The rise of the Welsh TV and film industry over the last decade has been little short of astonishing. The world’s film-makers are flocking here to exploit the gorgeous locations and a rich seam of local expertise. At the same time, Welsh talent is creating its own homegrown drama, and exporting it to the world.
“We’ve had an incredibly busy year,” says Ed Talfan, the creative director of Cardiff-based Severn Screen. “We produced eight hours of drama for S4C, BBC and All3Media, a two hour film for Netflix, and we’re now in post-production on a 90-minute film for BBC Films. That the vast majority of this content was developed, filmed and post-produced here is testimony to the underlying strength of the industry in Wales. Having so much talent on our doorstep has been instrumental in creating new creative opportunities.”
Ed was a co-creator of the crime drama Hinterland/Y Gwyll, a moody whodunnit that was shot back-to-back in English and Welsh. Distributed by All3Media International, the series was shown by networks across Europe and, via Netflix, worldwide.
“Hinterland was born out of a simple idea that every country should have a detective show to call its own,” says Ed. “But that wasn’t the only motivation,” he adds. “Ultimately you’re driven by a desire to tell stories. And if those stories can reach an appreciative audience both locally and internationally, then all the better.”
Severn Screen’s new series, Craith/Hidden, was also shot bilingually, with a steady eye on the international market. The series is backed by BBC Wales and S4C and is being sold internationally by All3Media International.
Dark thriller Apostle, written and directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid), was co-produced with US-based XYZ Films and with the support of the Welsh Government. The film was shot entirely on location in south Wales and will premiere on Netflix in 2018.
Meanwhile, the BBC continues to produce high-quality drama from its Roath Lock base. Wolf Studios Wales, a vast new complex in Cardiff Bay, is home to Sky One’s fantasy series A Discovery of Witches and the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
The investment in Welsh film is paying rich dividends, says Ed: “The Welsh Government has been hugely supportive to a lot of companies that are trying to make ambitious work and also, importantly, to companies that are looking to put down roots here.”
Another example: Sky Atlantic’s historical epic Britannia was filmed in several Welsh beauty spots. Some viewers were baffled by the ‘mystical’ language spoken by its druid characters. But we weren't. They were speaking Welsh, obviously.