Friday, 31 January 2020

Promoting Wales -- yet another opportunity missed

These new documents (and new video) produced at vast expense by the Welsh Government do not make a single mention of the unique Welsh narrative, or of the need for any self-respecting nation to take pride in its own stories and to prioritise the telling of those stories as a means of enhancing national wellbeing and selling the nation to the world. Instead, this is devoted 100% to trying to sell Wales as a handy location for the telling of other people’s stories. It’s almost as if the people who put the words and the images together are actually scared of mentioning that Wales has its own language, its own culture and its own fascinating and diverse identity. A huge opportunity missed…….

Creative Wales
We have always been a nation of storytellers. Our creative minds have been honed by the sharing of tales across generations – in words, images and song.

Promotional video and extended pitch:

Priorities for the
Creative Industries Sector in Wales

Welsh investment in film and TV -- losses, and more losses......

Minotaur (2006): Money invested with zero return

Wales Online (The Western Mail on the web) continues its scrutiny of the large sums of money that have apparently been somewhat unwisely spent on highly-publicised film and TV projects in recent years. I think the Political Editor has a point, and she is not the only one making it........


All the film and TV projects the Welsh Government has invested in which have lost money

More than £15 million was invested - but just over a third has been recouped

By Ruth Mosalski
Political Editor

27 JAN 2020

Just one of the film and TV projects which was given taxpayers' money has made any money, it's been revealed.

Overall, £15.1m has been invested in a scheme run with Pinewood, so far, £5.5m has been recouped - resulting in an overall loss of £9.6m.

The Welsh Government said the so-called Media Investment Budget "was introduced to grow and support the production sector in Wales, return on the production itself was not the prime objective of the fund."

Pinewood pulled out of its Welsh studio in October 2019.

Words like "hope" "excitement" and "anticipation" were all used to describe the studio's arrival in Wales.

But, four years later the Welsh Government terminated the lease and collaboration agreement it had in place with the company.

The studio and the running of the Media Investment Fund was brought under direct Welsh Government control.

During 2013-14, Welsh Government officials held discussions with Pinewood executives about establishing the facility and also developed plans to create a £30 million investment budget to support film and TV productions in Wales.

The plan was for that to be operated by Pinewood on behalf of the Welsh Government.

The idea came from a model used on the Isle of Man, where a £25m fund had generated a direct local spend of £100 million and 2,140 full-time equivalent jobs, according to Assembly papers.

In 2018, the Assembly's Public Affairs Committee was told "The Welsh Government is still receiving returns on this investment, but initial receipts do not look promising".

Andrew Slade, the Director General for Economy, Skills and Natural Resources admitted the Welsh Government was expecting to invest more annually than it has done to date and given it has not already spent the £30 million it would not be getting the full return at this stage".

By the time the report was published the Welsh Government had received 20% of its target.

"We noted that there are few other programmes where you would achieve just 20 per cent of the target and this is of concern".

They asked for an update at the end of the year.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Dafydd Elis Thomas responded and his letter shows that of the 15 productions given money under either Pinewood or Welsh Government management, all but one lost money.

The only one to make money was Their Finest, which made a gain of £50,000 despite a £2m investment. The film was a 2016 British war comedy/drama starring Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy and Helen McCrory.

Which productions lost money? (Pinewood era)

Take Down

Action film Take Down, received £3.1m but went straight to DVD in the UK.

Take Down, which was shot in the Pinewood studio in Cardiff as well on Anglesey and the Isle of Man, told the story of a group of out-of-control teenagers sent by their frustrated parents to a boot camp on a remote island to learn self discipline.

Total investment: £3.1m
Amount recouped: £1.1m
Total loss: £2m

The Collection

An Amazon Prime original drama, this was shot in Bay Studios in Swansea, which had also been home to Da Vinci’s Demons.

Set in the world of French haute couture after the Second World War, and following the fortunes of two brothers at an illustrious Paris fashion house.

Production lasted 15 weeks with pre-production beginning in late 2015 and principal photography beginning in January 2016.

The production occupied two-and-a-half stages, utilised the vast backlot and built Parisian streets outside. It also shot at Swansea’s historic Guildhall.

Total investment: £1.75m
Amount recouped: £0.25m
Total loss: £1.5m

Show Dogs

Show Dogs was shot at Pinewood Studio Wales and is a 2018 American family buddy cop film directed by Raja Gosnell, written by Max Botkin and Marc Hyman and starring Will Arnett, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Natasha Lyonne, Jordin Sparks, Gabriel Iglesias, Shaquille O'Neal, Omar Chaparro, and Stanley Tucci.

The film follows a Rottweiler police dog and his human partner who go undercover at a prestigious dog show to stop an animal smuggling activity. It received good reviews and took in $39.2 million at the box office.

Total investment: £1.56m
Amount recouped: £0
Total loss: £1.56m

Journey’s End

Partly shot at Pinewood Studio Wales on Stage 1, Journey's End is a British film adaptation R. C. Sherriff's play of the same name. It starred Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones and was written by Simon Reade and directed by Saul Dibb, this is the fifth film adaptation of the play. It was well received by critics but failed to cause a stir at the box office.

Total investment: £0.85m
Amount recouped: £0.6m
Total loss: £0.2m

Don’t Knock Twice

Don’t Knock Twice also received £75,000 in grant funding under the Welsh Government’s Business Finance scheme.

The supernatural thriller was directed by Caradog W James, who won attention with his science fiction thriller The Machine. It portrays the plight of a mother “desperate to reconnect with the daughter she abandoned” who “must go further than she ever imagined possible to win back her child”.

Total investment: £0.630m
Amount recouped: £0.612m
Total loss: £0.01m


Minotaur was billed as Wales’ answer to "True Detective" and was filmed between Rhyl and Paris. It was written by Holyhead actor Celyn Jones, the actor/writer behind the Swansea filmed "Set fire to the Stars"

Total investment: £0.026m
Amount recouped: 0
Total loss: £0.026m

Lionel the First

Described on Imbd as an in-development film, it is catgorised as adventure, family and fantasy.

Total investment: £0.025m
Amount recouped: 0
Total loss: £0.02m

Productions which lost money (Under Welsh Government control)

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires

Chuck Steel: Night Of The Trampires is a comedy-horror B film from Animortal Studio and features the voices of the film’s writer-director-producer Mike Mort of Animortal, Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) and Paul Whitehouse (The Death Of Stalin).

Set in 1986, the film pays homage to the look and feel of 1980s cult action classics.

Total investment: £2m
Amount recouped: £0
Total loss: £2m

Eternal Beauty

A film about a woman dumped at the altar who has a breakdown and spirals into a chaotic world, where love (both real and imagined) and family relationships collide with both touching and humorous consequences.

It was directed by Craig Roberts, who also directed Just Jim (2016).

It featured Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Paddington) alongside David Thewlis and Billie Piper.

Total investment: £1.050m
Amount recouped: £0.77m
Total loss: £0.2m.


A bilingual crime drama, this was shot in Port Talbot.

It was shortlisted for a prestigious Writers’ Guild Award in the Best Long-Form TV Drama category alongside Line of Dut and Taboo. The series was shown on S4C.

Total investment: £0.350m
Amount recouped: 0
Total loss: £0.3m

Tiny Rebel

This is the story of how, according to Pinewood Pictures, an FBI agent is forced to work with a “rugged lone-wolf Rottweiler NYPD police dog” when “an underground network of illegal animal traders is uncovered at a prestigious dog show”.

Total investment: £0.3m
Amount recouped: £0
Total loss: £1.5m

Goose Green

No details available - still in development.

Almost Never (formerly True Believers)

A CBBC comedy drama about a TV talent competition which sees a brand new boy band pitted against an all-girl group. It starred Tess Daly.

Total investment: £0.62m
Amount recouped so far: £0
Total loss: £0.62m

Six Minutes To Midnight

An upcoming war drama film directed by Andy Goddard from a screenplay by Goddard, Celyn Jones and Eddie Izzard. The film will star Eddie Izzard as Thomas Fisher, with Judi Dench, Carla Juri, James D'Arcy and Jim Broadbent in supporting roles.

It was filmed over six weeks in Wales.

Total investment: £750,000
Amount recouped so far: £75,000
Total loss: £0.675m


What do Welsh Government say?

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "The Media Investment Budget was introduced to grow and support the production sector in Wales, return on the production itself was not the prime objective of the fund.

"The overall Media Investment Budget stands at £15.106m, and the amount recouped to date is £5.6m.

"This investment has in turn, generated a total Welsh spend of £25.112m.

"Receipts on the Media Investment Budget continue to be received by Welsh Government and with some productions yet to be released, any profit is yet to be determined.

"It is expected that recoupment on productions is a process that will continue for a number of years after the initial release.

"In recognition of the creative industries as one of the fastest-growing parts of the Welsh economy, Welsh Government is setting up Creative Wales, which will launch this week along with a new funding package to further support the growth of the sector in Wales."


Wales -- a country trying hard not to sell itself effectively?

Within the last week, there have been two new "initiative launches" by the Welsh Government, no doubt timed with Brexit and designed to flag up the fact that Wales is seperate and different from the rest of the UK.  So the intention is to sell Wales as "a place apart" and as a place to do business.  So how successful will these initiatives be, given that they have gone largely unnoticed by the media?  (Actually that was pretty inevitable, given that everything at the moment is drowned out by Brexit -- that might have been predicted.......)

First, the launch of Creative Wales, which has actually been around for a while, although its Board has not yet been appointed.


Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas — 29 Jan 2020

"Today I will formally launch Creative Wales, to champion the creative industries in Wales.

Creative Wales will offer a streamlined, dynamic and innovative service to the creative industries sector, aligned to the needs of the industry. It will look to capitalise on the benefits that the sector brings from two directions – economic and cultural.

My priorities for Creative Wales have been set out in a priorities document. These include maintaining growth in the screen industry, enhancing and extending our support to other sub sectors such as music, digital and publishing and more flexible routes to funding. There will also be an increased focus on nurturing key skills and talent development, promoting diversity and inclusion and raising standards in the industry.

Wales is a place of inspiration and ambition. I want to ensure creative talent can continue to flourish here and creative ideas can be turned into economic success.

In launching Creative Wales this week the government is fulfilling an important manifesto commitment made in 2016 and we are positioning Wales as the place for creative businesses to thrive."

Priorities for the Creative Industries Sector in Wales

My vision for Creative Wales is for an organisation that will take the existing successes in the screen industry and build on these to drive growth across the whole sector; developing a skills base that is world class, expanding support to other parts of the sector and positioning Wales as the place to locate your creative business.


The creative industries sector is already a Welsh success story and its direct contribution to the Welsh economy is signi cant. For example, in 2018-19 alone, film and TV productions made here spent over £55M on Wales based suppliers of goods and services. The impact of these successes extends beyond the industry into all parts of our economy; hospitality, tourism, construction and transportation all benefit from the presence of a successful creative industries sector.

(A comment on that £55 million figure.  Where did it come from?  It refers just to "spend"in Wales -- but how much of that is inward investment?  I suspect it's very little.  How much of the £55 million is just cash already circulating in the economy?  OK -- that is a sort of measure of economic activity, but it is no substitute for invested cash coming in from outside.  And how much of that money was actually spent by the Welsh Government in the form of subsidies and grants?  In that case, we are referring to taxpayers money, and the sheer fact that it has been "spent" tells us nothing about whether the expenditures were smart or foolish, profit-generating or loss-making.  If the past records of the "support monies" paid over to  film and TV productions in Wales are anything to go by, and of money down the drain, some questions might be in order.........)


"The creative industries in Wales are a good vehicle to promote Wales in the world – not only as a centre for creative excellence, but also as a great place to visit, live and work. Locations are showcased through film and television productions made here, and our global talent across the sector generates interest in Wales as a country of rich cultural value.” 

( ???!!!!!!  I find this statement quite extraordinary, given the flood of articles in the media in recent years about the "representation of Wales" in film and TV.  If any man in Wales knows the story of Wales and its cultural place in the World, it is Lord Dafydd, and yet here we have a statement which says, in effect, that Wales has no story worth telling.  The lack of confidence is revealing, and mortifying.  Wales is being promoted here as a good place for the telling of other people's stories, a nice place to live, a country with clever technicians and creative people, and with some pretty landscapes.  Is that the best the Welsh Government can do?  Do we really have no unique narrative, no story worth telling, to the rest of the world?  I'm sorry to have to say so, but Wales deserves better than this.)


Then to the launch by Eluned Morgan the Minister for International Affairs.  This one has been through a consultation process, last year, and this is presumably the document and the strategy devised following the consideration of responses from interested parties.  It is all pretty vague, as these documents tend to be, but strong on aspirations.

From the press:

On 22 January Eluned Morgan launched the new Wales “International Strategy” with this statement:

A New International Strategy for Wales


International Relations Minister Eluned Morgan has launched Wales’ first International Strategy, promoting the country as an outward-looking nation ready to work and trade with the rest of the world. The strategy will build on Wales’ growing international reputation for sustainability and global responsibility and establish links with the Welsh diaspora on all continents.

It is being launched as the UK prepares to leave the EU and negotiate a new relationship with the European Union and trade deals with international partners around the world.

Eluned Morgan said:

“A strong international presence has never been more relevant for Wales.

“Following the EU referendum in 2016 and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future relationship with Europe, Wales will pursue its place on the international stage with renewed vigour.”

The International Strategy has three core ambitions over the next five years:

• Raise Wales’ profile on the international stage
• Grow the economy by increasing exports and attracting inward investment

Establish Wales as a globally responsible nation

It is the start of a new approach to how the Welsh Government promotes Wales internationally, identifies Wales’ key global markets in a post-Brexit landscape and highlights three sectors where Wales is recognised as a world leader – cyber security, compound-semiconductors and the creative industries. This will project a new dynamic and vibrant image of Wales as a modern, confident, high-tech, creative and sustainable nation.

Speaking ahead of the launch at Econotherm, a Bridgend based export company which has achieved year-on-year growth and was recently recognised in the Wales Fast Growth 50, the Minister said:

“As Wales’ first Minister for International Relations, it was important to bring the achievements of the last 20 years together and use these as a foundation to set out Wales’ future approach to its international work.

“For a small, smart nation, Wales enjoys a reputation, which stretches far beyond its borders. The strategy will build on this reputation and showcase Wales as a nation that will be known for its creativity, its expertise in technology and its commitment to sustainability.”

(Again, here we see an opportunity missed.  The message is that Wales is a jolly fine place -- in fact it is even more jolly fine than everywhere else.  That's jolly fine, but that is of course exactly the same marketing strategy used by every other unimaginative country and region in the world -- we get no sense at all of Wales as a UNIQUE country with a character, a culture, a language, and a story quite unlike any other.    This whole exercise seems like something straight out of a civil service training manual -- has any body over there in the Welsh civil service heard about this thing called the USP?)

Monday, 27 January 2020

Freebie promo -- the results are in

The new Kindle reporting system.  It's very clever and informative.  This screenshot just shows the top five titles from the promotion, with the number of downloads for each.

Over a five-day period (22-26 January 2020) I have been running a "Kindle Ebook freebie" promotion, in which all 8 of the Angel Mountain books, and "Icefall Zero",  have been available on Amazon websites around the world for free download.  Amazon allows publishers to do this now and then as an acceptable method of advertising / promotion.  They don't do a lot of promotion themselves, except for new books that are being promoted on the day of publication -- so all of the work of promoting the promotion (if you see what I mean) falls on the publisher or author of the titles on offer.

The results?  It's easy to read these from a new tool that Amazon has developed on its KDP web site for the use of publishers.  All in all, I got 1,423 downloads of the free books -- my hope was that I would hit the 1,000 mark, so we exceeded expectations.  The daily figures:

Day 1 -- 294
Day 2 -- 193
Day 3 -- 228
Day 4 -- 228
Day 5 -- 393 (and 30 paid units)
Day 6 --   49 (and 4 paid units)

Day One was good (as you might expect).  Then things levelled off a bit for the "middle days".  And the last day was by far the best.  The campaign spilled over into Day 6 because of the time difference between UK and the USA.  All the books are now back to their normal pricing arrangements.

Individual breakdowns:

On Angel Mountain -- 185
House of Angels -- 185
Guardian Angel -- 171
Dark Angel -- 170
Flying with Angels -- 169
Rebecca and the Angels -- 169
Icefall Zero -- 133
Conspiracy of Angels -- 121
Sacrifice -- 119


1.  Was it worth doing a five-day promotion rather than a shorter one?  I think so, since you can put in a lot of effort on social media over an extended period. If you do several short promotions at widely-spaced intervals, you have to repeat the hard work, over and again, in the knowledge that "slow responders" may miss the promotion altogether, and maybe get irritated as a result!  The fact that we got 393 downloads on the last day of the promotion shows that many interested people are actually quite slow to react to a promotion.

2.  Was it worth lumping all the books together in a single promotion, rather than staggering them and doing one title at a time?  Again the answer is yes -- if one does one-or two-day promotions for different titles, staggered across a month or two, one could devote an extraordinary amount of time to social media promotion work, with very modest returns.  It could become almost a full-time job. Better to work hard for a limited time, and then get back to normal again....... there are other more important things in life than Kindle promotions.

3.  Maybe I should have done "Icefall Zero"as a separate promotion, at a different time.  That might have given more focus in social media, and resulted in more downloads.  Maybe.....

4.  I was surprised how well balanced the downloads were, across all titles.  The "download preferences" varied from day to day, as we can see from the bands in the bar chart. That means there were no duds in the list, and that the new covers for "Dark Angel" and "Flying with Angels" have made those books look just as attractive as the others.

5.  I thought that "Icefall Zero" would have done better, given that it is a rebrand and effectively a "new title."  But it just goes to show how incredibly difficult it is to market a thriller in a heavily overloaded marketplace.

6.  Given that none of the Angel Mountain titles is "just published" (in fact "On Angel Mountain" has been around for 20 years now), I was quite pleased that the promotion was attractive enough to encourage a total of 1290 downloads of the titles.

7.  My social media marketing consisted of my mailing of the "Angel Mountain Newsletter" on the first day of the promotion; a lot of Facebook promotion on my personal page and on other special group pages; mailings to some of my mailing lists (family, business contacts etc); mailings to selected special interest groups using email addresses on club membership lists which I had access to;  several promotions on Linkedin; and a lot of targetted tweeting involving hashtags and the hunting down of special twitter groups using the @ symbol.  I also joined and used assorted Facebook "free for Kindle" groups.  I didn't pay for any Facebook or Google advertising, and I didn't pay to join any special book promotion clubs or groups.

8.  Which social media work was most effective?  It's very difficult to say. I don't think Twitter and Linkedin are very effective promotion vehicles -- there is just so much twittering and chattering out there that promotions get completely lost and ignored.  But I did notice that campaigns on Facebook Groups seem to work, because interested contacts tend to share posts and spread the news pretty fast.  Potentially there is an exponential effect.   I did notice some peaks in downloading, for example, when I posted things on the Honey Harfat and Haverfordwest Grammar School Facebook pages, partly because I was reaching new people and partly because of sharing..

9.  One spinoff is that during the promotion there has been quite a sharp increase in the number of Kindle "pages read" -- for which one earns a minute amount of "royalty" money.  So a few quid will have gone into my account.


All in all, I'm quite pleased -- but now that 1423 downloads have happened, how will that affect future sales?  Time will tell..........

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Culture Committee report on film and TV -- a BBC analysis

Eve Myles, star of "Keeping Faith" -- one of the few recent shows which says something about the character of Wales

This is HuwThomas's report for the BBC on the contents of the Culture Committee Report published in May 2019.

This report confirms that the Report concentrates entirely on funding, skills shortages and investment in expert personnel and facilities.  In other words, "the industry needs more money, targetted at specific sectors.  That's what every industry and every sector of the economy says.......... and there is nothing "Welsh" about it at all.    Very disappointing......

Film and TV industry in Wales "needs new strategy"
The growth of Wales' film and TV industry risks "losing momentum" without further government support.
An assembly inquiry has called for a new strategy to help sustain the boom in productions.
The culture committee said greater support needed to be given to the "indigenous" film and TV industry, ensuring Welsh crews benefited from government investment.
The Welsh Government said it would respond to the report in due course.
The committee began investigating government support for film and TV last year and took evidence from broadcasters, producers, actors and academics, as well as ministers and their officials.
Among its recommendations, the committee's report calls on the government:
To create a strategy for continued growth in productions
Stronger requirements for Welsh crews to be employed by producers receiving government support
To consider a quota for using local on-screen talent.
But the need to increase the number of skilled crews was an issue raised regularly by industry representatives in their evidence to the committee, and in its report it recommends that a new government body called Creative Wales focuses on improving skills when it launches later this year.

Keeping Faith's big online impact
£30m film fund to miss economic target
Actor Pryce praises Welsh talent pool

The report states that "there is a danger of losing momentum if we do not have sufficient skilled workers to support our growing screen industry."

Committee chair Bethan Sayed said the benefits of the government's investment in film and TV needed to be maintained.
She said: "We don't dispute that a lot has been done in Wales to develop the creative industries, and lots of companies are investing their time and effort to developing talents in Wales.
"But we also know there are huge gaps in skills here in Wales, and companies are having to take it upon themselves to develop that in the absence of a Welsh government skills strategy."
The committee heard evidence that government investment in film and TV had made a positive economic impact, but called for greater transparency following the government's controversial relationship with Pinewood Studios.
Its report also calls on the government to do more to ensure "indigenous" production companies and crews were benefitting from investment in the creative industries.

BBC Wales unveils 300 training places
SuperTed creator attacks funding red tape
Hinterland co-creator on talent 'challenge'
Subsidies and skills behind Welsh creative industries

The government's support for productions requires companies to spend a certain proportion of its budget in Wales, but committee chair Bethan Sayed said in practice it was unclear whether Welsh crews and businesses were really benefiting.
She said: "At the moment, 'Welsh spend' is not really clearly defined, and many companies and agents have come to me and said we need to have a clearer definition of that.
"For example, some big companies from abroad may come here and use catering crews that are not local, or may use cast that are not based in Wales.
"Of course, that is their discretion, to an extent. But if we did build in incentives, or quotas, to the mix, how would that look?
"And how would that change the landscape for the Welsh economy in relation to the creative industries."
One of the most recent productions to complete filming in Wales is the second series of Un Bore Mercher, or Keeping Faith, which is currently being broadcast on S4C and will launch on BBC One later this year.
Its star Eve Myles said it was impossible to miss the huge growth in Welsh productions.
"You can't pass a lamppost without seeing a location sign on it, and productions from all over the world are choosing Wales as their backdrop."
"So it has certainly become really vibrant. And, yeah, it is very exciting to be part of a show that is worldwide but doesn't pretend to be anywhere else, other than Wales itself."
S4C began broadcasting the second series of the show on Sunday and Myles said Wales had a global reputation as a desirable filming location.
Series producer Gwenllian Gravelle, who will shortly join S4C as its new drama commissioner, said a high proportion of its crew was Welsh but said there was an industry shortage of skilled workers.
"It is quite difficult because we are all trying to fight to get the crews," she said.
"There are lots of production companies from Britain and abroad here, because of the wonderful locations we have, as well as the quality of the crews and the performers.
"That's a good place to be, I think. But what we need to do is look to the future and try to make sure we think of the next generation of directors of photography, of sound, of costume and make-up, so that we have a bigger pool of people to supply and make these wonderful dramas in idyllic places like south Wales."

Creative industries in Wales
In numbers

£187meconomic value - gross value added
58,000estimated to work in sector
2,900jobs created or supported since 2010
£105minvestment in sector since 2010

Sources: Welsh Government and Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee

Culture Committee reports on film and major TV programmes, but where is the strategy?

At long last, the Assembly's Culture Committee submitted its report of film and major TV production in Wales -- it appeared in May 2019, and can be downloaded here:

This is very much a factual report, concentrating on nuts and bolts rather than strategy, vision or design -- and it is in truth extremely disappointing.

I have occasionally drawn attention on this blog to the comments from industry experts on how Wales is portrayed in the output coming from Welsh studios -- and how little of the Welsh output is actually devoted to telling the story of Wales, for viewers within the country, and for the benefit of viewers across the world.  It seems that the Welsh strategy -- insofar as there is one -- is to encourage the belief in the creative industries that Wales is an excellent place for the telling of other people's stories, with no attempt made to concentrate on the telling of the Welsh narrative.  If a decent Welsh story gets told every now and then (like "Keeping Faith" or "Hidden"), all well and good -- but one gets the feeling that the Culture Committee and the Welsh Government are scared to death of frightening off the big production companies and the big money by suggesting too strongly that productions ABOUT Wales and SET IN Wales might be quite a nice idea..........

For example, Angela Graham, Dylan Wyn Williams, Gary Raymond, Steve Blandford, Dave Ball, Sam Parry, and many others,have expressed themselves quite forcefully:

I don't imagine for a moment that Dafydd Ellis Thomas or Eluned Morgan (who hold the key portfolios in the Welsh Cabinet) are unaware of this as an issue, but it is a bit of a surprise that the Culture Committee can produce a lengthy report like this one without saying ANYTHING about the issue of a "Welsh portrayal" strategy.  The Committee members know all about it, because I have been in correspondence with some of them, and they read the media just like the rest of us.

Such timidity is a grave disappointment, and if Wales is ever to compete on a world stage it needs to brand itself much more clearly and to market itself much more aggressively as a country with its own character and its own narrative.

So yes, by all means let's have "Casualty", "Doctor Who" and "His Dark Materials" made in Wales, in fantastic state-of-the-art studios by fantastic teams of film-making geniuses, but until many more genuinely Welsh stories are told on film and in big TV productions, the people of Wales are not being well served.


Finally, a reminder of what happens in Ireland (similar criteria apply to both film and TV production funding):

Principles & Criteria

FÉ/SI's funding programmes are guided by some fundamental principles which form the basis of the decision-making process

Developing Talent, Cultural & Industrial Priorities

Consistent with its government remit and responding to the present perceived needs of the Irish audiovisual production industry, FÉ/SI considers that certain projects, in terms of their content, provenance or benefit to the industry, represent clear priorities for its funding.

Strong preference will be given to submissions on behalf of projects which:
*are of Irish initiation in a creative sense; that is, conceived, written, produced and/ or to be directed by Irish talents
*entail new and emerging Irish talent in key creative roles, i.e. director, writer, producer, composer, principal actor
*tell Irish stories, drawing on and depicting Ireland's culture, history, way of life, view of the world and of itself

(I think we can take the above as a strong and decisive steer to project developers who are looking for funds.)

Now for Wales:

FFILM CYMRU WALESIn Wales, Development Funding Guidelines


When selecting projects the following criteria will be considered:
The quality, potential and originality of the work
The benefit to Welsh filmmakers
The depiction of Welsh cultural content – Wales and Welsh life, whilst not essential this will be considered
The viability of the project in terms of budget and partnership funding and the capability of the key creative personnel
The project’s ability to qualify as a British film. Please refer to BFI website for qualification details.
The project’s market appeal. We would expect any application to clearly show an identifiable and reachable core audience and the means by which this audience will be reached.
The range and number of projects already being supported by Film Cymru Wales

(The wording here is much more vague, with far less emphasis on Welsh talent, Welsh origination, and the telling of the Welsh story. Instead of "strong preference" we have ".......whilst not essential this will be considered." So the Welsh requirement can, by and large, simply be ignored.)


I dealt with this in a press release about a year ago,and nothing much seems to have changed:

Ofcom reports on film and TV in Wales

Good rugby coverage, and the nation stays pretty happy.......

There was an interesting report in August 2019 from the regulator Ofcom, on the state of broadcasting in Wales:

It's all very bland -- the report is a mostly factual document, full of facts and figures relating to expenditure, output, viewing figures, trends etc -- with most data derived from 2018. One of the main points in the Ofcom Report is the clear shift away from scheduled listening and viewing to online streaming content.  This is of course part of a national trend, and one which is challenging for the industry.

Overall, Ofcom finds that the BBC, ITV Wales and S4C have performed reasonably well according to their different briefs.  But it's all about performance and delivery -- there is nothing at all about strategy or about the relationships of the broadcasters with the nation in terms of what people expect and what they deserve.  And there is nothing on the manner in which programming reflects the life and traditions of the nation, or about how Wales is portrayed to the world.  That's a pity -- nobody seems to be doing any strategic thinking......


Local programming requirements / commitments

Both ITV and the BBC are required to produce programming for viewers in Wales.

Under the terms of its licence, which was renewed on 1 January 2015 for ten years, ITV has to deliver a minimum amount of programming which is “of particular interest” to people living in Wales. This is done through quotas for news and non-news/current affairs programmes.

These quotas require ITV to produce 4 hours of news and 1 hour 30 mins per week of regional non- news programming, of which 47 minutes must be current affairs.

The BBC, through the operating licence, which came into effect on 1 January 2018, must also fulfil regulatory conditions specific to Wales.

Among other things, this operating licence stipulates that in each Financial Year the BBC must ensure that:

in respect of BBC One Wales, that at least 275 hours are allocated to news and current affairs programmes; and at least 65 hours are allocated to non-news programmes;

in respect of BBC Two Wales, at least 175 hours are allocated to non-news programmes; and

in respect of BBC One Wales and BBC Two Wales taken together, the BBC must ensure that they provide a range of genres in their programming that reflects Wales’s culture.


BBC to strengthen its programming and online services in Wales

New investment of £8.5m in BBC Wales, announced as part of the new Charter package for Wales, has enabled the broadcaster to strengthen its programming and online services across a range of platforms. In 2018, BBC iPlayer requests for BBC Wales’ content increased three-fold to 44 million in 2018, thanks to the success of a range of series including Keeping Faith, starring Eve Myles, andHidden. Both series, co-commissioned with S4C, were in the UK top ten of drama premieres on BBC iPlayer in 2018 and both will return with a second series to network screens.

This creative momentum also boosted the portrayal of Wales on network screens. Home-grown series such as Back in Time for the Factory, The River Wye and Hidden Wales performed strongly with UK audiences.

The development of BBC Wales’ new broadcast centre in Cardiff’s Central Square continues apace and is due to be fully operational by spring 2020. The BBC’s most open and accessible building will be open to the public and a wide range of partners in the creative sector. The building will offer a range of learning experiences, particularly to younger audiences with an aspiration to work in the creative industries.


Welsh Assembly report on film and TV production

In May 2019 the Culture, Welsh Langage and Communications Committee published its report27 on film and major TV production in Wales and found that "there is a danger of losing momentum if we do not have sufficient skilled workers to support our growing screen industry". The culture committee said greater support would need to be given to the ‘indigenous’ film and TV industry, ensuring Welsh crews benefited from government investment.

Netflix and Wales

Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles 

Netflix’ portrayal of Wales in the Crown is a lesson for the BBC

30th November 2019

Dylan Wyn Williams

Compare and contrast. Earlier this year, a BBC Wales commission was shown to the rest of the UK. Pitching In, a light-hearted drama series (dramedy?) with Larry (Gavin & Stacey) Lamb, set in ‘Daffodil Dunes’ caravan park on Ynys Mׅôn with a mainly Lancastrian cast and a gaggle of twp locals with a puzzling south Walian accent.

It was rightly lambasted by viewers left right and centre, and hopefully binned forever by Rhodri Talfan Davies to the box labelled ‘Flops starring Prominent English Household Names’.

As the year ends, a Californian streaming and production company has released an epic drama series partly set here in Wales to a worldwide audience of 148 million. The company in question being Netflix, the series, The Crown, which over two episodes, did far more to promote Welsh history and culture to the rest of the world than BBC Wales’s godawful five-parter ever will.

I’m an avid Netflixer, since succumbing to their one-month free trial. Less so a royal watcher. My colleagues tried roping me into following the first two series featuring Emmy award-winner Claire Foy as Her Maj, but to no avail.

Me, a 45-year-old who’ll be posting Christmas cards with upside-down stamps of Mrs Windsor, in conformity with my Cymdeithas yr Iaith teenage self? Someone who bought a “Twll tîn i’r Cwîn” t-shirt one National Eisteddfod, until it mysteriously vanished and subsequently reappeared among my mother’s bundle of dusters? Nefar in Iwrop.

But my workmates stressed that they were mostly enjoying its dramatic interpretation of post-1953 Britain plus the less flattering portrayal of various prime ministers and members of the monarchy. A British Mad Men, with its exquisite attention to detail. Don’t forget that one series of The Crown has a budget of £50 million, more than S4C’s coffers for the whole year.

All this, and the fact that one my all-time favourite actresses, Olivia Colman, reigns as the English First Lady for the third series encompassing 1964-1977. But the deal-breaker were praise-laden episodes three and six surrounding the darkest, most tumultuous period in our modern history. Aber-fan and the investiture at Caernarfon.

The latter also highly commended for the Cymraeg only scenes with on-screen subtitles, ably translated by local writer and producer Angharad Elen. I clicked, watched and was hooked. Lord Dafydd Êl would been be so proud.


The original author Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Audience) has gone out of his way to promote Wales not just as a pesky principality, but a country. In one striking scene of the Aber-fan episode, the Queen’s aide is at pains to stress the differences between the two nations as the royal jet flaunts from London to Cardiff Rhoose:

“Without wishing to prompt, Your Majesty, you may wish to consider that this is Wales, not England. A display of emotion would not just be considered appropriate, it’s expected.”

The opening scenes of episode 6, monolingually titled ‘Tywysog Cymru’, throws us straight into the “separatist stirrings” of the late sixties. The eagle-eyed viewer would’ve immediately noticed the Dim Croeso 69 posters and the Free Wales Army logo adorning Aberystwyth prom shelter, but the anglo-internationals needed further teaching.

Hence the wonderfully awkward scenes between placid young Charles (Josh O’Connor) and fiery Tedi Millward (Mark Lewis Jones), the vice president of Plaid Cymru who reluctantly became his Welsh language tutor for one term. In a later (fictional) scene, Dr Millward takes pity on his lonely student by inviting him over for supper, much to his wife Sylvia’s chagrin (Nia Roberts). This dramatic licence works twofold. Firstly, an opportunity to highlight Charles’ cold fish family as he witnesses the Millwards’ natural warmth towards their young son at bedtime. And later at the dinner table, Charles notices a photograph of the couple from their protesting days, prompting Tedi to share the story of Tryweryn with him and Netflix viewers worldwide:

“The government drowned it… to provide drinking water for Liverpool, England. And so one of the last fully Welsh-speaking villages in the land now rests quietly at the bottom of a lake.”

Of course, there were some rumbles along the way, including Dafydd Iwan whose iconic tongue-in-cheek protest song, Carlo, about the polo-playing prince, plays the final credits.


Yes, the investiture scenes at Caernarfon Castle does feel rather rushed and glosses over the day’s protests amidst the pomp. It also ignores the important fact that two men were killed whilst planting a bomb next to a railway line at Abergele, intended for the royal train that very morning.

A shame, therefore, that Marc Evans’ excellent docu-film shown over the summer, The Prince and the Bomber, isn’t readily available on BBC iPlayer to coincide with the drama series.

Overall, let’s say diolch to Netflix for the respect and audacity of using our native language in such an internationally renowned series.

And diolch for setting an example to other broadcasters much, much closer to home.



from Sibrydionmawr

Good that at least the portrayal of Wales is at least fairly representative of the times in which the series is set, but does rather posit some rather large questions as to why it has been left to a multinational based in California, USA to do it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent news that such attention to detail is present in the series, but don’t you think it’s somewhat odd that this foreign made TV series is getting the accolades for doing this?

If nothing else, this series should be making us question why our country doesn’t have any kind of home produced profile in terms of film/television. It’s not that we can’t deliver the goods, there are TV series and films that have been made in Wales that are seen once and then disappear into an archive somewhere, rarely to be seen again by the general public anywhere, Why is it when a country such as Iceland can manage to have an online streaming presence, delivering to the world the opportunity to see Icelandic films and TV programmes? Iceland has a population barely larger than that of Cardiff, therefore Wales is a country ten times bigger, but yet without any kind of streaming service showcasing series such as Yr Heliwr, Craith, Y Gwyll or Bang. FIlms such as Solomon a Gaenor, Gadael Lenin, Un Nos Ola Leuad or my personal favourite Gwenoliaid remain unavailable to Welsh people, let alone a wider international audience who would pay to see this output, especially if prompted to wish to know more about Wales by the apparently excellent portrayal of the country in this Netflix series.

Dylan Wyn Williams also misses something that should also give us pause for thought: would those fictionalised scenes of Tedi Milward and Carlo have been so detailed, not to say somewhat politically charged were this series to be made primarily for UK consumption with money coming from, say, the BBC? It’s not as if we can’t say there isn’t self-censorship going on when touchy subjects are broached. Granted, things are getting better, and even S4C commissioned and broadcast a documentary about Caradoc Evans some years ago, which probably didn’t please the deacons one bit, and yes, The Prince and the Bomber was an excellent docu-drama, but where can these be accessed so that they are constantly available to educate, inform and entertain?

A couple of years ago we witnessed a the total farce of someone warned over breach of copyright because they intended uploading the entire series of ‘The Dragon has Two Tongues’ the iconic, (an overused word it ever there was one, but in this case accurate) TV history series to YouTube so that the current generation of Welsh people would have access to at least one interpretation of their own history, which politicians can’t even agree whether or not should be taught in the nation’s schools. The Dragon has Two Tongues is still not available to watch online, though of course if someone wants to trundle up to Aberystwyth they are free to watch it at the Llyfrgell Genedlaethol… But, really, how many people do want to trundle up to Aberystwyth to do that?

To be fair though, it’s not as if we, as Welsh people seem to be that bothered on the whole. The Llyfrgell Genedlaethol YouTube channel is a bit threadbare, with very little content, and the Wales in the Movies YouTube channel only has just over 2,500 subscribers and new content hasn’t been posted in the past six months. Perhaps both channels have a paucity of content due to the national apathy towards the moving image portrayal of our nation?

But top marks to the producers of The Crown for at least making an effort and avoiding the use of lazy stereotype, and actually promoting Wales. Hopefully this will serve as a cic yn y din to TV production in Wales, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Kindle free book promotion

As from today, for five days, we are running a Midwinter Kindle Free Book Promotion on the 8 novels of the Angel Mountain Saga, and on the rebranded thriller called "Icefall Zero."  As long as you have an Amazon account (everybody has, nowadays) you can download any or all of the listed Ebook titles for £0.00.  Depending on the deal you have with Amazon, you may get an invoice or a confirmation of purchase, but it should show £0.00, so just go with the flow.......  You should then be able to read the narrative quite easily either on a Kindle device or on a computer or iPad which has the Kindle Reader installed.

On Angel Mountain
House of Angels
Dark Angel
Rebecca and the Angels
Flying with Angels
Guardian Angel
Conspiracy of Angels

I am also doing a 5-day free book promotion on my rebranded thriller, now called “Icefall Zero.” (The old name — "Acts of God" — sounded too much like a theological text book…….)

Icefall Zero

Please share this info as widely as you like!  Reviews on the Amazon website are always good too, if anybody feels so inclined.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Midwinter Free Ebook Promotions

As from tomorrow (22 Jan) for five days, we are running a FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD promotion for all 8 of the Angel Mountain books and for the re-branded Greenland novel now called "Icefall Zero."

Here is the link to the latter on the Amazon website:

Depending on your relationship with Amazon, the precise procedure may vary -- but the most complex one might involve "buying" the novel at zero cost!  Amazon even goes to the lengths of sending you a sales confirmation Email relating to the "purchase" costing £0.00.  Never mind -- just go with the flow.......

Authenticity and Added Value

There has been a lot in the media recently about the use of actors who are supposed to be Welsh, Scottish or Irish in assorted TV and film productions but who are clearly not up to the task..........  This was on the BBC web site:

And this was Carolyn Hitt having a bit of a rant in the Western Mail not long ago:

This is a topic that pops up every now and then, particularly when a "Welsh" character in a high-profile drama production seems not to have a clue how to pronounce things or speak proper "Wenglish".  Clearly Welsh actors and audiences will feel greatly aggrieved when perfectly fine male and female actors are passed over for "Welsh" parts in favour of English or American actors who are perhaps better known.  Production companies will always cast "stars" if they can get them, even for roles that are not particularly well suited, if they think that "star quality" will attract viewers and put bums onto cinema seats.  So they are always looking for added value, maybe at the expense of authenticity.  But the two are related.  There is no point in casting a famous American to do a Welsh role if said actor makes such a hash of the job that the film as a whole is ridiculed -- so instead of a smash hit you end up with something that bombs in the box office.

So of course casting directors should seek out, and use, Welsh actors if they are available.  And there are scores of them out there, very clever and very professional, waiting for work.

Let's end on a lighter note.  We watched "The Two Popes" the other day.  Thoroughly enjoyable it was too, with Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins in the starring roles, both sounding very Welsh,  one playing a German pope and the other an Argentinian pope.  Win a few, lose a few........

Friday, 17 January 2020

Icefall Zero

And here is the other new Kindle jacket, about to be launched.  The novel called "Acts of God" will shortly be taken off Kindle and replaced by a new version of the novel under the title "Icefall Zero."  The reason for this is that there are at least six other books called "Acts of God", including several which are works of fiction.  Too much confusion........ and it is still important for a book to have a unique name if it is to have an impact.

I have tested out the new title and book cover on assorted friends, and as ever there is much disagreement!  But I have taken advantage of the consultation process and have followed some advice -- by increasing the "threat level" by portraying two Phantom jets, by adding a strap line to ensure that readers know the fellow in the picture is a Greenlander and not a Sherpa porter, and by increasing the lettering size.  Thriller titles, by all account, ned to be very "blokeish" with bold lettering, brash colours and indications of violence....

Anyway, the new Kindle book will be published this weekend with a free introductory offer -- so watch this space!

Two new covers

These are the two new covers for "Dark Angel" and "Flying with Angels"  -- the old covers were very antiquated, and have not been changed since the books were originally published.   There are no new oprintings using these covers -- they are being used at present just for the Kindle editions.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Amazon Kindle -- a mixed blessing

The "theatre of war" where all the action takes place in my chiller thriller called "Acts of God"

I have been trying to unravel some of the mysteries of Kindle uploads via the Amazon Kindle web site.  The reason is that I discovered that the Kindle version of "Acts of God" was -- until a couple of days ago -- a complete mess.  It had lost its formatting, presumably because I uploaded it originally using the Amazon "Mobi" software,  which is now redundant.  Amazon has introduced something far easier to use -- called Kindle Create -- presumably because literally thousands of novice authors are putting their novels out on Kindle -- at zero cost -- in the hope of hitting the big time!  So here is a message for long-establisged authors.  Don't assume that because your novel looked good when you uploaded it ten years ago, it still looks good.  The formatting may have gone haywire because of these uploading developments and as reading devices themselves have become more sophisticated.

Anyway, after much messing about I'm beginning to get the hang of Kindle Create, and would prefer to trust that rather than using Apple's own Ebook creation software.  "Acts of God" has been re-formatted from a Word doc of the while book, and I think I have also got the hang of Contents List creation -- something that has generated a lot of discussion amongst frustrated authors on the discussion sites.  The Contents list is not created automatically -- you have to create it and insert it, and then make sure that all headings and subheadings are compatible with the list when it is generated.

Anyway, check out the new version.  It works for me -- I hope it works for you.....

Saturday, 11 January 2020

English actors and Welsh accents

How Green was my Valley -- a Canadian actor and an Irish actress, pretending to be Welsh.......  Maybe forgivable then, but forgivable in the world of today?

Carolyn Hitt is having a good rant in the Western Mail about the continuing use of non-Welsh actors to play "Welsh" roles in TV and film dramas.  I tend to agree with her -- it is truly cringe-making when an actor who is non-Welsh tries to do the accent and fails. (Some actors can manage it, and all credit to them -- but most cannot....)

The bigger issue is that there are many Welsh actors out there (both male and female) who can do the accent without really trying, and who are absolutely good enough to cope with whatever other acting demands there may be in a role........  so why are they not used, and why do these cockups still occur?  Are Welsh actors and actresses not popular enough or known to sufficiently large audiences?  Are they too expensive?  Or are they just not on casting director's lists when roles come up for auditions? Or are actors actually only chosen if they live in London and are available for instant auditions when roles are being cast?

That is all ridiculous, given the fantastic acting talent within Wales.

Carry on, Western Mail.  You have a point...... 

An old film about Preseli

Somebody put a link to this on Facebook.  It's not really very good, but the later part of the film contains some interesting shots -- particularly relating to Maenclochog Fair and the annual sheep gather on the mountain....