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October 2017
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    Hiring top talent and investing heavily in development have been key to growing his Bristol indie Plimsoll Productions, says founder Grant Mansfield
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    What ever genre you work in, you need to be lens savvy. Here three DoPs guide us through the lens market, picking out the models they like to use in drama and factual
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Reports&
surveys

Film 40, 2015 Back to Reports & survey Listing

The top film studios

The UK’s film studios are experiencing unprecedented demand as US and international featuresand high end TV projects flow in. But it’s important to stay flexible, they say. Jon Creamer reports

When it comes to Hollywood tentpole movies, then it’s fair to say that the UK’s film studios are hosting a fair few of them. It’s also fair to say that the trend is getting stronger every year.

BFI figures for 2013 show that over £1bn was spent on film production in the UK in 2013, a 14% increase on 2012. Of that £1bn, £868m came from 37 inward investment features including Jupiter Ascending, Cinderella and Into the Woods.

The BFI’s 2014 figures are even more astonishing with a shade under £1.5bn spent and £1.23bn of that coming from big budget international movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Jungle Book, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Spectre.

Much of this has been driven by film tax relief, allowing the country’s highly regarded creative expertise and world class production facilities to play on a level playing field with other territories that offer tax breaks. Similar changes to tax relief for high end drama have also pushed demand for film studio space in the UK.

The pre election budget looks set to make the UK an even more attractive prospect with film tax relief now increased to 25% on all qualifying expenditure. Previously the 25% rate applied for the first £20m of qualifying expenditure and then 20% afterwards. Now the 25% rate applies across the board. All this, says Pinewood’s director of strategy Andrew Smith, is a “demonstration that policy and the tax reliefs combined with skilled crews and infrastructure is an attractive combination 
for film and high end TV makers.”

The UK’s studio facilities have rushed to satisfy demand with Pinewood’s project to add 12 large stages with supporting infrastructure. now under way and further expansion at Elstree as its four acre backlot is developed. Warner’s Leavesden site is similarly expanding. And demand is spreading beyond the South East. Pinewood’s Cardiff Bay operation is now online and Bristol’s Bottleyard Studios has been up and running since 2010. Over in Northern Ireland, Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, home to Game of Thrones, is in the early stages of adding extra studios to its current 110,000 square feet to cope with new productions. Director of corporate real estate Michael Graham says “The outlook on the demand side is quite incredible. We’ve been trying to shovel more stage space and production support space out of the ground, but that process takes time. We certainly believe if we had the new facilities now they would be full.”

But while inward investment films have soared, UK independent film has remained fairly stagnant. “We tend to work with UK independents, we are seeing enquiries for them but it feels a bit on the light side,” says 3 Mills studio executive Tom Avison. “We’re experiencing more on the TV drama side. My general feeling is that TV drama has squeezed out independent features a little bit.”

But in general, the amount of film work pouring into UK studios seems pretty consistent and the demand is not flagging. Not that anyone’s being complacent. Film has a tendency still to come in peaks and troughs. Most studios that concentrate on film also make sure that they accommodate a broader range of production. “All our new spaces are flexible spaces,” says Pinewood’s Andrew Smith. “They can host large inward investment films, high end television and television such as the finals of The Voice and Got to Dance. To have flexible assets is attractive.”

3 Mills
Mr Holmes, Frankenstein. Nine filming stages and two rehearsal stages ranging from 3,200 sq. ft. to 13,500 sq. ft

Bottle Yard
Golden Years, Galavant, Wolf Hall, Poldark. 300,000 sq ft of production space in total

Ealing

Bastille Day, Downton Abbey. 60,000 sq ft of space in total

Elstree
Grimsby, Suffragette, Paddington. 60,000 sq ft of space and backlot being developed

Longcross
Captain Phillips, World War Z. Four stages ranging from 4,000 to 42,000 sq ft

Pinewood
Star Wars, Spectre. Huge studio group spread across Pinewood, Shepperton, Cardiff Bay and international studios

Titanic
Game of Thrones, Your Highness. 110,000 sq ft of space situated in Belfast and more coming online

Twickenham
Legend, The Program, Amy. Three stages at 7,500 sq ft each

Leavesden
Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman. 250,000 sq ft of stage space

West London
The Imitation Game, The Knife Man, New Tricks. 105,000 sq ft of space

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