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Teamwork making the film and TV dream work in Sunderland

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Published on 19 December 2023

Artist impression of Crown Works Studios
Artist impression of Crown Works Studios

As plans are submitted for a £450m film studio on the banks of the River Wear, Lee Hall, Head of the School of Media and Communications at the University of Sunderland, discusses why he thinks the region is already firmly on the map as a global production destination. 


Billions of pounds are lavished on high-end television and film production every year in the UK – it’s a massive industry full of rich and rewarding careers built on hard work, talent and topped with a sprinkling of stardust. In the past, shockingly little of that money has found its way to the north-east. But all that could soon change – and how…

Plans for a £450m film studio in Sunderland have gone in. The private money is there, the region is gearing up for growth – and the University of Sunderland is a key player in a team of educators, industry partners and local authorities planning to milk the spotlight as it shines on the north-east.

If the studio goes ahead as expected, Crown Works – a joint venture between global entertainment company Fulwell 73 and Cain International (FulwellCain Studios) – will be one of the biggest in Europe – capable of sustaining three major movie productions and a recurring TV series simultaneously. Over 8,000 jobs will be created and there will be an influx of creative talent to the region. More importantly, the talent already here will be able to work on the next Hollywood blockbuster in Pallion and head home to Hendon – instead of seeking opportunities miles from home.

Even without the studio, the region is already benefitting from a dramatic rise in production with the BBC and other major content commissioners looking north for fresh ideas and new talent.

At the University of Sunderland, we have a major role amid an ensemble cast, feeding into the skills discussion, connecting with industry partners and investing in resources to make sure we are supporting the right talent for the jobs market with the right tools for the job.

Interest in our Film and Media courses is growing as excitement about the plans in the city builds and fuelled by the passion of our brilliant academic, technical and professional staff. Stellar performances in the Guardian League Tables in which we have ranked 1st and 5th in the UK for Film Production and Photography in the last two years won’t have hurt either.

What is special about this mounting excitement is that it’s truly a regional effort. Alongside Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside universities we are working on a plan to make the north-east a hotbed for learning about the screen industries as well as a key place to make content.

We are already seeing the evidence that working together can have an impact. Almost 200 students from the five universities came to Sunderland for a major event dedicated to sharing knowledge and tips on how to get on in the world of film and TV.

The big lesson from all the speakers – whether makeup artists or producers, screenwriters or executives – was that collaboration is key. Build your networks before you need them. We are building and the future could hardly be brighter.