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Studios: golden age or gold rush?

Blog
01 September 2015

Tom Avison, Head of Studios at 3 Mills Studios, on the state of the UK studio sector.

“This is a golden age for the creative sector in the UK” says George Osborne. But is it a golden age or a gold rush?

What follows a gold rush? Prospectors…and the UK studios market is teeming with prospectors at the moment who are all chasing the shiny nuggets washing through the production stream. But is this prospecting sustainable?

One of the most exciting elements of the being in the studio sector at a time like this is the level of competition that has been created. How it can shake up old norms, offer new competitors and bring benefits to the industry as a whole. Surely the best path to sustainability is to nurture a healthy eco-system with a variety of choice for productions, ensuring we are all focused on delivering the best production experience and allowing creative people to continue making wonderful programmes and films.

At times it seems like anyone with access to 20,000 sq ft of warehouse space is tagging the word “studios” on to it and offering a “pop-up” production facility.

This makes sense for a property developer with an unused distribution warehouse and 24 months to go until the bulldozers roll. But does it really offer a quality production base? Perhaps in some instances, but I have always felt that the studio environment in itself, as a creative centre, gives stimulus to crews. Isolated, as the only occupiers of a remote warehouse doesn’t sound too much fun to me.

The big goliaths, Leavesden and Pinewood, are investing and expanding, looking to out punch each other with 50,000 sq ft haymakers in a bid to keep the $200m factory-line features based in the UK for years to come. These out of town movie mega-factories are undoubtedly the engine to our industry. The globalisation of tent-pole features and the economic benefits they bring also opens the eyes of governments around the world. When you are working on budgets that big, a few percentage points on a tax incentive, or a slight shift in exchange rates can make a huge difference.

And as for the Studios in the middle, like 3 Mills, we are genuine studios, not a “pop-up”, yet without the mega-stages. We want to contribute to a diverse eco-system by mixing the best of our creative disciplines from Film, TV and Theatre. We want to provide an environment which delivers the stimulus that artists and production teams thrive on so they can produce fantastic work.

So is it a golden age or a gold rush? Something like that can only be determined with the benefit of hindsight, but it is certainly a time in which producers and line producers have more choice than ever over where to base their show, and that can surely only be good for the health of the industry.




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