Fulwell 73's Leo Pearlman on studio ambitions for Sunderland, and producing global productions such as The Kardashians and Friends Reunion

Fulwell 73's Leo Pearlman recently gave a talk in SunderlandFulwell 73's Leo Pearlman recently gave a talk in Sunderland
Fulwell 73's Leo Pearlman recently gave a talk in Sunderland
They’ve produced the most-recent series of The Kardashians for Hulu, the much talked about Friends Reunion, The Grammys and many more shows which have been seen by millions across the globe.

Very few of that audience, and I highly doubt Kim Kardashian, will be familiar with the Sunderland suburb which once lent its name to the famous end at the old Roker Park.

But such was their fondness for attending matches at the long-gone Fulwell end with their dads, and of course the famous FA Cup year that’s inked in the memories of Black Cat fans, that Leo Pearlman, his cousins Gabe and Ben Turner, and their friend, Ben Winston, would go on to call their hugely-successful production company Fulwell 73 in 2005, with James Corden joining the fold as a partner in 2017.

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Though they’ve gone on to be huge hitters in their field, creating music videos for the likes of One Direction, sports documentaries with stars such as David Beckham and Usain Bolt and the award-winning The Late Late Show with James Corden – Fulwell 73 has never forgotten its roots.

Leo PearlmanLeo Pearlman
Leo Pearlman

There were, of course, the two series of Sunderland ‘Til I Die on Netflix and a recently-confirmed third, which gave a global audience an insight into the great highs and lows of following SAFC.

In 2021, they invested into fostering local talent by opening Fulwell North at Sunderland University, joining their offices in LA and London – and it doesn’t stop there.

Working in partnership with North East Screen, Sunderland University and Sunderland City Council, plans are in the pipeline for Fulwell 73 to play their part in the ongoing regeneration of Sunderland by creating the UK’s largest high end TV and film studio in the country right here on the banks of the Wear.

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It will be a huge coup for Sunderland and Leo came back to where it all began to speak at the Sunderland Business Festival and provide an insight into how plans are progressing.

The Kardashians -- Season 2 -- (Courtesy of Hulu)The Kardashians -- Season 2 -- (Courtesy of Hulu)
The Kardashians -- Season 2 -- (Courtesy of Hulu)

"The North East is embedded in Fulwell’s DNA, we are a company built on family, a family whose roots in the region are deep, going back to my great grandfather’s arrival from Lithuania in 1886,” he said.

"For over 120 years my family had a business here in the North East and to be able, in 2020, to restart that cycle of investment and connection, to dream that in anther 120 years my great grandchildren could be still connected to the region through a business we started, gives me all the drive I need to make that a reality.

"But Fulwell and our connection to the North East is far more than just a commercial or familial one, there is something about the people, the landscape, an attitude, a belief in self-determination, a sense of humour, an appetite for a challenge and a stubbornness that growing up surrounded by it, seeps into your bones and never leaves.”

Although the exact details of the studio are still under tight wraps, Leo says he’s hugely excited to see it take shape.

Sunderland 'Til I Die. Photo by Craig Sugden for Fulwell73Sunderland 'Til I Die. Photo by Craig Sugden for Fulwell73
Sunderland 'Til I Die. Photo by Craig Sugden for Fulwell73
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"As Fulwell goes from strength to strength, we are looking evermore at the larger opportunities that present themselves and first and foremost is our studio plans for the North East.

"Our ambitions for this project still make me pause every time I say them out loud,” he said. “But a lesson I learnt long ago is that the more you say something out loud, the more real it becomes.

"We can’t go into more detail at this stage about our studio plans, but what I will say is that if once this region was known for shipbuilding and coal mining, if we achieve what we are aiming to, it will become known for film and TV production and that will have just as significant a cultural and commercial impact for generations to come, as the great industries of this region did before.

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Fulwell 73 produced the recent Friends: The ReunionFulwell 73 produced the recent Friends: The Reunion
Fulwell 73 produced the recent Friends: The Reunion

"The scale of the opportunity in this region is exponential. I want kids to grow up in the North East and not just dream of working on the next Hollywood blockbuster, but see an achievable and realistic path to do so.

"I want the parents and the careers advisors at schools not to just dismiss these kids as dreamers, but to point down the road and say this is how you get there.

"We can all be a part of the next great industry for the region and help to transform the future and the fortunes of generations to come, we’ve just got to keep saying it out loud.”