Studios spotlight: Behind the scenes at Shinfield Studios
With so many new and expanding studio spaces springing up around the UK, we are taking a look behind the scenes of some of the facilities – many of which are highlighted in our recent UK Studios Supplement.
Here we speak to Nick Smith, joint managing director, Shinfield Studios, about progress on the shiny new facility and the plans for its future.
What stage is the studio at now?
We ended last year on a very positive note, having received full planning permission for Shinfield Studios, an 85,000 square meter media hub within the Thames Valley Science Park.
Once construction has been completed Shinfield Studios will be one of the largest film and TV studios in the UK, a state of-the art facility comprising 18 sound stages.
We had previously received accelerated planning permission for the first four sound stages, and these have already been completed. They are now up and running, with the first of many productions underway.
We expect to open more of the studio by the end of this year, with another phase opening during 2023 and completion of the entire 18 stage facility in 2024.
Who are the backers and how/why did the development come about?
Shinfield Studios is part of Blackhall Global Partners, a global soundstage-operating business formed by Commonwealth Asset Management. Blackhall Global Partners also owns Blackhall Studios in Atlanta, America and is developing a 19-stage facility in Santa Clarita, California, which is expected to open in 2025.
Blackhall was looking to expand their footprint outside the US – and the UK made perfect sense because of the growing demand for studio space here, along with our rich and successful history as a creative hub.
Can you give some details about the first four sound stages?
The first four sound stages are by no means temporary. They have been built to a demanding specification which will see them being used for many decades to come. We were pleased to welcome Disney as one of our first clients and have another TV production, for one of the global streamers, underway at the moment.
Could you describe some of the features that make Shinfield an attractive facility for producers?
Shinfield Studios has been designed to incorporate the very best of today’s services and is genuinely a state-of-art facility planned to meet the needs of the highest-budget TV and film productions. The fact that Disney was booked as one of our first clients is testament to this.
Naturally, we have also worked to help productions operate as sustainably as possible and all our buildings will be constructed to BREEAM excellent standards – this includes the use of solar panels and air source heat pumps. We’re projecting that we’ll be able achieve a reduction of around 20% carbon emissions against what is typical.
Plus, in terms of accessibility, Shinfield has great transport links being close to the M4 and Crossrail, meaning we’re less than 40 miles from London and only 20 minutes from Paddington.
Do you think Covid has highlighted any safety measures that may be adopted long-term at the studio?
I suspect that Covid has indeed altered production health and safety for the longer term. Every production has clear Covid protocols to keep everyone safe, as they should. We will continue to support our clients with implementing these practices.
How do you see the future of production in the UK? Do you foresee any challenges ahead?
The UK film and TV industry is thriving and I fully expect that to continue. The rapid growth has created some downward pressure on facilities and crew alike however, at the same time, this has led to significant opportunities for new investment into modern studio facilities whilst enabling many talented individuals to enter this industry and support its rapid growth.
The market will take time to adjust but ultimately it’s heartening to see the wealth of schemes that have been established to address production talent, alongside addressing the lack of diversity in our industry.
We’re playing our own part here and are currently in the process of establishing an employment skills advisory group together with the University of Reading, Wokingham Borough Council and the Berkshire Film Office, alongside working with production customers to offer apprenticeship schemes.
With many thanks to Nick Smith at Shinfield Studios for his participation in this article.
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