West London’s film and TV sector is famous as home to many of the UK’s most celebrated television dramas and big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, with studios, facilities houses, and production offices continue to take up property in Park Royal and the wider area.
But what does the future hold for the sector? GLi met with Bill Boler, Partnerships Director at West London Business for the Creative Enterprise Zone West, to find out more about his work to support the film and TV sector and its need for modern, sustainable spaces.
Bill Boler, Partnerships Director at WLB
What is a Creative Enterprise Zone?
Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZs) are a mayoral programme to promote the creative industries in London. Our research has shown that most many businesses in West London fell under the category of TV, film and media sectors. Whilst Hollywood and the international world viewed us as a cluster, no one in West London knew that we were. We've been working hard on increasing the amount of creative and studio space, improving skills, and creating collaborative networks.
Through our work over the last 18 months, we've seen four new studios open; Garden R&D, London North and Troubadour, as well as the expansion of Ealing and West London Film Studios, with Gillette Studios just entering planning. Three new virtual production studios have also opened.
Why is West London such a popular location for the sector?
Heathrow helps to put West London on the doorstep of the world.
Access to the industry's top talent and skills based in the area is also a factor, developed over the years via the BBC and the major serial films that were made here. There is also the proximity to many innovative businesses that feed the TV and film production; special effects, virtual production, motion capture - a wide range of technical and creative businesses which overlap with the live events and gaming industry.
Who are the big film and TV players in the region?
Historically, Pinewood, Leavesden and Elstree, located just on the outskirts of West London, have been the major players because of the size of their studios - with the BBC and ITV key to making West London a home for TV broadcast.
We are also home to the corporate headquarters of Sky, Disney and Discovery, as well as studios such as Ealing, Twickenham, and West London Film Studios. At the heart of West London is Park Royal – London’s TV/Film Village – which is home to Garden and RD Studios, along with virtual production, lighting and camera providers, prop houses, special effects companies, make-up artists and more. US investors including Amazon, Netflix and Apple are also coming to West London to make films and several creative technology companies, from special effects to motion capture and virtual production are also based within the cluster.
There’s a rich history of what has been and what is being filmed here in West London - from the Ealing comedies, James Bond and Harry Potter, through to newer productions such as Jurassic World Dominion and Top Gun Maverick. The smaller studios within West London can be credited for producing The Imitation Game and Murder on the Orient Express, as well as high-end TV shows including Killing Eve, The Crown, Bridgerton, Ted Lasso and Black Mirror.
What are the space requirements for the sector?
West London has the type of spaces and the infrastructure the industry needs. Individually, they like high spaces, ideally nine metres, clear with no columns and the capacity to accommodate stages ranging from 5,000 up to 30,000 square feet. Office space for accounting, makeup, and the production team, outdoor staging space for vehicles and set assemblies and a quiet location are also key specifications.
The industry has used old, repurposed retail warehouse buildings, however there is still a desire for industrial sheds and logistics, as well as purpose-built spaces.
How important is sustainability and ESG to the film and TV sector?
Sustainability, obviously, is at the top of the agenda and the industry has three areas where it makes the biggest impact in terms of trying to address climate change; waste – there are great examples of studios donating extra materials from set, to be reused by other creatives; power – looking at ways to reduce the use of generators and become more energy efficient and travel - trying to evolve to more green transport.
The sustainability agenda is a great opportunity for the industry to collaborate with local government and local stakeholders to address these issues together.
Gli would like to thank Bill Boler for meeting with us. Our team has a long history of working with West London’s film industry, providing spaces for film production and support businesses. For more information on GLi, their sustainable industrial developments, please contact us here.