Blog: 10 December 2021Cinematic Innovation: planners key to successful studio space expansion

Nick Paterson-Neild

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Nick Paterson-Neild

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Reading office

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Film and television production has long been a UK success story.  Both in front of the camera or behind the camera, the UK is a leading player in providing the talent pool to support the growth in demand for new content – boosted by the stratospheric rise of online streaming and a backlog of filming from the pandemic.  

The UK is a desirable place for growth in studio space: attractive and historical urban and rural locations are always close at hand, there is a good supply of high quality on and off-screen skills, not to mention tax relief incentives. Demand for sound stage filming facilities, and the studios, offices and workshops that support them, now far exceeds available supply.

Meeting this demand will require a further 1.5-1.9 million square feet of stage space by 2025 according to PwC and Lambert Smith Hampton. Government support is there for expansion, with a £4.8 million fund from the Treasury to promote UK studio space investment. The DCMS Independent Review of the Creative Industries estimates the potential for one million new jobs by 2030 and almost £130bn gross value added (GVA) by 2025.

Image - Scott Brownrigg

 

As planners, it’s our challenge to demonstrate the real benefits of studio development: the social and economic value. Diverse and sustainable jobs in everything from carpentry to coding, long-term support for skills training and apprenticeships, plus an immediate boost to the local economy. 

Barton Willmore has successfully brought forward a new film studio at Shinfield, near Reading, as part of the Thames Valley Science Park (TVSP). One thing we’ve learned is the importance of helping people understand the breadth of opportunities studios can provide. 

During film and TV productions there is a need to co-locate and collaborate with other site occupiers such as digital post-production companies, set and costume designers, and the industry is continuously exploring and developing new techniques in image creation and storytelling, including special visual effects, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

Studios will not only present a unique opportunity to support and grow the creative industry and aid the existing exponential demand in film studio space but also contribute considerably to innovation, enterprise and investment in the local area.

For example, at Shinfield one advantage has been the opportunity for links with local vocational colleges around the Thames Valley – and with the University of Reading itself. It’s a two-way street, with studios providing opportunities and well-paid jobs, and the colleges and University helping to provide bright, high-skilled workers with fresh, innovative ideas at a time where there is an industry skills shortage.

Investment in new studio facilities is vital if the UK is to maintain and capitalise on the global demand for moving image content and new creative clusters are celebrating the diversity of opportunity across a broad range of skills and sectors which coalesce around the production of film and television. It is this case that planners need to make to local authorities and local residents.

As originally featured in Property Week.

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Cinematic Innovation, Studio Space, Employment, University of Reading