A burgeoning North East creative sector is helping a team of North East filmmakers tell stories about their homeland.
Award-winning South Shields film, television, and training company, Red Stamp Productions, is fast building a reputation for delivering unique, quality work about the North East and its diverse communities.
Co-founder, Connor Langley, who formed the company with Michael Lambert, and Michael Rowlands, believes the team’s affinity with the region helps drive their passion for projects.
“I had to move from the North East to cut my teeth in the industry, going to the North West to work on the documentary “Idris Elba, No Limits” for Discovery,” he said. “It was a fantastic experience, but also one that helped me realise that while I enjoyed working on a factual productions, it was scripted projects that really interested me.
“I’d graduated from Sunderland University and decided to go back to study for my Masters. I met the two Michaels and realised we had loads in common. We worked together to create four, 20-minute horror comedies that won an RTS Award and we were off and running.
“There were a few obstacles as we worked to establish ourselves, COVID being the main one, but we’ve delivered some really nice projects and continued to win work.”
Among the projects have been an award-winning music video for 27 Productions, a musical about the former British Steel blast furnace at Redcar, short film The 12th Man about a supporter’s love for Middlesbrough, and a series of signed films for deaf children.
Michael Rowlands said: “Though working-class stories are told on screen, seldom are they told by working-class people. Now that we have this exciting new kit, we’ll open opportunities for other working-class filmmakers to come and take advantage of it to create art, tell stories, and bring representation to the region from those that live and work here.”
As work lines up, Red Stamp is optimistic about the future of regional filmmaking, with Fulwell 73 creating a studio in Sunderland, Hartlepool’s Northern Studios opening and support agency North East Screen receiving funding from all councils to bring productions to the region like the recently released blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
To capitalise on the firm’s unique location in the heart of the North East, Red Stamp invested in state of the art equipment, thanks to a £30,000 grant from Innovate UK, funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
The Black Magic Mini Ursa 12K Camera was recently added to Netflix’s approved camera list, meeting the exacting standards set by streaming giant for productions on the platform.
Michael Lambert added: “The grant has been invaluable. Too often talent has moved away and aspirations of the next generation hampered because of few job opportunities here in the TV and film industry. Red Stamp is passionate about creating a sustainable production company, aiming high for the next decade and bringing large-scale productions to the North East. This will then champion and employ young filmmakers and crew.”
Connor added: “We’re committed to telling the stories we love from the North East and to help create a thriving film production industry here, alongside the many extremely talented companies who are already here.
“The new kit will strengthen our offer and help us build our reputation across an industry that is notoriously difficult to break into and almost inaccessible for a South Tyneside based company a few years ago.
“But things have changed. The industry is waking up to great local talent, amazing film-making locations and an enthusiasm to make this once in a generation opportunity fly.
“It costs so much to get up and running and we’re now investing in cameras that I could never have dreamed of even seeing, never mind using, when I was a student. The barriers for potential filmmakers from working-class backgrounds are still there, but they are getting smaller and with the help of North East Screen and arts and creative support organisations there will be greater opportunity for young filmmakers in the North East.”
The company recently welcomed experienced media executive, Alex Connock, as a Red Stamp shareholder. A founder of Ten Alps with Bob Geldof, which owned TV production companies and was responsible for ground-breaking shows like The Big Breakfast, he said: “It’s exciting that there is this new and cutting edge production business in South Shields, at the same time as wider investment in studios and media production in the region. Media is a unique industry through which South Shields can access a world market – with its talent, its ideas and its locations – and it’s great that local government is so engaged.”
Connor added: “Alex adds knowledge, experience and has so many contacts across the industry, so it’s a genuine coup to have him involved with the business.
“It feels like everything is falling into place for Red Stamp and we’re all genuinely excited about what the future hold for us, the company and the industry across the North East.”
Cllr Margaret Meling, lead member for Economic Growth and Transport, said: “Having signed the Film-Friendly Charter, we recognise the benefits to our economy and tourism of the TV and film industry and we congratulate Red Stamp on the work they are doing to champion the region on screen
“The passion, skill and enthusiasm of the team there is evident and the work they produce is of the highest quality. I’m pleased that the Council has been able to support the company and I very much look forward to seeing more of their work.”
Speaking about Red Stamp’s growth, North East Screen’s Head of Talent and Business Development, Lisa Laws, said: “Connor and the team at Red Stamp are super passionate not only about the region, but the whole industry, and I know they will make the most of any opportunity that comes their way.
“We’re delighted to be supporting them as they continue to grow and establish themselves within the North East screen sector.”