Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham bids to become film and TV destination

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Media captionStephen Poliakoff said he was interested in exploring the era in which the drama is set.

It may not have the glamour of Hollywood or the international reputation of London but Birmingham is vying to become a destination of choice for film and TV producers.

The city has already been used as the backdrop in BBC dramas Survivors and Hustle.

But the city is now hoping to benefit from companies looking to avoid filming in London during the Olympics.

Film Birmingham was set up in 2006 by the city council as a "one-stop shop" for production companies interested in coming to the city.

Sindy Campbell, Film Birmingham manager, said it was currently talking to a Hollywood feature film company interested in filming in the West Midlands city.

She said she could not reveal the name of the film yet but a number of other companies had also contacted them to find out about filming in the city as a result of restrictions in place in London during the Olympics.

Film requests

She said: "We're hoping to cash-in because many streets in London will be closed to filming for the Olympics so it will be difficult for film companies to make their way into London.

"We've had people contacting us saying 'Is Birmingham open?' so we're hoping to pick up more business because of the Olympics."

Image caption British actors Matthew Goode (left) and Chiwetel Ejiofor will star in Dancing On The Edge

In the 12 months up to March 2011 there were more than 1,200 requests to film in Birmingham.

The requests can be anything from TV dramas to student films, feature films, music videos and adverts.

News filming requests are covered by the council's press office. The requests are for permits to film in public places and on council property.

The number of requests increased by 50% from 2010. So far, for the months from April 2011, Film Birmingham has received 850 filming requests and expects to exceed last year's figure.

Film Birmingham claimed that from April 2011 to October 2011, 857 film requests generated £9,868,500 for the city's economy.

The figure was calculated based on what production companies spent in Birmingham on employing local crews, parking, hotels and renting office space.

Permits for filming in the city are free.

'Great locations'

Filming is currently taking place in Birmingham for a new BBC drama, written and directed by award-winning film-maker Stephen Poliakoff.

The 1930s set Dancing On The Edge will follow a black jazz band in London. It will be broadcast on BBC Two later this year.

Image caption Birmingham City Council House has been made up to look like a 1930s London hotel

Birmingham City Council House has been made up to look like a 1930s London hotel for the series.

Stephen Poliakoff said: "It looks very convincing as a great lobby. It's recreating the Cecil Hotel which was at that time the biggest hotel in the world.

"The hotels and clubs of that time were enormous, so I've tried to recreate that not on an epic budget but trying to give it an epic look on a non-epic budget and with a fabulous cast all in Birmingham."

Last year the feature film Toast was released starring Freddie Highmore and Helena Bonham Carter.

It was shot throughout Birmingham and the wider West Midlands, including the Black Country Museum in Dudley and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham.

In 2010 Indian pop superstar Sarbjit Cheema filmed a video at Aston Hall, in Birmingham.

The video subsequently shot straight to the top of the Punjabi charts and was downloaded from YouTube more than 10,000 times in the first week.

But in October 2011 the city received a blow when the BBC announced national factual programme-making would leave Birmingham for Bristol.

Programmes such as the Hairy Bikers, Countryfile and the coverage of the RHS flower shows are set to leave BBC Birmingham's Mailbox retail centre.

City council leader Mike Whitby said at the time it was a "slap in the face" for Birmingham.

But Sindy Campbell said although it was "disappointing", they were seeing growth in the number of dramas being filmed in the city.

She said: "We're using disused council buildings for filming sites and production offices.

"We're building our reputation with word of mouth. Once people come here they say it's brilliant and they tell the next person.

"We're a city, but in 20 minutes you can be out in the countryside - we offer great locations and we're carving out a name for ourselves."

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