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July 27, 2015

How much of the UK film industry is based in London?

James Bond plays a big part in the UK film industryI spent much of last week in deepest, darkest Somerset away from cities, screens and mobile signal – bliss.  While there I was grilled by a recent media graduate as to how he can improve his chances of employment in the film industry.  I told him of my previous research into the two most important things for film wannabes (i.e. a driving licence and a “concise” CV) and so the conversation turned to location.  Did he have to move to London to get ahead in film?

I agreed to look at what the numbers tell us about the location of the UK film industry.  In summary…

  • London has 13% of the UK’s population but 55% of the UK’s film companies
  • London and the South East account for 67% of jobs in the film and video production sector
  • The exhibition sector is far more geographically-diverse than the other sectors (production, post-production and distribution)
  • London has 13% of the UK population but 16% of the cinema screens

You don’t have to live in London…

Before I go through the numbers, it’s worth noting that all regions of the UK have film activity and each has a dedicated regional public body to provide funding, training and support.  The larger bodies are Creative EnglandCreative ScotlandFilm Agency for WalesNorthern Ireland Screen and Film London with more localised support coming from Northern Film & MediaScreen South and Screen Yorkshire.  Non-region specific support can also come from British Film Commission and Creative Skillset.

Often the most authentic stories are told by regional filmmakers; if every filmmaker told stories from the point of view of a Londoner then we would have fewer Billy Elliots and more Danny Dyers.  

… but London is where most of the UK film industry works

London has 13% of the UK population but is home to 55% of the UK’s film companies.

UK population and UK film companies by region 2014

Sadly, the BFI and the Office for National Statistics don’t give us enough data to know exactly how many people work in film just in London. However, we do know that in 2013 London and the South East accounted for 67% of jobs in the film and video production sector (across all sectors, London and the South East account for 28% of UK jobs).

Unless you want to work in exhibition

The vast majority of companies involved in film production, post-production and distribution are concentrated in London and the South East, whereas the exhibition sector is much more geographically diverse.

Location of companies in the UK film industry 2013

This makes sense as the whole of the UK enjoys watching movies and cinemas need to be local.  That’s not to say that London isn’t over-represented; London has 13% of the UK population but 16% of the cinema screens.

UK population and cinema screens by region 2013

Part of this may be down to the fact that the average Londoner goes to the cinema more often than the average Yorkshireman (3.3 times per year compared with 2.2 in Yorkshire).

Average number of visits to the cinema during 2013 by region

The data today came in large part from the BFI, and also from Dodona Research, Office for National Statistics, Beacon Dodsworth and Cinema Advertising Association.

Epilogue

These figures might come across as either good or bad news, probably depending on where you live.  The only thing they tell us for sure is that there are far more film productions in and around London than there are in the regions.  If you’re starting out in the film industry and wish to be employed as a crew member then this may affect your decision as to where you choose to live.  

But, before you upset your mother by moving away, get in touch with your local film body and see what they recommend. 

Contact details…

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