Major screen agency moves to Riverside Sunderland as spotlight shines on growing TV and film industry in the city

An organisation set up to grow the TV and film industry in Sunderland is moving to a new head office as it looks to unearth ‘the next Vera’.

North East Screen, a £37 million project supported by combined and local authorities from across the region, is relocating to The Beam at Riverside Sunderland.

The move will put the organisation at the heart of the region as it looks to create ‘vibrant industry sector communities’ and ‘develop the skills required to turn it into a centre of excellence for the screen industries.’

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This includes ensuring new entrants to the industry have the skills to access work opportunities, making it easier for production companies to film in the region and raising the region’s global profile.

Screen agency hoping to find new Vera hit
Screen agency hoping to find new Vera hit
Screen agency hoping to find new Vera hit

Last month, it was also confirmed that a planning application had been submitted to transform Pallion Shipyard into film studios.

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Supported by 12 local authorities and the BBC, North East Screen is part of the North East Screen Industries Partnership (NESIP) which was formed to level up the regional film and TV industries by more than doubling its 2019 share of the UK production market and delivering an annual economic impact to the regional economy of £88 million.

Since its inception in 2002, North East Screen – formerly known as North East Film & Media - has helped support hit North East TV shows Vera and The Dumping Ground, providing local crews, support and production, and it is confident the move will mark the beginning of an exciting new era for the organisation.

Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen
Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen
Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen

Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen, said: “We want to attract people from across the globe to come and film here and being based out of Sunderland will allow us to position ourselves centrally to promote the entire region.

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“The North East has so many hidden gems – we have coast, countryside, cities and castles, however the TV and film industry has traditionally been somewhat closed off to areas such as ours.

"This is why working in partnership with all of the local and combined authorities really has its strengths.

“By pooling our resources together and working in collaboration, as opposed to being in competition with one another, there’s no reason why we can’t maximise the region’s assets and everything it has to offer.”

Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen
Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen
Gayle Woodruffe, operations director at North East Screen
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As well as positioning the region as a go-to place to film, North East Screen also wants to develop the skills the sector needs to not only survive, but thrive, through initiatives such as its Crew Academy, Production Service, and the North East Comedy Hot House.

“We’re also trying to break down the stigmas of what careers in TV and film entail,” she added.

“There are so many career opportunities that people just don’t realise exist, from costume design to makeup, electricians and accountants.

“We know we have the locations, as well as the talent and resources required to film and produce real quality shows here, so there’s no reason why we can’t pool our resources together and really grow the industry and significantly grow its economic impact.”

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The move to The Beam will see North East Screen join the likes of Ocado, RSA and Sunderland City Council in investing in Riverside Sunderland, which has benefited from over £1 billion in investment from the private and public sectors.

“It’s so up and coming around there,” Gayle added. “It’s a phenomenal place to be.

"Sunderland is culturally at the heart of what’s going on. Culture House, the Fire Station, the Empire Theatre - there’s so much talent in this area and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

North East Screen’s move to the city was supported by the business investment team at Sunderland City Council.

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Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The TV and film industries already contribute over £40 million to the economy each year and there’s no reason why, given the locations, resources and talents we have, we can’t significantly grow that figure.

“The North East is a beautiful, diverse region with landscapes that make it picture-perfect for the screen industries, and Sunderland is right at the heart of that, so we’re delighted to have the team joining us at Riverside Sunderland.”