on the health of film in Wales and the UK at the moment? Is it successful, is there room for improvement and for it to develop—what is your general view on that?
I think, for a general view, it's incredibly healthy. Obviously, there's a great deal of production, and a lot of production is being brought to this country with investment, which means that, actually, it's probably in quite a healthy state. Obviously, we have issues within Wales, because it's coming here but it's not necessarily making the impact to our members who live and work here. But certainly I think it's in a healthy state.
Rwy'n cymryd o hynny y byddech chi'n mynd ymlaen i ddweud tamaid bach ynglŷn â sut nad yw, efallai, yn effeithio ar eich aelodau yng Nghymru, ond gwnaf i adael hynny i Aelodau eraill. O ran strategaethau a bargen sector diwydiannau creadigol y Deyrnas Unedig, a ydych chi wedi cael mewnbwn i'r strategaeth honno a beth ydych chi'n credu am hynny?
I take it from that that you'll go on to tell us a little bit about how it's not affecting your members in Wales, but I'll leave that to other Members. In terms of strategies and the UK's creative industries sector deal, have you had any input into that strategy and what is your view of that?
We've had some input. We obviously have a Westminster parliamentary cross-party group, which meets regularly with MPs, that has fed into that arena and fed into that conversation. So, we've been involved in that discussion, but obviously—. It's not something that I do personally, but, as a union, that's something that we've done.
A beth am yr ongl Gymreig wedyn? A ydych chi’n credu bod yna le i Lywodraeth Cymru gael mewnbwn i hynny—i’r strategaeth Brydeinig—neu a ydych chi’n credu dylen nhw fod yn gwneud rhywbeth ar wahân, neu—?
And what about the Welsh angle? Do you think there is room for the Welsh Government to have an input into that UK strategy, or do you think they should be doing something differently as a Government?
Well, I think if they're making their own direct investment, I think they potentially should be looking at forming their own strategy for it. If they are going to be providing that kind of investment to bring film and television here, then, really, they shouldn't be necessarily relying on a UK-wide strategy. But, obviously, there will be examples of where they need to look at cross-border partnerships, obviously because some films do just come here for the location. They will film potentially outside of Wales, but they will come here for certain parts of the location. So, there will need to be some cross-over.
A beth am ffilmiau sydd yn cael eu creu yn yr iaith Gymraeg? A ydych chi’n credu bod hynny’n rhywbeth sydd yn digwydd yn llwyddiannus ar hyn o bryd? Gwnaethom ni glywed gan y gwyliau ffilm yn flaenorol, ac maen nhw’n stryglo i gael ffilmiau iaith Gymraeg i roi ceisiadau gerbron eu gwyliau. A ydych chi’n credu bod hynny’n rhywbeth sydd yn broblemataidd?
And what about films that are produced in the Welsh language? Do you think that that is something that is successful at the moment? We heard from the film festival representatives previously, and they're struggling to attract Welsh language films to be shown in their festivals. Do you think that is a problematic issue?
I think it is. I think, realistically, when you've really only got one real commissioner of films—. You know, S4C are commissioning the films to look for—looking back at a couple of examples that I can't remember off the top of my head, but, you know, S4C have been the predominant producer of those. But, as their funding has been cut, they've made less commitment to that.
But I think there is a struggle, because I think there's a misunderstanding of the market. I think there is a market for Welsh language productions—I think Hinterland has shown that—and that has grown over the last four, five years. Actually, it's become more accessible for people. I saw in somebody else's evidence, looking at the most popular series on Netflix and streaming channels, you find people willing more and more now to watch something with subtitles. So, actually, I think it's something that should be encouraged, but I think that initial step to get it done, there's the worry.
We were involved in discussions with Hinterland when it first started; we were looking at the Welsh language DVD, for example. There was no interest from the commercial producer involved in the funding for Hinterland to even include the Welsh language version of the programme in a DVD release; there just wasn't an interest. We then have to have quite quick catch-up conversations because all of a sudden—looking at series two and three, of course, there was much more interest in it, because people were finding it much more accessible. So, actually, there was a worry within the commercial market that it just won't be sellable. But, actually, I think that's changed dramatically.
Obviously, it's very difficult if you're trying to sell, essentially, two products, especially if you're doing it bilingually, into the same market, but, if you are looking at specifically just a Welsh language version of a film, there is a market for that, I think, as long as you've got the—I heard the previous evidence—as long as you take that risk. There is a risk involved in that, because it's not something necessarily that will have that initial take-up, but I think there has to be a sense that, actually, there is a market for that information, there is a market for that kind of product, and, actually, it just has to be put out there to try and get that audience.
Jest i fod yn devil’s advocate, a ydych chi’n credu efallai ei bod hi’n broblem mae Cymru yn ei gweld yn fwy amlwg na gwledydd tramor? Er enghraifft, mae pobl yn meddwl bod Cymru ym Mhrydain ac felly mae’r iaith Gymraeg yn cael ei hisraddio rhywfaint. Y cyd-destun yw, ar gyfer Walter Presents, rwyf i ar ddeall bod rhai cwmnïau ffilmiau Cymreig wedi mynd at Walter Presents gan eisiau rhoi eu ffilm, neu eu rhaglen, ar hynny ac maen nhw wedi dweud wrthyn nhw nad ydyn nhw yn ddigon 'tramor' i roi ar Walter Presents, ond ddim yn ddigon lleol, wedyn, i fynd ar BBC Dau neu BBC Pedwar. Felly, mae’n wahanol i iaith neu i wlad arall yn Ewrop, efallai—rydw i ar ddeall bod yna leiafrifoedd hefyd yn Ewrop, ond efallai bod yna issue gwahanol i Gymru wedyn, oherwydd mae pobl yn dweud, 'Wel, rydych chi jest yn gallu ei wneud e’n Saesneg, pam nad ydych chi'n gwneud hynny?', achos mae gwneud e yn Gymraeg yn ei gwneud hi'n fwy anodd, wedyn, iddyn nhw gyrraedd platfformau y mae ieithoedd eraill yn eu cyrraedd. Nid wyf yn gwybod os ŷch chi'n deall y cwestiwn.
But, just to be a devil's advocate, do you think that it's a problem that Wales sees more clearly than other countries abroad? For example, people think that Wales is in the UK and then the Welsh language is downgraded somewhat. The context is that, for Walter Presents, I understand that some Welsh film companies went to Walter Presents wanting to put their film or their programme on that, and they've been told that they're not foreign enough to be put on Walter Presents, but not local enough, then, to go on BBC Two or BBC Four. So, it is different to another language or country in Europe, perhaps—I understand that there are minorities in Europe as well, but perhaps there is a different issue for Wales, then, because people say, 'You can just do it in English, why don't you do that?', because doing it in Welsh makes it more difficult, then, to reach other platforms that other languages reach. I don't know if you understand the question.
I think there are difficulties, because it's—. I think you're right. In a way, if you present it in two languages, essentially the more sellable version is going to be the version that they think will be more accessible. But actually, we've heard arguments—and obviously, our members argue quite strongly—that, for some of the productions that are produced bilingually, the better version is in the Welsh language, because that's how it was commissioned. You know, you look at the English language version of Hinterland—I know I keep going back to it—for example. Initially, there were just going to be the two versions—the English version and the Welsh version—and then it was decided to make this hybrid version to try and make it slightly more reflective and representative of Wales itself in the fact that characters who would converse in Welsh conversed in Welsh in the show. That does prove a challenge, but actually, if that is the better version, the best version of the show—. I suppose it has to be a sense of courage—I think that's the wrong word—but courage in the fact that actually, drama will work in that language and then it's using the success of those programmes to promote further productions like that. It's building up that momentum.
There isn't necessarily a great archive of material. There is, but it's not necessarily accessible straightaway, and perhaps an initiative to get out almost a back catalogue and show the quality of the drama is necessary to then promote off the back of that to show, actually, that that—. You look at the viewing figures of Keeping Faith, for example, you know, they're quite small in the Welsh language, but actually, the English language version is more accessible and again, there's an argument that the Welsh language version, potentially, is the better version, again, because it was commissioned in that language. So, it's tricky to balance both parts of it, but I think there's more work that needs to be done.
Following on from that, on the quality—. Because it seems to me that quality is what wins, ultimately, looking around at what's happening around Europe in particular. I mean, Salamander in Flemish—there are probably fewer Flemish speakers than Welsh speakers, I don't know—but it's incredibly successful, and you see all the other ones that are coming through. Is the mistake that we seem to be the only country that's trying to produce in two different languages as opposed to saying, 'This is the quality version we have' and that it's perfectly acceptable, however you do it? And the quality is what—. I mean, is there a problem that perhaps it's the perspective or the confidence in the Welsh language element that is the weakness and we're learning that lesson now that that isn't really what counts?
I think, speaking personally, there's sometimes a sense that the Welsh language is a regional programme, and actually I don't think that's the case. It's the fact that you look at the quality of the drama that's produced in the Welsh language in particular, and it will hold its own. I'm not a Welsh speaker, but I would quite happily watch a Welsh language drama with the subtitles on, because it holds the same sort of quality as something in the English language. As you say, something like Salamander, I'd quite happily watch, but I think there's an accessibility problem in that people have traditionally looked at subtitled films—. It's always been pushed into the, 'Oh, it's world cinema', or that, you know, it's a very niche market, but actually, I don't think that's the case. It is making the case, and, I think, believing in it. There's a sense that, 'We'll make the Welsh language version, but we've got to make an English language version as well, because otherwise nobody's going to watch it', and I don't think that's the case.
Can I follow on from that? Cross-European co-operation has been quite significant in terms of the way media has developed over the past couple of decades. And, of course, things like Hinterland, for example—most of the Welsh productions have received some degrees of funding almost automatically from the European funds. That's now going to go. Do you have any concerns about what the impact is of that? And also, I suppose, with your members, particularly members in Wales who not only perform within Wales but travel around Europe to perform as well, are those issues having an impact, potentially, on the industry in Wales?
Well, I think we have issues with that, for all of our members. You know, we have the ability to move freely throughout Europe. It's a major issue. We've already seen, and our members have already reported to us, that the opportunities are drying up. They are not being offered the opportunities necessarily, because there's the uncertainty. Certainly, again in a very niche market, but looking at our members who work in the opera field, realistically, opera performers will be booked three or four years in advance for UK-based residents. They're finding actually that they're not being booked, because they don't know yet what the visa situation might be, because there's no information about it. But, again, following on from your point, there's also an issue then with the funding. A lot of that funding flows in, and, again, there's uncertainty with regard to that. But the free movement is a massive issue for us, and we are campaigning actively on it, but we are seemingly quite close to going over the cliff, but we have no clear guidance as to what our members will be able to do. It will potentially limit their travel opportunities and their working opportunities. When you look at something like War & Peace, it was filmed almost exclusively in the EU, and a lot of our members worked on that production. But there is uncertainty then as to whether they would continue to be able to work on that production, or whether there would be obstacles.
I presume that all applies the same—. I know the Musicians' Union have similar issues, and, presumably, those in BECTU who are now within Prospect and so on. So, do you work closely with them? Do you work in conjunction with some of the European equivalent unions?
We do. There's FIA, which is actually the world organisation for creative unions. We work within that. So, we do a lot of work, within the UK and within the Federation of Entertainment Unions as well. So, we do do a lot of work with all the other unions. But, you know, it's pushing and pushing to find answers, but they just don't exist.
And for the Welsh film industry, presumably it's almost like a double whammy, isn't it?
So you're concerned that the EU will impose restrictions on free movement.
Well, we don't know. And that's the uncertainty—that we are looking at a scenario where we will not know whether somebody will be able to get a visa for Europe, or whether they will need to get a visa for each individual country within Europe. If you're going to work in America, you have to get a working visa. That's understood. If companies want our members to work there, that's part of the process. But quite a lot of the booking of our members and the engagement of our members is done at fairly short notice, and if they've got to go through a visa application, that is a further obstacle.
But you wouldn't have to do that for each country within the EU, because there's a single market, and free movement within the EU is obviously at the essence of the whole thing. So, I mean, that's a nonsense.
But we don't know that.
Yes you do. Of course you do.
Well, we don't know what's happening. We're veering off the subject slightly, but, you know, we—
Well, you raised it, not me.
Well, yes, but it's an issue we're facing. There is no clarity as to what that will be.
But there is absolute clarity on the free movement situation within the EU. That's not going to change as a result of Britain leaving it.
We'll leave that for another committee, I think. But thank you.
Mick, did you want to ask about the studios and the—?
Well, I was going to ask about some of the facilities and so on that are around, and the adequacy of those and your engagement with them. I was just wondering whether you had any general comments there.
We've had engagement. The majority of our engagement is through visiting our members working in those environments. Obviously, we have a lot of engagement with those studios at Roath Lock. We've visited a couple of productions at Bad Wolf, and, obviously, the Bay Studios in Swansea as well. Generally, we've visited when productions have been up and running. But, generally, you know, we normally find in film studio environments that the issues are generally temperature related. That's whether it's either too warm or too cold. But, generally, the provision seems to be that there are enough studios there. I think there is a slight criticism in the fact that, within the Roath Lock studios, which were going to be a drama village, when Casualty—. Casualty is almost permanent. Well, it is permanent. Pobol is permanent. So, when Doctor Who is in situ, it is full. There is no additional capacity. So, they do have to then go elsewhere to film, which does seem a slight oddity in the fact that they don't have that spare capacity. Seemingly, if Doctor Who is then running for the majority of the year, that is just what happens at the studio, and there's no flexibility to bring other stuff in. So, it does have a limitation there, but, obviously, there is now spare capacity elsewhere.
So, how is the Welsh industry—? You obviously represent members within Wales and also into the south-west, and we understand about the overlap and so on. We've had quite a lot of information earlier on about the extent of the growth of the industry within Wales. There still seems to be, relatively, compared to developments within London and within the rest of the UK—it's still very, very small. What is it that's holding back the Welsh film industry from being able to move up to another level, and where do issues that are raised alongside that, with Welsh actors, for example, being able to perform, being able to get placements, almost as though there was a bar to Wales and the Welsh accent, and it's not quite recognised in the same way—? Are those things that your members raise with you?
Not as specific as that. I would say, actually, that the number of studios that I have within Wales, by comparison to the south-west—it's a massive improvement. Realistically, production facilities stop at Bristol in the south-west. There are no facilities past Bristol. So, you have the Bottle Yard, which Bristol City Council invested in, which houses Poldark, but, actually, there are no production facilities anywhere further down the south-west. They use it as a location. I think, with regard to the Welsh language side of things, we tend to see that the majority of those will be out on location. They will find a location. So, they tend not to be studios. Apart from Rownd a Rownd, which, again, has its permanent set, you will find, I suppose, specifically, that they will be on location somewhere, rather than housed in a particular studio.
Gan droi at gefnogaeth Llywodraeth Cymru, ac yn benodol y gyllideb buddsoddi yn y cyfryngau, a ydych chi'n credu bod y gyllideb yna yn effeithiol?
In turning now to Welsh Government support, and specifically the media investment budget, do you think that that budget is effective?
Well, I think, on the one hand, we would welcome any investment. Obviously, from the evidence we've put in front of you, as I drew attention to earlier, I think it's great that there is an investment. For us, I think there's an issue with regard to actually what benefit that has to our members working here. We find specifically that the opportunities—the three examples I quoted in the evidence we presented—are limited. So, if investment is given to a company, especially if they're based outside of Wales, there is the fact that they will potentially audition out of Wales. They won't come here for local casting, they won't engage local casting professionals, which then presents a barrier. If you're going to larger agencies, for example, that are based in London, they're not going to know what the local talent is. And the issues raised by our members are very much that it's great seeing the productions coming here, and there's obviously a great amount of publicity surrounding some of them—looking at the three examples I quoted, very good productions were brought here with investment—but, anecdotally, we are finding that our members are not finding the opportunities to—. We're not looking, necessarily, that they will just be cast from here, but it's getting people that live and work here in the room to be considered. That's not happening. That is what we're being told, and that is a major frustration.
A oes gennych chi dystiolaeth benodol yn ogystal â'r straeon anecdotal a'r tair enghraifft gennych chi? A ydych chi wedi gallu gwneud ymchwil penodol i drio darlunio beth ydy maint y broblem yma?
Do you have any specific evidence as well as the anecdotes and the three examples that you referred to? Have you carried out any specific research to try and identify the scale of this problem?
It's tricky, because obviously we don't know—we can't gauge who gets auditioned, who goes to a casting. We don't see the information at that point. What we see is the people on screen. So, we've had to rely on agents providing us with the information about how many of their clients are being seen. Again, it's difficult to delve into that further because we don't want to start being specific. I think you'd start to identify certain people within those agencies, and I don't think it's right to identify specific agencies and specific members. But it is a growing problem. I've been in this job for six years, and we've had a Cast in Wales campaign for six years. Fine, some of it is governed by the Ofcom definitions, which some companies will hide behind, and we're hoping that they may change this year, but certainly local casting, the ability to be seen for a production that's being made here and, I suppose, more importantly, being funded from here, are the complaints we get back from our members. So, it's individual sort of feedback.
Maybe the agents aren't being proactive enough. Maybe the actors themselves aren't good enough. [Laughter.]
I'll answer the first part of that question first.
I'm being a devil's advocate, obviously.
I mean: I don't think that at all.
No, neither do I, obviously, but I think, on the first aspect, certainly the agents we talked to, I think they would disagree with that. They only get paid when their clients work. So, if their client is out of work, they're not earning any commission. So, the incentive is the fact that—. If they can't get in the door, because the casting director is unaware or not engaging with agencies based here—
But why are they not doing that? Is it an old boys' network kind of thing?
I think it's a case of the fact that I think there's a sense that there isn't any talent there. I think that's a sweeping generalisation, but it sort of goes to your second point—the fact that, 'Well, we don't need to go there because the people we need, we can find in London or we can find in and around the south-east.' Going back to your second point, as you were playing devil's advocate, I think it's the ability to get into the room; then you leave it up to their talent. If they have the ability to audition, then it is up to that individual actor to put themselves forward in the best way possible, but they're not getting that opportunity. So, it's difficult to be able to judge whether they are or aren't right for it, if they're not having those opportunities.
So, should there be a quota introduced on productions based in Wales—that they have to take on a certain number of Welsh actors to get the grant funding from Government?
I think it would be troubling. The Ofcom definitions basically exclude on-screen talent for a very specific reason and the fact, when you look at it, that talent is portable. So, that's the way that that was set up. That has proved to be a barrier because actually, now, within London it's becoming almost impossible to live there and work there because of the higher housing costs. So, actually, people aren't as flexible or as portable as they used to be. So, it does prove difficult because there's almost—it's not a complete exodus, but I think there's a sense that, 'If we can basically find all the talent we need if we walk out of the door in London and go, "We're doing a production of something", we don't need to look further ahead.'
There are issues with the amount of time given by the production to the casting director to say, 'Well, we need to find a cast in the next week.' They will instantly and automatically go to the agents that they know, and that they know can find people fast. If there's not a leeway between the green light and the start of production to say, 'We need to do a proper search. We need to look for—.' That goes some way towards the diversity question as well—the fact that when a production came here, we got phoned and they said, 'We want to increase the diversity of people that we have on screen but we don't know where to look. Can you help us?' But, the problem is that they need it to happen instantly, and it doesn't happen like that. You need to work with the local casting directors, and there are local casting directors within Wales. You need to work with the line producers and assistant directors who will know the places to go.
So, I don't think an on-screen quota would work, necessarily, because it's putting a restriction. I think if you're looking at it from a perspective of a quota as to how many casting sessions they hold in the production base—. It is slightly farcical when we get reports of our members on a train to London, they meet up with each other, they find that there are 20 of their friends on the same train, and they find they're going to the same casting to meet one person, and they're all coming from a specific area. It's difficult. It has an economic impact as well, because obviously they're having to fund that travel, and that provides another barrier.
Can I just bring Jenny in quickly on this exact point?
You make a lot of play in your submission about the lack of casting facilities in Wales. What do casting facilities look like that can't be provided for in a temporarily vacant production lot?
The BBC generally, they have a casting facility at Elstree. They have a casting office where they have the casting manager—
Which is a person in a room with a phone and a computer. Well, I could do that in my house.
Yes, but they didn't provide that facility, because the way that the BBC cast it is that the people have to go to London to cast.
Okay. So it's not a lack of a physical place where people can look down on somebody acting it out.
There are meeting rooms and stuff, but there wasn't an actual focus given to say, 'Right, okay. We're going to have a casting office.' They have the facility to cast there, but they choose to send people to London to cast at Elstree, because—
Okay. Well, that might change, with all the other issues you mentioned around housing costs in London, and commercial rents in London.
It hasn't changed yet. There are small changes, but—
There might be an opportunity here, though.
We keep hoping. We push—. The Casting Directors' Guild have just released a code of conduct that is now actively encouraging their guild members to cast within the production base, but essentially they are just guidelines. There's no—
There's no obligation to do it. It's just the case that, when you're considering casting, you should do it in the base where you're producing.
I was just amazed—that was the first time I'd heard of the Casting Directors' Guild, and the fact there was a code. It seems to be something that's actually really quite important. I'm learning all the time.
But in terms of specific recommendations that we could bring, in terms of what we might recommend to Government, or in terms of the approach to the industry generally, if there were two or three specific things that you thought would make a difference in changing that situation, what would they be?
I think it is providing an opportunity for local talent to audition in the venue in which the production is going to be based. It sounds very simplistic, and it's not saying that they all have to be here, but I think an active interest in actually wanting to find locally based talent, and to get them in the room.
What could Welsh Government do that would promote that?
I suppose, unfortunately, it would boil down to conditions. It would be a condition that there is a number of casting sessions. It's the recommendation we've made to Ofcom as to how they change their definitions. We've given two options: either to remove the restriction of on-screen talent, which I think would be problematic, but we have to look at the fact that it's just excluded; or the other option is to provide conditions, that they have to have a certain number of local casting sessions, and work with local casting directors. If it's a London-based casting director, they have to engage and work with a locally based casting director to find the local talent.
Lastly from me, just going on to Ffilm Cymru: has Ffilm Cymru got a role in this now, in developing local Welsh talent?
We don't do an awful lot of work with them, so I can't comment specifically as to what they do. But I suppose it's the same aspect. It's the time. I know the It's My Shout project does a lot of work reaching out, going into local communities and finding young people and engaging with them. But there isn't really somewhere for that to progress. Our issue, with a very small 'i', is the fact that it's unpaid. So, they get involved in a production, it's on S4C and it's on the BBC, and they have their festival and they have films, and it's a great encouragement for somebody being involved in the creative industries, but there is then not a progression necessarily as to show them that, actually, it's a career; it's not just something they potentially do every year for a couple of weeks and get involved in a film. It's the fact that, actually, there is the ability to get paid.
On the one hand, it's a very good project in the fact that it does encourage that engagement with local talent and finding new talent, and working on diversity. I think there's just a problem as to how you then engage those people into the industry, that pathway, because it's difficult from an acting perspective because, of course, you can't necessarily have an apprentice. You can't serve an apprenticeship. You're either good enough or you're not. It's very difficult to say, 'You're going to come along, we're going to give you an apprentice wage.' The fact is whether they are good enough to be in a film. So, it's very difficult to find that journey, then the accessibility of what happens when they get that bug of wanting to get involved, that it doesn't just become something that they do for free.
Can I just ask: I'm wondering why you said you don't work that closely with Ffilm Cymru. If that's the place where people go as the more accessible place for funding, and they are funding, according to what they tell us, quite a lot of films, surely they could be helping you to identify the talent that then goes on to take part in some of the larger productions that are happening in Wales, or does it not work that way?