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London Mayor eyes major film studio development

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Darren Rodwell, are exploring plans to build what could be the capital’s largest film studios, based in Dagenham.

The Mayor has teamed up with Film London, the London Local Enterprise Panel and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to commission a feasibility study into creating the capital’s first new TV and film production studios for at least 25 years at Dagenham East. The process will be led by Film London in close consultation with the film and television industries.

Approximately three-quarters of the UK’s film industry is based in and around London, and last year,  £1 billion (€1.14bn) was attracted to the city in inward investment from international film production. London is the third busiest city for film production in the world after only Los Angeles and New York. The capital’s world-class crew, locations, talent and competitive tax reliefs have sustained London’s position in the top three cities – and that also means demand for studio space is incredibly high.

London’s hard-won success against fierce international competition is thanks in no small part to the ongoing work of the Mayor’s screen industries agency, Film London, and the British Film Commission in attracting and supporting major production to London and the UK. New studio space will help meet increasing demand and ensure many more multi-million-pound productions come to London, showing the world that, following the EU referendum, the capital remains open to business, talent and creativity.

The potential site for new studios at Dagenham East is located in front of London-east industrial park and has been scoped out because of its significantly large size, which presents the opportunity to build a new, bespoke facility. The area is also well connected with the District Line and Crossrail services nearby, allowing quick access to central London. The biggest US studio-backed productions can bring in over £100 million in UK spend and new Dagenham studios would enable London to bid successfully for more overseas film productions, benefitting not just the capital but the rest of the UK. It would also create a range of permanent jobs in the East End with ambitions to diversify the industry’s workforces, recognising broader skillsets that are necessary for film production – from carpenters to sound technicians.

The London Local Enterprise Partnership and Barking and Dagenham Council will invest up to £80,000 to develop a business case for the proposed new studios. This will look in close detail at the demand for such a facility and the economic benefit that it could bring to East London and the city as a whole.

As one of the city’s fastest growing sectors, culture is a top priority for the Mayor, who has committed to sustaining London’s future as a creative capital, as well as reimagining and refreshing the city’s cultural infrastructure for communities and artists. The creative industries account for one in six jobs in the capital and are a major area for economic growth. This sector already provides 800,000 jobs in London and generate £35 billion for the economy.

“From James Bond and Star Wars to Harry Potter and Bridget Jones’s Baby, London has a vibrant production history and some of the best studios in the world,” said Khan. “To sustain and grow this success story, it is critical that the capital gets significantly more studio and production capacity to maximise the opportunities for filmmaking. London is open to the best creative and cultural minds and I am looking forward to exploring whether a new film studio in Dagenham could help the capital’s film industry thrive for years to come.”

The Mayor made the announcement as he visited Barking and Dagenham to see the way in which the borough is cultivating culture and attracting artists through affordable work and living space. The borough’s Film Office has already enjoyed considerable success in attracting a number of big budget films, such as Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Doctor Strange, and TV dramas including BBC One’s Undercover and Channel 4 sci-fi thriller, Humans.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Cllr Rodwell said: “We are working together to create a blockbuster deal to generate hundreds of exciting opportunities for local young people and bolster Barking and Dagenham’s reputation as London’s latest creative hotspot. Our ambition is that in future, Dagenham will become world famous for films rather than Fords.”

London and its environs are home to some of the best studios and facilities in the world, from major studio spaces hosting global blockbusters to Oscar-winning VFX companies and smaller television studios catering for homegrown TV hits. A new studio in Dagenham would complement the capital’s existing offer, which includes the likes of Ealing, Elstree, 3 Mills, Twickenham and Industrial Light, Magic and Framestore studios. Film London works with all of the capital’s film studios, as well as other studios located near London such as Pinewood and Leavesden.

Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “London is one of the world’s busiest destinations for the film industry, with international filmmakers making a beeline for our city because they know it offers the very best by way of facilities, expertise and creative talent. Our global reputation means demand for studio space is incredibly high, and unlocking new studio space in east London would help maintain the capital’s competitive edge. If realised, this major new infrastructure project would mean a tremendous economic boost for Barking and Dagenham, the capital’s film and TV industries and the UK as a whole.”

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