Film chief reveals why Amazon struck blockbuster UK Shepperton Studios deal

Pinewood chairman also discloses the details behind the streaming giant's record swoop

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The boss of the company which runs the UK's Shepperton Studios has revealed why Amazon Prime struck a record multimillion-pound exclusive deal to produce films and series at the south London site.

"I speak to our US customers and they all tell me the reason why they come to the UK is the crew base," Pinewood chairman Paul Golding told the BBC on Thursday.

"We have a highly talented crew base which is adept at producing great sets on which these films are shot: it's the number one crew base in the world."

Mr Golding believes this stellar status stems from Britain's creative DNA.

"It goes back centuries. I mean you can trace it back to the literal theatre industry," he said.

It's not only filmic whimsy which has attracted the US streaming giant to south London – the UK's tax incentives were also part of the allure.

Mr Golding praised the UK government for creating such "great value".

"Every couple of years the British Film Institute produces a screen business report in conjunction with the [finance ministry] to look at the effectiveness of the incentives that are being given," he said.

"The latest report was produced in December 2021, which shows that every pound of relief that is given generates £8.30 in the broader economy.

"It's really one of the strongest incentives that the government offers. So the government, thankfully, is fully supportive of the industry."

The support is clearly working. Figures published by the BFI’s Research and Statistic Unit this month showed a record £5.64 billion ($7.6bn) was spent on film and high-end television production in the UK in 2021 – £1.27bn ($1.71bn) more than in the pre-pandemic year 2019.

Amazon's Shepperton takeover

As well as explaining the reasons behind the deal, Mr Golding disclosed some of its details.

"We will be adding a million square feet which is triple the size of what we currently have," he said.

"To put that into perspective, it is the equivalent of 16 football pitches and 17 new sound stages. Amazon is going to be taking roughly half the space and approximately nine stages."

Amazon will now be the dominant presence at Shepperton Studios. Getty

A potentially troubling side effect of the increasing hegemony enjoyed by behemoths like Amazon, Netflix and Disney in the UK film production sector is that it makes it harder for smaller independent producers to find crews and writers. Demand far exceeds supply.

Mr Golding acknowledged more people needed to come into the industry but said things were "starting from a pretty good place".

Pressed on whether the second series of Amazon's Lord of the Rings is going to be shot at Shepperton after production was moved from New Zealand to Britain last year, he remained tight-lipped.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 11:29 AM
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