With the UK film and TV industry experiencing record levels of growth and investment, buzz around Shinfield’s new state-of-the-art studios has been growing for months. Now the BBC has been given exclusive access, getting a glimpse inside the Hollywood-style resort.

Shinfield Studios is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2024, and a production has already finished filming at the site.

When completed, the studios at Thames Valley Science Park near Reading will comprise 18 sound stages based in a media center of over one million square feet (929,000 m²).

Shortly after receiving full building permission in late 2021, the studio confirmed that a Disney production would begin this year.

Inside a soundstage set to be ready for action in January

Standing inside a cavernous 30,000 square foot soundstage currently under construction, Nick Smith, co-CEO of Shinfield Studios, said: “A whole variety of film and television productions will take place here.

“Anything you can imagine you see on screen can be done in a space that size. It’s basically a huge acoustic box, it’s got a lot of power.”

Nick Smith, General Manager of Shinfield Studios

Co-CEO Nick Smith says the hub has an advantage over existing studios

The stages provide a “safe environment where people can come and create worlds that we’ll see on TV or in movies,” he explained.

“Where we are now, any A-lister could film – but what it takes to make this production isn’t just the people in front of the camera, it’s everyone behind it.

“And the team we have in this part of the UK working on the productions is really, really talented. It takes a couple hundred people working on the sets to create that illusion, that magic.”

TV production fell during the Covid pandemic lockdown but rebounded to a new high between October 2020 and September 2021, according to the British Film Institute (BFI).

During this period a a record £4.14billion was spent filming UK and overseas shows like Bridgerton and Peaky Blinders in the UK.

Inside an unfinished soundstage at Shinfield Studios

Inside an unfinished soundstage at Shinfield Studios

Adrian Wootton OBE, chief executive of the British Film Commission (BFC), told the BBC: “The UK film and television industry is experiencing remarkable growth – perhaps the biggest in my lifetime – with demand feature films and HETV [High-end TV] production at record levels.

“Studios across the UK have hosted some of the most successful and high-profile feature film and HETV productions in the world.”

Mr Wootton said the South East was home to the UK’s largest crew base which “led the creative talent”.

Increasing performance space capacity in Shinfield and across the UK, and providing the talent and skills needed to meet demand, “would help drive local and national economic growth and job creation, bolstering the UK’s reputation as a world-class destination for film and TV production,” he added.

Shinfield Studios, part of Blackhall Global Partners, expects to generate around £600m a year for the UK economy.

Construction work at Shinfield Studios

Construction work at Shinfield Studios

Production budgets are also rising as streaming services compete for subscribers, driving demand for large-scale, high-quality installs, according to research from global real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

With 18 sound stages, studios, offices and post-production facilities, Shinfield Studios will be well positioned to serve big-budget film and HETV productions.

And Mr Smith believes the Berkshire hub has an advantage over existing UK studios like the famous Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.

“What they haven’t done is keep pace with the development and changes that are happening in the industry,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is build something absolutely perfect for 21st century long-form film and television.”

Mr Smith said its location was perfect thanks to its proximity to London, the M4 and nearby Reading.

“You can drive to Shinfield Studios from a West End hotel in 55 minutes, I did.

“And all the local cycle networks in and around Reading and Shinfield mean you can cycle seamlessly from Lower Earley and Reading to the studios and encounter no other traffic.

“All of those things were pretty important when we were looking for a location.”

And he hopes a bit of Hollywood magic in the area could encourage more people to consider a career in the industry.

“It’s not just about actors and directors, we need a lot of people to help us in all areas,” he said.

A film production often needs carpenters, plasterers, electricians and even landscapers, “all the people whose names you see in the credits at the end of a film”, he explained.

“No matter what interests you, you can work in the film industry,” he said. “The productions are getting bigger and bigger and the ones here at Shinfield will be some of the biggest to come to the UK.

“Whether it’s Disney or Netflix, Apple, Amazon or Universal and Paramount, they can all come here. We’re building something on a scale that will satisfy them all.”

Dean Horne

Shinfield Studios COO Dean Horne Says No Two Days Are The Same

Shinfield Studios Operations Manager Dean Horne led Shepperton Studios for 15 years, slowly progressing from a studio runner, sweeping the stage.

“Being part of a project of this scope and size, a brand new studio development from the ground up, is very exciting,” he said.

There is no better job in the world, Mr Horne said, adding: “There are so many opportunities.

“It’s very exciting, when the studio is up and running, no two days are the same.”

Shinfield Studios

The BBC got exclusive access to the new Hollywood-style resort

The Berkshire Film Office said it was already working with the studios “to get locals to play roles they might only have dreamed of before”.

Lily Hudson, director of the nonprofit film production resource company, said the studios “have already spurred industry growth and new international investment.”

And like the new Elizabeth line is almost complete“Businesses and freelancers are looking to get out of London by rail,” she added.

“Berkshire is an attractive location for facilities and crew, as it is quieter, with good transport links and good amenities,” she said. “But it’s also at the heart of the growing display industry.”

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