Pinewood Studios plan £200m extension

INVESTMENT IN FUTURE: An image of the proposed new Pinewood Studios development in the foreground, and back right is the current studio

INVESTMENT IN FUTURE: An image of the proposed new Pinewood Studios development in the foreground, and back right is the current studio

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A PROPOSED £200 million expansion of the Pinewood studio is a ‘very positive’ move that reflects the confidence in the film industry.

That’s the view of Laurance Skelly MHK, Economic Development member with the responsibilty for the Manx movie industry, who said the island was ‘enjoying the opportunity of its partnership with a very successful company that is going forward with investment’.

Mr Skelly was speaking as filming was due to come to an end on the Manx movie industry’s 101st production, a documentary chiller called Camera Trap which follows a British wildlife film crew armed with the latest camera technology as they pursue local sightings of a rare wildcat in Central Asia.

Pinewood Shepperton announced on Friday it has submitted a planning application to South Bucks District Council for the expansion of Pinewood Studios, called the Pinewood Studios Development Framework.

Described as a scheme of national importance, it will create a total of 100,000 square metres of new facilities, including studios and stages, workshops, production offices and streetscapes for filming.

It will support more than 8,100 full time jobs and create some 3,100 net additional jobs.

Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of Pinewood Shepperton plc, said: ‘This is a critical opportunity for the creative industries and particularly for the UK film industry. Without infrastructure to meet the rising demand, the UK will inevitably turn away business. Pinewood Studios, the UK film industry and UK plc cannot afford to allow this to happen.’

Treasury signed an agreement in October to transfer management of the £25 million film and television investment fund to Pinewood Film Advisors Ltd for an initial five years – and to buy 9.89 per cent shareholding in Pinewood Shepperton plc at a cost of £12,230,000, funded out of reserves.

The deal continues to prove controversial.

But Mr Skelly believes Pinewood’s expansion plans may help silence the critics. He said: ‘It’s a move of confidence in the industry.

‘While Pinewood’s order book is looking very healthy, this is replicated in the number of films on our own order book. We are working very hard on a couple of new projects and we are hoping to make an announcement on one very shortly.’

Filming for the small budget Camera Trap has been taking place over two weeks in the island.

The movie, described as ‘Frozen Planet meets the Blair Witch Project’, has been shot in the plantations of Axnfell, Druidale, Tholt-y-Will and in the Barony estate at Cornaa. It stars TV regulars Paul Thornley and Mark Bonnar, and young American actor Ross Marquand and the Romanian actress Ana Ularu.

Mr Skelly said the island’s investment in Camera Trap was less than £1 million and half the cast are local people. Filming in remote locations was not without problems – equipment got stuck in the snow at Druidale the week before last. The cast and part of the crew will be off to Nepal next to film some location shots.

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