I got an email a few months ago from a friend in North Carolina. They asked me what it was like to live in Doctor Who’s city. At first I was fairly staggered that they knew it was actually filmed in Cardiff, but then I realised that they probably watch BBC America, and had maybe caught one of the Doctor Who Confidential programmes that goes behind the scenes.

It’s easy to joke about geo-illiterate* Americans, but I’m chuffed that my adopted hometown’s on the map in the States. And besides, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have been able to name any cities in North Carolina had I not been lucky enough to have been there a few times.

I mention all this because David Tennant and co. were outside my house filming last night and it caused a real buzz in my otherwise sleepy neighbourhood. Here’s a video I shot of The Doctor almost being run over by a van (and proof that Tennant does his own stunts!)

Anyway, it got me thinking about how ace it is to have a really cool “brand” produced in the UK’s 11th biggest city. The bravery of Welsh writer/producer Russell T Davies to keep the production here should be applauded, alongside the plaudits he’s received for reviving the franchise in such a brilliant way. I wonder how much that decision has contributed to the Welsh economy. I reckon it could be in the order of tens of millions over the next decade. I’m sure it has improved tourism, and it will no doubt showcase Cardiff (as Torchwood seems to do in a more obvious way). From small acorns…

On a bigger scale I’m sure the New Zealand tourism board has a lot easier job of things ever since Peter Jackson decided to base all the Lord Of The Rings production there. A quick Google shows up a few links about the effect it’s had on tourism there.

But what’s more important (and more valuable) in the long run is that people no longer see New Zealand (and hopefully Wales) as a sleepy, rural idyll that can’t compete with it’s slick neighbours in terms of creativity and innovation. If i had the money and needed world class special effects I’d be on the first plane to NZ, knocking on the door of Jackson’s Weta Digital. Why be stuck in LA trawling around the many faceless CGI companies when you could be overlooking the Cook Strait and South Pacific with one of the world’s most cutting edge companies…?

There’s a great (but probably untrue) story about Peter Jackson that demonstrates the power of having done great things against the grain and using resources that nobody expects to work (i.e. New Zealand).

He was wrapping up post-production of the final Lord Of the Rings film and had already signed up to direct King King when his phone rang. It was the studio in LA that was producing the giant ape-a-thon. They were putting together a production schedule and wanted to know what studios he wanted to book in downtown LA.
“Why on earth would I want to film it in LA?”, said Peter.
“But you can’t film something of that scale in New Zealand”, said the dumb studio exec.
Peter waited a few seconds, cleared his throat, then said “You know those massive-scale films I just produced in New Zealand that grossed millions of dollars and won 11 Oscars….?”

*If that’s not a word now and it ends up in the OED in ten years time I want royalties!

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