Award-winning producer Ben Winston says Sunderland can become an international 'creative hub'

ITV News' Rishi Davda speaks to top Hollywood producer Ben Winston on why Sunderland might prove the perfect location to rival filmmaking studios around the world

He's a man whose contact book is akin to the who's who of Hollywood.

British-born Ben Winston lives and breathes television, and the passion with which he speaks about it, I believe, is one of the reasons he's been so successful.

That, and the fact that he surrounds himself with long-term friends at their burgeoning production company Fulwell 73.

Winston was also an executive producer on popular Hulu reality show The Kardashians. Credit: ABACA/PA Images

The 41-year-old has executive producer credits on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Grammy Awards, The Kardashians and Ed Sheeran, The Sum of it All.

Oh, and he's the driving force (pun intended) behind Carpool Karaoke on Apple TV.

Though many of his recent hits have been birthed across the pond, Ben and his buds are now planning to build one of Europe's largest filmmaking complexes in Sunderland.

Co-founders of Fulwell 73 (left to right) Ben Winston, Gabe Turner, Ben Turner, and Leo Pearlman. Credit: PA

Ben believes that "it's really important for all of the British television industry that we have a second major hub outside of London, so that we can keep competing at the top level."

"There is such a struggle for studios all over the world and to see productions go to Vancouver or Atlanta... We are excited about the north-east," he says.

The Crown Works Studios will be a 1.68 million-square-foot development with 20 sound stages, and could create 8,450 jobs in the area.

Crown Works Studios in Sunderland could create some 8,450 jobs across the north-east. Credit: Fulwell 73 Productions

Is there a stigma that they'll have to break down internationally about filming outside of London?

"I don't know," he replies. "I do think that the north-east has a really great tradition of making shows.

"Maybe not in the last few years but it is the perfect place for us to build."

Comparing the new studios to developments in the US, the 12-time Emmy Award winner says: "I look at Atlanta and the impact that Atlanta has had on the US television industry.

"Everything is shot in Atlanta. I genuinely believe that Sunderland can be the equivalent, I think it'll be our Atlanta."

At its core, having studios outside of London will allow production companies to encourage people "from all backgrounds into the industry," Ben remarks.

"That is how the best programmes will be made."

'Production companies need to make sure we are looking at all diverse people to come and work from all backgrounds in this industry'

Much of the US film and TV industry is at a standstill right now, because of the ongoing actors' and writers' strikes.

Members of both unions are calling for a number of things, including better working conditions, better pay, more transparency around streaming viewership, and clarity around the future use of artificial intelligence.

Ben stands in solidarity with the people on the picket line, saying that the deals in dispute were "made at a time when we just had network television."

"Now things mostly go on a streamer and stay there, it's a one-stop shop," he says.

"People aren't able to pay their rent, its difficult to see them struggling right now."

Winston with One Direction, via his Instagram: 'Loved every minute of that life changing time.' Credit: Instagram/mrbenwinston

The father-of-two, whose eldest is lucky enough to have Harry Styles as her godfather, was also the lead on Friends: The Reunion. While Fulwell 73 are also working on a reboot of Byker Grove.

Ben believes there are two reasons for the surge in nostalgic programming.

"Firstly, these shows bring back a warmth of days gone by," he says.

"Secondly, networks and broadcasters know people will recognise the title and are therefore more likely to click on it."

He warns that we do need "new audiences coming to new titles" to ensure the industry continues to thrive.

Ben speaks about the differences between the creative industries in the UK and the US

Next, we played a quick game of rapid response...

First pinch me moment?

That first night on The Late Late Show with James Corden. That night changed both our lives forever.

Was working in TV was always the dream?

Yes, from the age of 14 I would be on a set somewhere. At 16, I was getting people coffee.

There are things I learnt as a runner that I still use today.

What does the future of entertainment look like in three words?

Complicated, but promising...

Ben Winston will be chatting to Richard Bacon about his career at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, August 24.

Tune into the ITV News entertainment podcast, Unscripted...