Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

On the way to Hollywood

On the way to Hollywood

With talk of a merger between Shepperton and Pinewood, could the holy grail of a Hollywood UK finally be in sight? Rob Buckley talks to major studios to find out what they see in their crystal balls.

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US-style support from local authorities for filmmakers means the East-End-based Three Mills Studios also gets a steady stream of film work. “The council's been very helpful. Producers can decide to shoot location work nearby, then come straight in for studios work,” maintains Edwin Shirley. Eleven films at the Edinburgh festival were shot at the studios. Lock, Stock... was a local on the manor, while broadcast regulars London's Burning and Bad Girls have permanent bases at the studios.

By contrast, Bray's Beryl Earl doesn't have a helpful council nor massive sound stages so most of her work is from the UK. She has to rely on mailshots and the occasional trip out to bring in the work. For her, the year has been busy, “although it's slowing down at the moment. Maybe it's the time of year. We can't attract big features, so we go for smaller films and television. Twickenham and Elstree are closer to town, so that's an advantage for them.”

The Film Council gets a thumbs-up from most studios as a way of encouraging overseas companies to consider the UK's studios as well as its talent. “It represents the facilities part of the business, which we've needed for a long time,” says Steve Jaggs, who sits on council committees.

But Elstree's Reid is one voice of dissent to a chorus of mild approval for the government's efforts, which include redefining what a British film is to qualify for tax breaks. “Canada and Australia get much better tax breaks. I can see the government's point of view: if it gave film those kind of tax breaks, it would have to give every industry tax breaks. But other countries manage to do one without the other.

”If they just put a few million in, they would get hundreds of millions back from all the films that would be able to come here. Because, right now, we're losing out, particularly to Ireland.“ And although it's too early for Reid to judge the Film Council, he thinks lobbying government for ”a level playing field“ should be high on the list of its priorities, if a Hollywood UK is ever to happen.

With at least some government backing and with more and more customers for their facilities, the film studios are feeling the first green shoots of revival. A Pinewood-Shepperton alliance bid, together with tax changes, might just be the catalyst to a full-scale resurgence. With the Film Council on their side, the studios could soon be ready for real growth and Neville Reid could just need two water tanks...

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