Sunderland’s council leader has revealed ambitions for Star Wars to be filmed on Wearside, as part of a wider drive to develop film and TV production industries across the North East.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet of senior councillors, at a meeting this week, agreed funding contributions for the North East Screen Industries Partnership.

North East Screen, the region’s not-for-profit regional screen agency, works to develop and champion the screen industries across the North East.

This includes supporting productions with individual grant applications and talent, as well as building a ‘locations database’ to encourage companies to film in the area, with 61 Sunderland-based locations now registered.

North East Screen opened an office at The Beam in Sunderland in 2023, with every local authority across the North East now having a “film friendly contact” to coordinate requests in their area.

Since a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the BBC and the North East region, promising more investment into regional programming and content, the number of productions filmed locally has also increased.

For councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, the goal is for more major productions to be filmed locally showcasing the city and its assets to wider audiences.

With plans for the Crown Works Studios on the horizon, with a planning decision expected in the coming months, it has been said that blockbuster movies could be filmed along the banks of the River Wear.

Cllr Miller, speaking at a cabinet meeting, said: “Personally, I want to see an episode of Vera being shot in this council chamber.

“I genuinely want to look down on the River Wear and see Robson Green fishing and doing one of his fishing programmes.

“We have already got the Hairy Bikers at Sheepfolds because Si King is opening his restaurant there.

“As pointed out, whilst we have our acknowledged global credentials as a leader in EV battery charging technology and the automotive sector through Nissan, with a large workforce and an even larger supply chain, this is another workforce of that size ultimately if we get this [film studio] all built out properly.

“The North East Screen Industrial Partnership is a key element of it.

“So it’s great to see that we’re continuing to move forward and I will try and see if we can get a Star Wars movie made here eventually.

“I’m sure the queue of people wanting to go and have a look at it will be enormous”.

The comments were made at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s cabinet on January 31, 2024, at City Hall.

Several other cabinet members also welcomed the report on the North East Screen Industries Partnership, and the benefits increased filming in the region could bring.

Councillor Iain Scott, deputy cabinet member for Dynamic City, said the partnership could highlight Sunderland’s regeneration work while also boosting tourism.

Cllr Scott told the meeting: “Having these shows filmed across Sunderland is going to showcase the work we have done as an officer core, leadership and cabinet across the entirety of the city, and for more people with greater audiences to come and see that.

“Again that’s going to bring with it some form of tourism I would expect and would certainly highlight the excellent work that we have done”.

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for children, learning and skills, also highlighted the importance of enabling infrastructure for the screen industries, as well as the job opportunities for city residents.

Cllr Williams said: “I think it’s fabulous that our residents can have yet another opportunity, rather than contact centres and Nissan, this is another creative opportunity and I believe we have lots of creative people in this area.

“I was doing some interviews with year 10 children yesterday morning, and one of them said ‘I’m going to work down at that film studio’.

“I thought fab I hope you do, it would be an amazing opportunity to think that this is going to grow.

“Because it’s being enabled, and we keep hearing it’s all about enabling services to be able to come, we’ll have a very strong structure for partners to be able to come in and do that work.

“I would actually say we have the best scenery when you look around across this whole region, if we go from what will be the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, we’ve got some amazing places to film in.

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“So congratulations to everyone who has got this to this point, I look forward to seeing it develop”.

The memorandum of understanding between the BBC and North East local authorities was signed in September, 2021, in relation to the North East Screen Industries Partnership.

According to a cabinet report, this set out a “partnership vision and mutual investment targets by BBC and the North East authorities over a five-year period to promote the development of [the] region’s cultural and creative industries, through the strategic development of the local TV and screen industry and skills”.

The report states investment continues to be committed by all of the North East authorities, including Sunderland, in a “collaborative way to deliver a sustainable ecosystem”.

Initial funding covers a five-year period based on an “even split” across 12 North East local authority areas which for 2023/24, according to Sunderland City Council documents, was £159,560.

Sunderland City Council also signed a ‘filming friendly charter’ in December, 2022, to help demonstrate to the sector that “Sunderland is open for business and welcomes productions”.

For more information, visit North East Screen’s website at