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David Copperfield film shoot in Bury St Edmunds generated £82,500 for town's economy

Filming of a star studded adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic in Bury St Edmunds generated £82,500 for the town's economy.

Figures presented to the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders gathering of all council chief executives and leaders revealed that in two years, local spend from film and TV productions shooting in Suffolk exceeded £3.8m, based on an average spend of £11,000 per day.

Screen Suffolk was established in December 2016 to bring film, TV, advert and photography productions into the county, working as the official film office on behalf of all councils by facilitating film permits, location scouting, road closures and access to catering, crew and other firms.

The Personal History of David Copperfield shooting on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton.
The Personal History of David Copperfield shooting on Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton.

To date, more than 336 filming days have taken place – well above the average 30 days annual filming before Screen Suffolk was established – and include big-budget productions such as the new Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle film, Yesterday, and Armando Iannucci’s period film The Personal History of David Copperfield.

Five days in Bury St Edmunds last July for the David Copperfield shoot alone resulted in £82,500 being spent locally, including location fees, hotels, local crew, and spend in restaurants and cafes.

Karen Everett, director of Screen Suffolk, said: “We know that Suffolk is a great place to live, work, and invest in, and we believe Screen Suffolk is part of this.

“We will be in a different place [financially] in 2020 than we were in 2015 – every penny has made a difference and production managers love working with us.”

One idea currently being investigated is the potential for a ‘creative hub’ to be established which would allow London-based productions to effectively have a ‘district office’ in Suffolk for filming, post-production and other activities.

Dev Patel as David Copperfield in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Dev Patel as David Copperfield in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton.

Screen Suffolk has also established an interactive map of locations, a database of local cast and crew and has also tabled the possibility of a ‘movie map’ that would allow film tourists the chance to see locations in the county that have been used on film.

The meeting also heard that options could be drawn up for a production budget that would be offered to films if they based themselves in the county.

While nothing firm has been proposed, it is understood that the public sector leaders group is receptive to providing more funding if needed.

The budget would effectively provide an incentive for productions to film in Suffolk, with the money later recouped after the film’s release.

Other stipulations such as a percentage of filming days taking place locally, a certain number of local cast or crew used and agreements for catering budgets to be spent in the county would be included.

Stephen Baker, chief executive of East Suffolk councils, said: “This is the economy of the future.

“We have made this happen and we need to continue to invest in it.

“The investment we have made is absolutely critical and the trajectory is brilliant.

“The added value of getting work placements, engaging with schools and students, making sure the money is spent on local businesses – that’s what makes it such a successful project.”

While details for projects filming in 2019 have not yet been released because of non-disclosure agreements, it is understood that at least two blockbusters and three high end dramas are all in the pipeline.