Golden era for the silver screen

Britain has become the most sought after filming location for the biggest budget movies and television dramas.

The UK’s proud legacy of producing era-defining franchises like James Bond, Harry Potter, Game Of Thrones and The Crown is now respected and envied across the globe.

And increased demand for blockbuster films and TV dramas from streaming services like Netflix has created an urgent need for more film studios, and skilled crews.

Film producer and businessman Robert Laycock, who is building a major studio in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, says: “We have to make sure we have the facilities where and when people want them.

“When you are making a film you go where the talent is and for the next 100 years Europe, and particularly the UK, is going to be a much stronger place to set up these facilities for big budget productions.”


A recent report from the British Film Institute showed UK films now represent 16 per cent of global ticket sales.

And 85 per cent of these were produced in a west London to Buckinghamshire corridor that includes the iconic Pinewood and Shepperton film studios.

As a result, the UK film and TV industry is growing 15 times faster than the UK economy, with a record £6.27billion spent on film and high-end television production last year.

Some 92 per cent of inward investment comes from the US, with spending on film and TV production now forecast to grow to £7.5billion by 2025.

The BFI recently said there will be 20,000 new roles in the industry, named by one in five people as their dream job, in the next few years.

Tax breaks for big budget film production introduced by Gordon Brown in 2007 were extended to high-end TV, animation and video games by then culture and digital economy minister Ed Vaizey.

The now Lord Vaizey of Didcot is also credited with helping keep the filming of the Harry Potter movies at Warner Bros Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire in 2013.

Film tax relief is available at 25 per cent of qualifying film production expenditure, regardless of budget size, as long as 10 per cent of core expenditure of the production is in the UK.

Leo Pearlman is managing partner of the Fulwell 73 Group, which made The Late Late Show with James Corden, and is also one of the production company’s partners.

He said he is excited by the increased demand for cutting-edge film studios in the UK, along with well-trained crews, that the ever-growing need for high quality content for streaming services has created.

Leo says: “While the US for one reason or another has not been able to provide quite the same supply, the UK has stepped in.

“The UK has a rich history of making big budget films and high-end television with the iconic studios we have like Pinewood and Shepperton. When you talk to the heads of content for the streaming companies, they are so excited coming and shooting in studios that have such a heritage.

“As soon as they get to the UK they realise the locations available across this incredible country are second to none.”

He adds: “It’s a short hop over from the States, but then once you are in the country the variety of locations are within touch, whether cities, the coast or the countryside.

“Being English-speaking also plays a massive part.

“All these elements combined have led to this explosion.”

Mr Laycock, CEO and co-founder of Marlow Film Studios, says: “The reason people are drawn to the UK is our blockbuster history.

“If you go back to the Bond films, Star Wars, the original Batman and Superman films, then later the Harry Potter movies, and add to this all the video on demand with Game Of Thrones and The Crown.”

He said that 50 per cent of households across the globe having access to the internet has created increased demand for the high-quality content for which Britain has a track record.

Robert, who worked on the production of multiple-Oscar-winning film Shakespeare In Love, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, says: “The shift to digital has brought recognition that if you want to get a great show you turn to Britain. Right now the prequel to the Wizard Of Oz, Wicked, is being filmed in a village in Buckinghamshire.

“Pinewood and Shepperton are at the pinnacle of our industry. Tom Cruise has been spending hundreds of millions of pounds making two Mission Impossible films here. At Mar-low Film Studio we will create 2,000 new jobs and another 2,000 indirect jobs.”

Three of the six Mission Impossible films released to date have been mainly based in the UK and the next two, due out this summer and next year, also used Warner Bros Leavesden Studios.

Cruise, 60, was even granted special permission to film inside Westminster Abbey for the eighth instalment.

The demand for film studio space and highly skilled crews has also inspired the Fulwell 73 Group to build one of the biggest purpose-built facilities in Europe in Sunderland, in partnership with Cain International.

The £450million project for a 1.7million sq ft facility will create 8,500 jobs and generate £250million revenue for the region in the next decade.

Construction is due to start later this year or early next year.

Leo says: “Huge Hollywood blockbusters come up and shoot in the North East, yet there is no facility for them to stay here.

“As an industry we do not have enough crew members to work on productions, yet in the North East there is a standing army of highly skilled blue collar workers who with just a bit of retraining could become a workforce for studios to rival that in south-east England.”

Paul Baker, an international studio development adviser for FulwellCain Studios, adds: “This is a destination that has already attracted productions from The Avengers to Indiana Jones.

“At the moment those shows base themselves in the South East and then go to the spectacular locations we have in the North East, from the Pennines, to Northumberland, with its beautiful castles and coastline.”

Lord Vaizey says he counts his work fine-tuning the tax breaks for film and TV as one of his greatest achievements.

Meanwhile, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is building Digbeth Loc Studios in Birmingham, creating 700 jobs and injecting £30million into the local economy.

Minister for Investment Lord Johnson said: “The UK has world-class production talent. I’m determined to see more of this talent flourish through growing investment in our creative industries.”

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