Welsh film moves production to Lithuania due to lack of funding

Welsh film moves production to Lithuania due to lack of funding

The Welsh star and producer of a film being shot in south Wales says he has had to move production abroad due to a lack of financial support here.

Matt Hookings said he wanted to make his entire film in Wales, but did not get the backing he needed.

Hookings is making ‘Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher’, about the birth of boxing.

The Welsh government’s Creative Wales body said it was working to maintain Wales reputation as a film destination.

But Hookings’ production, which co-stars Ray Winstone, has switched from Newport to Lithuania.

Hookings, who has appeared in films alongside Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise, said too much emphasis was placed on attracting big productions in Wales.

“I was told to leave Wales and go and make the film somewhere else,” said the actor and writer, who is from Newport himself.

Creative Wales, the Welsh government agency supporting the creative industries in Wales, chose not to fund the film.

Hookings said: “I just hope and wish there is a little bit more emphasis on supporting local up and coming talent like myself.

“The experience and the things that I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t want anyone else going through that, because it’s been the most challenging, difficult experience of my life getting this film off the ground.”

Hookings is the son of David ‘Bomber’ Pearce, former British Heavyweight boxing champion dubbed the ‘Newport Rocky’.

For the film he transformed parts of the Westgate Hotel in Newport into an early Victorian Mayfair club, with a full size boxing ring.

‘We were not asking for millions’
Hookings said he was grateful for the development funding that was provided by Ffilm Cymru Wales, but was concerned about the lack of wider financial support his independent film received.

“We couldn’t get funding support from Wales because the application process took 12 weeks to turn around. On an independent film you don’t get 12 weeks, that’s three months.

“We were asking for a small amount of money, we were not asking for millions.

“We were willing to spend quite a lot of money here, but we were asking for a very small amount of money and it just didn’t work.”

This month the Welsh government announced Creative Wales has supported one of the largest films to ever be produced in Wales, ‘Havoc’ starring Tom Hardy and Forest Whitaker.

Tom Hardy stopped for photos with fans on Barry Island on the weekend.

Creative Wales also helped attract Lucasfilm to Wales, which is producing a new version of the film, ‘Willow’ in Tenby. The original 1988 Ron Howard film was shot in Llanberis in Gwynedd.

It has also supported shows like Sex Education, and the War of the Worlds series, which is also filming in Newport.

Creative Wales said it helped source locations and freelance crew for Hookings’ film.

But the agency said any production project that is scheduled to begin shooting without affording time for critical assessments, could not progress to the formal application stage.

A Creative Wales official said: “This summer is the busiest period of production activity Wales has ever seen, with approximately 24 productions shooting across Wales between May and October.

“Creative Wales has supported and continues to support the majority of these productions, and works with the indigenous and wider production community to ensure that Wales maintains its reputation as a world class destination for creative screen projects.”