Studios Spotlight – Behind the Scenes at The Depot, Liverpool
The latest focus in our Studios Spotlight series is Liverpool’s The Depot which, in the two years since it opened, has hosted several high-profile film and HETV shoots, including Paramount+’s much-anticipated Sexy Beast prequel series.
We spoke to Head of Liverpool Film Office Lynn Saunders about how it all came about and the plans for the future.
Can you fill us in a little about the history of your facility?
Managed by the Liverpool Film Office, The Depot was built to meet the increasing demand from production companies wanting to film in Liverpool. The two 20,000 sq ft, purpose-built film and HETV sound stages are built on a former tramway and bus depot – hence the name! Work first began on the project in December 2020 after receiving funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
It has been a long-time ambition to have film studio space in Liverpool to meet the demand of productions coming to the region. The opportunity came about as part of the City’s Economic Recovery post Covid and is part of the strategic development of the Littlewoods scheme.
Situated off Edge Lane less than two miles from Liverpool City Centre, The Depot sits adjacent to the Littlewoods building, working as a pre-cursor to the Littlewoods Project, and has had a great reception from filmmakers and locals alike.
Are you fully open for business and what scale of productions can you accommodate?
Yes, we’re fully open and have been operating for over two years successfully hosting feature films, HETV dramas and large-scale commercials continuously since launch. The Depot is fully soundproofed with 40,000 sq ft of shoot space split into two identical units, with a minimum height to the eaves of 40 ft in each.
Can you tell us about Sexy Beast, which was the first major production to use the facility?
Paramount moved in around eight months after The Depot opened its doors to shoot their eight-part prequel series ‘Sexy Beast’, bringing over 100 crew members and talent to the site for nine months.
The production follows the lives of small-time thieves who get involved in London’s criminal world and stars James McArdle, Emun Elliott, Sarah Greene, Stephen Moyer and Tamsin Greig.
Paramount were the first major tenants to hire the site for several consecutive months and the experience helped us to enhance the facilities and crew offering in Liverpool even further. The Liverpool Film Office is uniquely positioned to provide a wraparound service to productions coming to the region with location support, funding and now studio facilities all linked to skills.
What would you say is your studio’s standout facility?
Its USP is the location. It’s located in the heart of the city centre and an eight-minute drive to the main railway station and vast range of hotels, bars and restaurants. It’s conveniently located on the main route to the M62 motorway so you’re not only at the centre of the city but the North West too!
There is full CCTV across the site with a large unit base, unit parking and great WIFI also available – adjacent to offices, workshops and a retail park with plenty of coffee and food outlets which we know is a big draw for our clients!
Tell us about your sustainability strategy
Absolutely! All energy on site is sustainably sourced and we work with productions to follow Albert standards and use local 100%-recyclable waste management companies. We also work to assist companies in meeting their own environmental objectives during their time in the Liverpool City Region by recommending other local facilities and services that have high environmental standards.
A water attenuation system is in place on site which works to temporarily store excess rainwater, releasing back into the drainage network slowly without overwhelming the network. These areas are planted with wildflowers, as is the perimeter of the site to provide bees, butterflies and other pollinators with food throughout the year.
How do you see the future of production in your region?
The Liverpool City Region, and in fact, the North West, largely houses high-end domestic productions – we have welcomed the likes of Dead Hot (Quay Street Productions/Amazon), The Gathering (World Productions/Channel 4), Time 2 (BBC Studios/BBC One) and The Responder 2 (Dancing Ledge Productions/BBC One) this quarter alone.
We are also working with our colleagues across the North, to champion local workforce, facilities and services to international markets to continue to help national growth of inward investment. Recently the Liverpool Film Office joined forces with North East Screen, Screen Manchester and Screen Yorkshire to create Screen Alliance North, a £2.3m BFI Skills Cluster Partnership, which aims to build a stronger, more inclusive skilled workforce across the North of England.
By working with partners across the regions, it is hoped that this will create new opportunities and effective career development for people from underrepresented backgrounds. The initial three-year programme will enable us to work strategically across the broader North to build a stronger, happier and more inclusive skilled workforce, helping to secure its future as a leading global centre for screen production.
We’re about to house our first live performance of Macbeth, starring Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma, which will allow us to demonstrate the versatility and capacity of the space, with high volumes of people expected to descend on the Depot through November and December. Looking towards 2024, there’s a great diverse pipeline of projects on the horizon with several productions continuing to scope the site.
Elsewhere, plans have been submitted by developers Capital&Centric for the Littlewoods Project - a TV and film campus, that sits adjacent to The Depot.
With many thanks to head of Liverpool Film Office Lynn Saunders for taking part in this Q&A.
Images via The Depot.
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