The new Shinfield Studios is set to be the first of a kind in modern film production.
Speaking at TvPropFest on October 13, Nick Smith (pictured), joint managing director for the studios which will extend to almost one million sq ft of space when complete in 2024, said it will host the latest space, technology and skills.
Mr Smith spent two years seeking investment from the City of London for the scheme after he first noticed the rising demand in 2017.
Now Shinfield Studios, already partially open, is set to meet some of the burgeoning demand for space created by streaming services.
He told guests: “This area is so important. Historically, if I asked anyone to name a film studio, 90 per cent would say Pinewood.
“Pinewood and Shepperton have been in existence now for nearly 90 years but they are old studios and they are at capacity. We need to build a studio like Shinfield to cater for modern day productions.
“We are building something that will attract the latest, the Amazons, the Apples, the people that are now gearing up for modern technology. That’s what we are trying to attract and hook into the Thames Valley.
“So this is quite a big challenge for all of us. We are trying to put something together that hasn’t necessarily really been tested yet.”
He said West London has historically had a cluster of studios but he sees a movement west to the Thames Valley.
He added: “We are pushing the boundaries. We are saying ‘hey come out to Reading. Reading’s a great place’. When you go to Heathrow, instead of turning right to go to Pinewood, turn left to go to Reading.”
Mr Smith said the UK’s attraction has been because it has the best skills, especially behind the scenes.
As well as technical and creative skills, trades from mechanics, carpentry and plastering to gardening and accountancy will be in demand.
“Anyone can get into the film industry,” he said.
Shinfield has already hosted its first production, a prequel to Bridgerton, and another large production is under way with around 1,000 people employed on it.
He added: “People locally have really jumped on board, everybody wants to get on board with this.”
Jeremy Pelzer, stage space strategy lead, British Film Commission, told the meeting, that in 2018 members of the industry were asked how much more they could produce if stage space was not an issue.
The almost unanimous response was production companies could double their output. Since then about half that demand has been met although some industrial space continues to be utilised so demand is likely to continue.
Nick Paterson-Neild, director for Barton Willmore (now Stantec) who acted for Shinfield Studios in its planning application, said potential for further growth is huge as the UK is desirable because of its tax breaks, the English language and skills.
He added: “It’s upon those foundations, that experience and those skills that production companies come for. They don’t need people to relocate because the workers already live here.
“We are known for our onscreen talent but it’s behind the scenes that it is pretty phenomenal.”
He said there is now growth out of London towards the Thames Valley along with catering, hotels and other industries likely to seek to locate nearby.
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