APPENDIX 4: COMMITTEE VISIT TO PINEWOOD
STUDIOS, 6 MAY 2009|
The Committee was received by Ivan Dunleavy, Chief
Executive, and Andrew Smith, Group Director Corporate Affairs,
Pinewood Shepperton plc, who briefed the members on the work and
business model of Pinewood studios. The Committee were then given
a tour of the facilities, including film stages and television
studios, the underwater stage and the sound studio. The visit
finished with lunch, hosted by Mr Dunleavy and attended by
a number of producers and commercial directors of companies currently
working at Pinewood, at which there was general discussion of
issues facing the film and television industries.
Pinewood is a full-service studio. It is a "four
walls" facility, used by producers bringing their own staff.
Pinewood plc is a landlord which provides services to producers.
Pinewood has 50 acres of studios, with a range of
film stages, including Europe's largest. It can offer facilities
to any type of production, the small budget film (£2m-£10m;
one or two weeks of filming) to the major production (over $100m;
6-7 months of filming). It has two television studios, recently
refurbished and growing in usage. Pinewood Group has planning
permission to double the working space. It is also home to 310
businesses that support the film and television industries. It
is a key part of the Pinewood business plan to build up a cluster
of creative industries to attract users to the facility. There
are no videogames producers at present, but Pinewood is trying
to encourage them to come for the synergies and efficiencies.
A key business challenge is to maintain a consistent
flow of projects. Firm commitments from film producers tend to
come only 3-6 months in advance of shooting. Pinewood therefore
needs to maintain contact with producers in the development stage
in order to assess likely demands and maintain a flow of smaller
projects to plug the gaps between the major projects. Pinewood's
target utilisation rate is 75 per cent, but actual rates can vary
from 50 per cent to 93 per cent. Pinewood's income is split roughly
50 per cent from film, 30 per cent from television and 20 per
cent rents (from other businesses on site).
Mr Dunleavy described film making as a "very
financially focused industry". There was strong competition
from other studios worldwide as well as non-bespoke facilities.
The recession has not had much impact on the film industry so
far, except for the greater difficulty of raising finance, especially
for smaller producers. In fact, cinema box office receipts tend
to be robust in difficult economic times. Technical advances in
filmmaking have not reduced the requirements on film studios.
Digital technology means that sets need to be bigger and better.
The aspirations of filmmakers have grown, leading to greater rather
than lesser demand for facilities.
About 70 per cent of the projects filmed at Pinewood
are American, with the remainder from the UK (which matches the
balance of English language film production worldwide). US producers
are attracted to film at Pinewood by the scale of the facilities,
the skills of the workforce and the cost-effectiveness of production.
In the view of Pinewood Group, there is currently
a shortage of skills required by the film industry. Pinewood is
working with a range of organisations to rectify this. As part
of Project Pinewood, it proposes to set up a Screen Craft Academy
with Skillset and the National Film and Television School. It
is also involved in a joint venture with Skillset which will hold
courses on site.
During a round table discussion over lunch, the following
views were expressed:
Contribution of the film industry
The film industry contributes about £4 billion
to the UK economy. It is an economic force and a pump primer for
the creative industries as a whole. There are 160 craft skills
required to make a film.
The government needs to appreciate the scale of contribution
of the industry. It also needs to recognise the risks that filmmakers
are required to take and provide a consistent policy framework.
The film tax credit system is working well. It gives confidence
and benefits the industry. It might be possible to make marginal
improvements, but it was essential not to jeopardise the system.
The television industry is in turmoil. This has an
effect on the film industry because they have a common skills
base. High end television drama, which is under pressure, is similar
to filmmaking. There is a case for supporting it with a similar
tax credit system.
Competition to UK film studios
The main competition for UK studios comes from Australia,
Canada, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany. Much depends
on the script and the requirements for exterior filming.
In general, the UK studios offer the best set up.
Companies can be encouraged to do interiors in the UK even when
exteriors have been shot elsewhere. The UK scores highly in post-production.
For example, visual effects are better in the UK than in Hollywood.
There are six companies providing visual effects, each of which
can manage a major film.
The UK can offer the necessary "creative cluster".
It has the knowledge, experience and expertise. Studio facilities,
visual effects, craft skills and capacity are all available within
20 miles of London. Other locations can appear attractive for
cost or other reasons, but cannot provide the infrastructure.
Also, while the UK may not always be the cheapest location, it
offers certainty and reliability. Producers may be prepared to
pay a premium for this.
A number of speakers emphasised the synergies between
film and television and the value to the UK of keeping both internationally
competitive. It was suggested that it might even be possible to
attract filming of television shows for US networks in the UK,
if tax breaks were available for television productions.
There was agreement that pirating of the digital
image was a serious problem that takes investment out of the industry.
There was a need to police service providers. Recent technological
developments meant that the major studios were losing control
of distribution, which opened up opportunities for piracy. Also,
viewers were not naturally sympathetic to anti-piracy measures:
they expected to see audiovisual product free within a certain
period of time.
Skills and training
The smaller size of production companies had reduced
the emphasis on skills and trainingat a time when technological
change meant that new skills were needed. Skillset was the main
gateway to improving the situation. Skillset had a scheme whereby
trainees spend time with productions, receiving practical experience.
The requirement is for practical skills, which are acquired on
the job, but this requires continuity of film productions.