TBI Weekly: Reflecting on Wales & its global future

Keeping Faith

Wales has been home to shows ranging from Doctor Who and Torchwood to Keeping Faith and the upcoming Lost Boys And Fairies. Nick Edwards reports back from the Wales Screen Summit on how the country has developed its scripted business and why its future is by no means clear.

In contrast to the mood of attendees at the major European TV festivals this year, delegates at the Wales Screen Summit were decidedly upbeat.

The Welsh industry is experiencing a boom for all the reasons the more well-known markets are not – Netflix recently launched its first Welsh-language drama, S4C’s Dal y Mellt (aka Rough Cut) around the world. But what’s next?

The new sexy – PSBs

Global SVOD’s have tended to overshadow public service broadcasters over recent years but the allure of safer harbours in stormy waters of streaming is clear.  Nick Andrews, head of commissioning at BBC Cymru, acknowledged that “budgets are tight” but added that in uncertain times the attraction of working with ‘sexy’ global streamers is being replaced by the security of working with long-established PSB’s and commercial channels. The perception that Wales should be “grateful for crumbs,” as Emyr Afan, the summit’s director (and CEO of Afanti), described in his opening address, has long gone. It is perhaps because Wales was forgotten for so many years that its legacy outlets, which include BBC and ITV Cymru/Wales, and the Welsh-language channel S4C, now provide such a tenacious backbone to the thriving Welsh eco system.

Big beasts circle

The health of the industry today can largely be traced back to the decision by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner (with showrunner Russell T Davies) to base the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who in Cardiff. Sherlock, Torchwood, Casualty and Merlin soon followed. Sony Pictures Television’s Cardiff-based prodco Bad Wolf (founded by Tranter and Gardner) is behind countless productions for the likes of HBO, AMC, BBC and Sky. Welsh actor Michael Sheen’s production company is also based here (his new series for the BBC, The Way, is set to be filmed in Port Talbot later this year). Other big productions shot in Wales this year include Disney+ and Lucasfilm’s TV remake of the 80’s film Willow. Talk of TV’s biggest franchise beast (who wouldn’t feel out of place on the national flag) landing here in Wales soon was also rife. All this is happening whilst the efforts by the BBC to produce 50% of its content outside of London (as well as Channel 4’s setting up satellite departments outside of the capital) are also coming to fruition. Additionally, there is help from the government agency Creative Wales. Deputy director Gerwyn Evans, describes this model as “working with Welsh companies but also working with international partners when it benefits Wales.” Since 2020, £16.3m ($20m) of production funding has been given to 31 projects, generating more than £187m to the Welsh economy.

Daf James

Beyond noir

Like the Scandis before them, Wales became known for crime noir. There was Hinterland (Y Gwyll), Keeping Faith (Un Bore Mercher, which went on to be remade by France’s TF1 as Gloria and Hidden (Craith). But non-genre Welsh-language productions are now migrating abroad as well. One upcoming highlight is BBC One and BBC Cymru series, Lost Boys And Fairies. The four-parter is from Leeds-based indie Duck Soup (distributed by All3International) and explores creator Daf James’ experiences of growing up as a gay man in Cardiff during the 1980s and, more recently, adopting children as a part of a gay couple. As a celebrated playwright, he is thrilled that today he can bring his story “to a mainstream audience without compromise”. Another part of Daf’s lived experience that he may not have been able to reflect on screen a few years ago is that characters switch between speaking Welsh and English, just as many locals do.

Mythic landscapes

Like Nordic Noir, Welsh crime fiction has become famous for its stunning scenery (as Steeltown Murders, which aired on Monday night on BBC One demonstrated). However, this is equally important to the ‘epic-fantasy’ genre that has become so integral to the battles being played out between international platforms. “One of big selling points of Wales is the location,” says Roopesh Parekh, a producer on Willow. “It’s expected from big streaming shows.” Welsh geography has another pertinent advantage – mental health. Unlike in London where sets are regularly one-hour plus from the city centre, many producers and crew can simply take a leisurely stroll to set.


The Welsh TV sector is said to have doubled in size over the last decade but there are fears that if a big company such as Bad Wolf were to leave, progress could unravel. Or as Swansea-based Anthony Smith, head of production at Paramount’s Viacom International Studios UK Scripted, put it: “We are one tax credit away from losing everything.” Calls were made for a Welsh National Film School and for the government to step in to do more to secure the legacy an industry that has doubled in size over a decade.

What cannot be changed is the ambition. This was articulated by Rhuanedd Richards, director of BBC Cymru, when she recalled how an idea she once pitched was dismissed as “too big for Wales”. She captured the mood when she explained how this only strengthened her conviction: “Nothing is too big for Wales.”

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