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World of Locations: United Kingdom

James Bond, Macbeth, Arya Stark and the Rebel Forces all call the UK home, thanks to a stellar tax incentive and world-class crew and facilities. But has capacity peaked? It is boom time in the UK for international production. There was a massive surge in incoming shoots in 2014, thanks to both an enhanced tax incentive for feature films and a new mechanism to attract high-end TV dramas. There has also been an increase in the number of animated features and games filming in the territory. In the last year, UK facilities have housed some of the biggest titles being shot in the world today. These include Disney’s Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens (Pinewood), Sony’s latest James Bond movie Spectre (Pinewood), Marvel Studios and Disney’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Shepperton), Warner Bros’ Pan directed by Joe Wright (Leavesden), Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (Leavesden), Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea for Warner Bros (Leavesden) and Justin Kurzel’s Cannes Competition title Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender, for The Weinstein Company which shot on locations in Skye and throughout England. These are just the tip of the iceberg — and one of the ongoing issues for the UK is capacity: is there the studio space and crews to cope with the very high level of demand? In the short term, that demand is not going to wane. In March, the government confirmed the rate of film tax relief will increase to 25% for all qualifying expenditure on big-budget films. Many UK facilities are working on expansion plans to meet the demand including Pinewood, which is expected to double its present size by 2018, and Ealing Studios, which is developing more workshop and office space. When it opens, Pinewood Wales will host Relativity Media and The Weinstein Company’s remake of The Crow, and there is optimism that work may finally begin on a new studio complex in Scotland. Meanwhile, the refurbished West London Film Studios has hosted projects such as The Weinstein Company’s The Imitation Game and Channel 4’s TV series Misfits. Many film and TV productions are also using old warehouses or temporary studio space. For example, old Bristol factory The Bottle Yard was used by the BBC for Poldark and ABC’s Galavant, while Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude utilised a warehouse in west London. Historically, the UK’s popularity as a location for international film-making has ebbed and flowed, with periods of frantic activity followed by prolonged slumps. But many in the industry believe the paradigm has changed. “It’s not just about huge movies. It’s about a range of projects and a range of productions because we have a different suite of tax credits,” says Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London. “We’re developing production hubs and centres around the UK and we have a bigger crew base than ever before. We have a VFX industry and a post-production industry we didn’t have 10 years ago.” GOOD TO KNOW Don’t accept the received wisdom that London is “ridiculously expensive”. Film London prides itself on suggesting affordable solutions for film-makers working at all different budget levels. THE LOWDOWN Financial incentives Since April 2015, the minimum level of UK expenditure required to access the Film Tax Relief for a UK-qualifying film is now 10% of a film’s overall budget. The tax relief is now worth 25% of the qualifying UK production expenditure, no matter what is the budget. There is tax relief for video games, animation and television as well as for films. Further information: Infrastructure UK crews have an outstanding reputation but one issue is whether there are enough technicians of the required standard to cope with the upsurge in demand to shoot in UK. The territory is not just trying to attract production — it is flagging itself as one of the best places for post-production and VFX. Locations The UK offers everything from rugged, remote locations for historical dramas to modern city settings. There are many additional incentives to lure producers to the most attractive locations. For example, regional agency Screen Yorkshire runs the $22m (£15m) Yorkshire Content Fund, with investment from the European Regional Development Fund, and has invested in films including Dad’s Army, Testament Of Youth, A Royal Night Out and Hunter’s Prayer. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland also offer incentives. HBO’s Game Of Thrones has remained based in Belfast thanks to both the tax relief for high-end TV drama and production investment from the Northern Ireland Screen Fund. Where to stay Crew and talent enjoy visiting the country. The A-listers have their familiar London haunts — hotels include Claridge’s and the Dorchester. Those shooting at Leavesden in Hertfordshire, some 20 miles northwest of central London, tend to stay in luxury country house hotel The Grove, which has a helipad. London has plenty of funky boutique hotels, including Ham Yard and The Soho Hotel, as well as The London Edition (formerly Berners Hotel). Those with families tend to hire private houses near Pinewood in Buckinghamshire, also around 20 miles out of town. London calling The capital city has an obvious pulling power thanks to its hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, cultural life and rich history. Regular flights to New York and Los Angeles are an added attraction. Getting around The major UK studios (Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden) are within fairly easy reach of central London. Traffic can be heavy and public transport is not always dependable but there are plenty of airports. Scotland, Wales and Ireland are all easily accessible from London, as are the other major English cities. Jerry Ketcham, senior vice-president, physical production, Disney “There are top-notch facilities in London and Northern Ireland and an excellent workforce with plasterers and set builders. The crews are extraordinary and have years and years of expertise. Then there is an excellent incentive programme in place in the UK.” Would he come back? Yes. What could be improved? Even though there has been a huge investment in skills and training, Ketcham calls for more training of crew. “There will be more stage space available as Pinewood doubles its capacity. Right now, if I was to say I had yet another movie to get into London, I wouldn’t be able to find stage space. But a year from now, I believe there will be almost another full studio on line. To support those productions, it would be helpful that there is more crew trained. The UK has such excellent mentors to train them. Hopefully, in a year from now, there will be that many more available crew.”
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