Film London's Sets in the City
At a recent industry event on drama production, Film London hosted a session called Sets in the City: Transforming London's Television Landscape, which took an in-depth look at some of the challenges and opportunities when filming out and about in the capital.
Film London's Adrian Wootton hosted the seminar, which had on the panel Ben Rimmer, co-producer of the series Mr Selfridge; Dean O'Toole, line producer of Channel 4's current series Babylon, and The Enfield Haunting director Adrian Sturges.
Filming up by 50% in 10 years
Wootton began by saying that shooting drama in London is up by 50% on ten years ago - great news but also a potential strain on locations and crews. Many areas of undeveloped land such as car parks and open spaces that you would see in dramas like Luther and Spooks have now been snapped up by developers wanting to build luxury apartments on them.
The locations pool is much narrower for filming than a decade ago. O'Toole even said it was not uncommon to find a unit base moving into a previously underused location just hours after another had shipped out.
Sturges agreed, but stressed the positive side too: "It is a massive challenge, but we are now liberating whole new spaces as a result of the shortage, such as empty warehouses."
Filling the crew shortage gap
The flourishing state of film and TV production should be unconditionally positive, but it does throw up a caveat in terms of the potential shortage of available, highly-trained crew. Here at The Knowledge we have heard from many line producers recently about how hard it is to source skilled crew, as they are all booked up way in advance due to the burgeoning industry.
O'Toole illustrated it thus: "We would often be on the phone at midnight, trying to find someone who could get in at six or seven the next morning; competition is so fierce now."
Sturges' experience on The Enfield Haunting was not so different. "We knew we had very limited time as Tim [Timothy Spall] was heading off to the US on the promotional trail for Mr Turner - we had just ten weeks from greenlight to shooting.
"We had already some great HoDs, but when it came to finding some production buyers, all six we wanted were already working on Pan."
Rimmer said: "We had a very hard time crewing up for 2nd units. Getting them is one thing, being able to afford them when they have one or two other job offers is another. We're up against Tarzan rates for high-end television."
Training the crew of the future
Wootton asked the panel if they were hopeful of new talent rising up through the ranks. The general consensus was that Creative Skillset's training programme was vital to the industry, providing a plethora of trainees keen to get working.
Rimmer said they had used "a Skillset person in every department; they were great," while O'Toole said his production used Skillset trainees "across the board".
There was much nodding and positive murmurings when the subject of the high-end tax credits arose. Rimmer felt it was important that the money