4 May 2012

Screen Yorkshire Roadshow: £15m for TV, film, games and digital sectors

On Wednesday I received an email from Hull Digital about a talk to be given by Screen Yorkshire on a new £15m content fund for TV, film, games and digital sectors at the World Trade Centre in Hull. I have since discovered that was a stop on a roadshow by Chief Executive Sally Joynson and Head of Production Hugo Heppell.   It has already visited Bradford and Barnsley and will be at the Workstation Sheffield today.  It will also go to York on 8 May, Huddersfield on the 14 and Leeds on the 31. The talk is free and bookings are made through Eventrbrite.

The World Trade Centre in Hull is not quite the same landmark as its namesake had been in New York.  Not everybody in that city has heard of it and none of those who have had a clear idea of where it was. I drove to the address in Queen Street on the Eventrbrite print out only to be re-directed by the signposts and passers by to a desolate looking office block that would not have looked out of place in the German Democratic Republic known as "Humber Quays." Once I had penetrated the security of Humber Quays I was told by the porter that the WTC had been there but had moved out but neither he nor anyone else in that Lubyanka quite knew where.  Hull city centre is bisected by a dual carriageway so a journey of a few hundred yards from one end of the waterfront to another can take quite a long time - especially in the middle of the afternoon,   Once I had found my way back to Queen Street, I parked on a bit of waste ground that proclaimed itself as a car park only by its ticket machine and proceeded on heels past every building in the street - many of which were unoccupied - until I eventually found the modest façade of the WTC.  As a result of this perambulation I missed Sally's presentation altogether and caught only the last few slides of Hugo's.

However, the event was still well worth attending.   Screen Yorkshire is now the only regional agency to support film, television or interactive media in its area and it has done some very good work. Recent productions include Wuthering HeightsThis is England 86 and  Red Riding.  Like everything else, public funding for film and TV has been cut since the change of government.   Save for the regional growth fund and Broadband Delivery UK there has been very little public money for anything.  So when I received Hull Digital's email about this £15 million cornucopia, my ears pricked up

Half of the money comes from Europe - more specifically the European Regional Development Fund channelled through the Department of Communities and Local Government - while the other half will come from unspecified other sources.   The scheme is known as the Yorkshire Content Fund and its object is "to address a gap in the market place by providing targeted co-investment finance into companies based in Yorkshire and the Humber producing creative content projects, and to develop innovative approaches to further investment in the digital and new media sector."   Funds under the scheme will be investments and not grants.   Those investments will be made in projects and companies across the whole range of digital media activity including film and television production, videogames, mobile content and ‘apps’, web-based and digital media products. However projects must be initiated by Yorkshire-based companies or by SMEs attracted into or started up in the county.  Further information on the scheme is available from an "Overview"  and expressions of interest can be registered through the following form.

After the presentation I asked Hugo whether funding under the scheme would take the form of a loan or equity investment. He replied that it would be neither but "quasi-equity".  When I pressed him as to what he meant by "quasi equity" he replied that it would be "a charge over the intellectual property".  As he had told someone else that Screen Yorkshire would retain a stake in a licensable character until it had been bought out, I asked Hugo whether that would mean that Screen Yorkshire would expect an assignment of copyrights or rights over performances to which he replied that it would mean that Screen Yorkshire would take a charge over the revenues.  

It is clear that anybody thinking of taking advantage of this scheme whether as a content producer (film maker, developer or otherwise) or as an investor - will require specialist professional advice.   If anyone wants to discuss it with me further, he or she can contact me through my contact formFacebookLinkedinXing or twitter or call me on 0113 320 3232 .