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Valleywood is the new film mecca

Movie-making is the new cool Cymru career as schoolchildren set their sights on big-screen stardom - in Rhondda. The former coal-mining community is destined to welcome some of Hollywood's biggest stars with the opening of a pound;330 million film studio next February.

Homegrown stars Catherine Zeta Jones and Ioan Gruffudd have already announced plans to direct and feature in their own movies at the film centre, Dragon International Studios, dubbed Valleywood.

Work on transforming a former open-cast mine in Llanilid, Rhondda, into a venue where some of the world's biggest blockbusters will be made started in July. At the premiere of his latest film, The Fantastic Four, Ioan Gruffudd said he planned to direct and star in his own movie made on home soil at Valleywood.

The studio development has created a rush for 1,700 jobs and contributed to soaring numbers of pupils taking media studies.

Many have been making TV programmes as part of Media4Schools, a scheme set up in the Vale of Glamorgan with the new film studio in mind. The initiative gives pupils a behind-the-camera glimpse of film-making.

Jamie Jones from Barry comprehensive school, was named best presenter for a half-hour programme filmed in the school's kitchen, at a recent awards ceremony at BBC Wales's Cardiff headquarters.

The 16-year-old footballer and athlete said: "I would love to be a sports presenter. The experience we are getting will prepare us for any challenge."

English, film and media teacher Jane Edwards completed a double for the school by clinching the champion teacher award.

She said: "There are going to be so many opportunities in Wales, and pupils need to start learning the important skills needed in the industry early on."

Other schools taking part in the Media4Schools scheme are: Bryn Hafren and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, also in Barry; Stanwell and St Cyres comprehensives in Penarth; and Cowbridge comprehensive, Cowbridge.

Lord Attenborough, Oscar winner and director, is chairing the Studios. The Jurassic Park star claims Wales will become the centre of the UK film industry.

* Other winners at the awards were: St Cyres comprehensive (best camera work); Ysgol Bro Morgannwg (best script, report and video); and Bryn Hafren (best media business).

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