Back in 2009 I looked at the regional distribution of feature film production in the UK (here and here), but it is short films that account for a significant proportion of production (if not of actual cash). There are some parts of the UK where feature films are few and far between (mainly rural areas, but Herefordshire Shropshire in particular) and where short films are substantially more important. This post uses data from the Internet Movie Database to describe (roughly) the geographical distribution of British short film production in the UK from 2007 to 2009.
Getting data on short film production is difficult – there is no definitive register of short films produced in the UK and the UK Film Council does not track this type production. (In fact the UK Film Council does not track feature film production with budgets below £500,000). There is also no data collected on the geography of film production in the UK. To estimate the geographical distribution of short film production, I used the advanced search function of the Internet Movie Database to search for UK short films released or completed from 2007 to 2009 inclusive that were produced in specific geographical locations (e.g Essex, Yorkshire, Scotland, etc.) and then sorting these by government standard region (North West, East Midlands, Scotland, etc).
The presentation of the data is based on the same assumptions that I used in the earlier posts:
- Where a film is produced in more than one region, then this counts as one connection to each region. As a film may be produced in more than one region, the total number of connections exceeds the total number of films.
- A film has a single connection to region only, even if numerous locations within that region were used.
- Production at a studio is classed as production activity in a region (e.g., production at Shepperton takes place in Surrey and so is classed as South East England).
Documentaries and music videos are not included, but animations are included.
Collecting data in this way has its limitations. First, it is not known how many films were produced but not listed on the Internet Movie Database, and so we cannot know the overall level of production. The figures presented here are therefore estimates only, and allow us look at the relative differences between different regions rather than the absolute differences. Second, we can only estimate the distribution of production and not the level of production – we do not know how much has been spent in each region. In other words, we can estimate the range but not the depth of short film production in the UK.
Given these caveats, I still think that this is a worthwhile exercise as I have not come across a similar survey of production for short films. (I am aware of the futility of this exercise given the proposed reorganisation of the film industry at the regional level).
These search criteria produced a data set of 1143 films, which accounted for a total of 1222 connections. These films range in duration from 1 minute to 40 minutes, and in budget (where stated) from £10 to £200,000.
Figure 1 presents the total number of productions in each region, and as we would expect it is dominated by London, which accounts for 47% of the total number of connections. The South East accounts for 12% of the total. If we take the three regions in south-eastern England together (ie London, the South East, and East), account for 64% of the total number of connections. The South West is third with 8% and Scotland fourth at 6%. The North East has the lowest level of production, and this reflects the low level of feature film production identified in the earlier post. Northern Ireland, the East Midlands, and the West Midlands also show low levels of production in both short and feature film production.
Figure 1 Number of UK short films produced in each region, 2007 to 2009
Table 1 presents a breakdown of the number of UK short films to shoot in each region by year. London shows the greatest variation over this time period. The dominance of London accounts for the large change in the year on year totals. The number of short films produced in Wales doubles from 2007 to 2008, with a further small increase. Production in the South West also shows a large increase followed by a substantial decrease. Levels of production are relatively stable over the period 2007 to 2009 for the other regions.
Table 1 UK short film production by region and year
The changes in the relative performance of the different regions can be more clearly seen by looking at the year by year ranks of each region, and these are presented in Table 2. We can see that, in general, the rank of a region is stable over the time period covered. There are two notable changes in Table 2: Wales moves up the ranking from 10.5 in 2007 to 5 in 2009, and this reflects the sharp increase in the number of productions noted in Table 1; and the North West has slipped from 3 to 7, but as there is no large drop off in the number of films produced this may be due to the variation in the number of films produced in this and other regions. The large variation in the number of productions in the South West has not substantially changed its ranking.
Table 2 Yearly ranks of region for UK short film production
There is very little interaction between the regions, and of the films included in the survey only 65 were produced in more than one region and 7 were produced in three regions. Where these interactions did occur, they were predominantly between London and another region. The South East (29) and East (10) were the regions with greatest number of connections to London – but this is unsurprising as these are the regions that border London.