Mid Wales

Brecon Beacons' blockbuster year for film inquiries

Brecon Beacons
Image caption The Brecon Beacons National Park measures 521 sq miles (1,349 sq km)

Sweeping grassy uplands, wide open vistas and remote rocky outcrops are attracting a growing number of film-makers to the Brecon Beacons.

The park is probably better known for attracting walkers, bird watchers and anglers.

But it seems 2011 is turning into a big year for film and TV location inquiries, with many productions taken with the breathtaking Beacons.

Since January, it says it has received interest from eight major film-makers, double that of last year. In 2010, one movie resulted from the inquiries - the Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham, Robert De Niro and Clive Owen.

But it's not just films. There have been 80 inquiries since the start of the year, compared to 36 in 2010, from television companies, TV car advertisers and others interested in photo shoots.

The film and TV industry is worth £21m to the Welsh economy, according to figures from 2009/10.

The Wales Screen Commission helped with 11 feature films shot in Wales in the last financial year, among them Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and Robin Hood, both in Pembrokeshire, Clash of the Titans in north Wales and Ironclad at the so-called Valleywood studio in south east Wales.

Other films which have used the park include Wolfman and Stardust.

Samantha Games, of the Brecon Beacons National Park, said: "I think they work with us because the landscape offers such diversity.

"We've got plains that could double for the wild west, we've got quarries that work as lunar landscapes.

"Hitchhiker's Guide and Doctor Who have both filmed here and dramatic fantasy films love the waterfalls and remote mountain lakes.

Image caption Scenes for Doctor Who have been filmed in the Beacons

"The numbers of inquiries goes up and down with the vagaries of the international economic climate. Happily for us, this year film-makers are interested in shooting here in the UK again and when they decide to shoot in the UK they call us.

"We have had an incredible amount of film inquiries this year many more than in previous years.

"Location requests can be extremely detailed - even down to wanting a particular species of tree as a backdrop - but the location managers know that our wardens will find them what they are looking for if it's here."

However, park officials say they cannot reveal details about the potential films which have shown an interest.

'Spectacular scenery'

Freelance location manager Bill Darby worked in the Beacons on King Arthur, which starred Keira Knightley, Clive Owen and Ioan Gruffudd.

Mr Darby, who has also worked on Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, and the films Charlotte Gray, Pearl Harbor, Mansfield Park and Rogue Trader, said: "It's circumstantial really and a combination of things. There's the weak pound and there's a tax incentive for companies filming in the UK.

"Lots of productions are coming to the UK - it's not just home-grown films. The industry in the UK is very busy and hopefully it'll stay that way.

"The other thing is that the Beacons has some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK and it's close to the Pinewood and Shepperton film studios.

"You can 'recce' a location in the Beacons and be back in London in one day. It's a three-hour drive.

"In short, it's accessible, very beautiful and the national park encourages film units."

He praised the park's active film liaison office, something echoed by the Wales Screen Commission, which offers support to film-makers about locations, facilities and local services.

Mike Wallwork from the screen commission said he was keen to see all national park authorities in Wales working the same way.

He said: "Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has been pro-active in hosting location visits, and that goes a long way to building confidence among location managers and producers.

"The Beacons has had its fair share of films in the past, but interest in the Brecon Beacons from film companies is growing faster this year than previously.

"That's because they have a dedicated person in Samantha Games dealing with film inquiries and a team of rangers with expert knowledge of the park who host visits by film makers. We are keen to see this kind of best practice being adopted by all three national park authorities in Wales."

Pembrokeshire National Park said it had received 24 inquiries in total since January, compared to 32 in 2010.

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