In 2020 Creative England commissioned MHM to produce best practice guidance for local authorities on how to work effectively with film and high-end TV production companies. One of the UK’s fastest growing creative industries, film & television location services can provide a fruitful avenue for local authorities to generate profit and attract increased economic activity into their area.

Creative England is a not-for-profit organisation that supports the creative industries in England, part of Creative UK Group, Creative England’s Filming in England is the national agency, funded by the British Film Institute with a remit to maximise and support the production of feature film and high-end TV productions in England, outside of London. This project was intended to improve working practices between both the film and TV industry and local authorities across England.

The problem: a lack of consistency in local authority approaches

Many local authorities make efforts to court and attract more productions to their area, but these are often ad-hoc measures, and there was a notable lack of centralised guidance or ‘best practice’ advice. This can lead to problems for film & television location departments required to work with a number of different authorities.

There are also a huge variety of different benefits that filming can bring to an area – including short term benefits such as direct income from permits, hire fees and positive PR, and long-term benefits including job development, training opportunities and diversifying local economies. Naturally different areas are seeking different outcomes, which will inform how they will work with production companies to that end.

What’s more, there are also substantial inconsistencies in how local authorities in England work practically with productions – one of the largest is the wide range of charging structures that authorities rely on for location services. There are also large discrepancies between professional experience working with film & tv productions, and an uneven and competitive market landscape to add to these complications.

The solution: in-depth, multi-method research with all sides

To address these inconsistencies, MHM set about producing a comprehensive guidance that Creative England could share with all local authorities. The document would be based on real experience and first-hand accounts of collaboration between local authorities and film & television productions. This guidance ensures that local authorities are better equipped to set fees, and helps support the implementation of ‘film-friendly’ measures to attract productions.

We undertook in-depth, multi-method research, including a survey sent out to all local authorities and film offices across England, and depth interviews with 22 of them. We also interviewed 10 Location Managers, who fed into the document to ensure that it had industry level insight and approval.

The outcome: easy-to-follow guidance for benchmarking and strategy setting

The final guidance is a short and visual document which guides local authorities through a clear process of how to approach filming fee setting. Local authorities are asked to think about what they hope to gain from filming in their area, and to understand their level of ambition to help inform what approach they should take to collaborations with film & television.

This document ultimately helps local authorities to understand what they are ‘worth’ to the industry; not only by demonstrating how value is determined, but by helping them to identify their own goals. We created three fee bands, with guidance about the things that local authorities might want to consider when choosing the right one for them. This sat alongside pointers on implementing film-friendly measures, accompanied by five illustrative local authority good practice case studies.

Our findings were presented at the Filming in England summit in June 2021 to positive feedback from local authorities excited by how they might use the work to inform their future strategies on filming fees.

“The Filming Fees doc is such a fab resource for us to have available, we’re so pleased with it. It was sent out far and wide last month, it being included in our Filming in England Partnership newsletter and being the most clicked link in it. We’ve heard that those authorities that already had their own fees strategy in place have reviewed and it provides confidence that it’s aligned with what they are currently doing which is great. The timing of the guidance doc was also perfect with many of our council contacts looking forward to their budgets for the coming year so has proved useful. The Filming Fees project was fantastically done and such an important project for us.”

– Creative England

You can read the full guidance document on the Creative England, Filming in England website here.

For further information about Creative England’s Filming in England team and the services they provide you can find out more here