Although Cardiff has become the adopted home of Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, the Welsh capital's similarities with Hollywood are few and far between. Likewise, St Mary Street, Cardiff's party hub, lacks the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. However, for Welsh-born filmmaker John Giwa-Amu, these differences work in Cardiff's favour.
“Because of the size of Cardiff and its film-making community, we know each other. With one phone call I can find a second assistant, a lighting technician or whoever else from the crew I need,” says Mr Giwa-Amu, whose sci-fi thriller The Machine premiered at New York's Tribeca Film Festival earlier in 2013.
Outside of the UK, Wales might not be well known for its television and film industry, but government support through public sector procurement has seen the industry grow over the past few decades. The Welsh film industry has also started specialising not only in popular television programmes such as Doctor Who, but also in Hollywood-style blockbusters such as Clash of the Titans and Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life.
“Cardiff [in particular] and Wales in general make perfect sense for film and television productions, as they offer cost advantages and locations that can be used universally, even if the plot of the movie is not connected with Wales,” says Mr Giwa-Amu. “On top of that, organisations such as Wales Screen Commission and Film Agency for Wales are incredibly helpful with funding and logistics,” he adds. Indeed, a development grant awarded to his film by Film Agency for Wales was “a trigger that helped a lot at the very early stage of the movie's production”.
And while the film and television industry seems to be currently the most eminent subsector of Cardiff's creative scene, it is not the only one. A number of new industries, in the form of animation, audio, graphics and gaming studios are also making their presence felt in the city. According to statistics published by the Welsh government, between 2009 and 2011 creative industries in Wales grew by 16.5%. Overall, the government estimates that more than 4200 companies operate in the creative sector across Wales and their annual impact on the economy exceeds $2.76bn.
Oyster World Games, a mobile games firm, is among the companies that have recently decided to settle in Wales. The two-year-old start-up announced in June 2013 its decision to move into Treforest, a business park located just outside Cardiff. It will create 60 jobs over the next three years. Co-founder Matt Nagy says that at the final stage of site selection, Oyster World Games had narrowed its choice down to Canada and Wales, as both locations were tempting the company with financial incentives. “We were headhunted by Canadians to move there, but then Wales put up an offer and beat it,” says Mr Nagy.
Government support of the company's operations in the village of Treforest in the south of Wales is estimated at £1m ($1.53m). However, the decision to move to Treforest was not dictated solely by “financial stuff”, as Mr Nagy puts it. “Cardiff is scenic and quite laid back. But at the same time working with people there is tremendous,” he says.