'Media hubs' boosting London's film industry

The television and film industry generates £4.5bn for the economy and accounts for thousands of jobs in London.

Now, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is reviewing how the government can best support the industry.

Some industry experts think the way forward is for firms to base themselves together in clusters, an idea that is already starting to bear fruit at Wimbledon Studios in south west London.

Piers Read is the studio's new managing director and he is hoping to transform the vast complex in Merton into a new production hub for the television and film industry.

"We've had some fantastic credits here recently, including a Meryl Streep feature and an Anthony Hopkins feature - and plenty more in the pipeline," he said.

Capacity to expand

Until last year, the site was home to successful crime drama series The Bill.

Now, small and medium sized-companies are being encouraged to move into the site, each of them offering production skills, equipment and services.

Mr Read said: "We'd like a number of creative companies, including props companies, location and casting agents and we have size and capacity to expand.

"The companies that are moving in here, we are trying to partner them up to help them grow their business."

Twenty years ago, Carlton Jarvis worked in the NHS when he began to offer advice to production companies. He now runs Mediscene, supplying artificial scalpels and medical equipment to filmmakers from offices at the studios.

Mr Jarvis said: "Prior to moving in here, I had a small warehouse and worked alone. Here, I feel a part of the TV and film community.

Media clusters

"The more companies that work here, the more we will each ask to use each other's services," he said.

The site has four stages, both indoor and outdoor sets spread across 220,000 sq ft - one of the largest studios in the capital.

There are around 50 free-standing sets within the studios, including a hospital, a courtroom, prison, a police station and a high street.

Companies that have moved in say they are already benefiting from being part of a media cluster.

Samuel Martin operates Decode, which rents specialist cameras to film companies, and employs 10 people.

It is one of three new companies that have moved to the site in recent months.

Image caption The Work Foundation believes media companies should work together to save costs

He said: "Aside from the security aspect, this has provided us with bigger premises and given us access to clients we wouldn't normally reach."

Economies of scale

Cal Barton, who owns Pro3D, a firm that specialises in 3D technology for use in television and films, said: "I work in the UK, United Arab Emirates and across Asia. Of all those places, London is the biggest place in terms of production.

"There is a lot of international interest too and to have a facility like this, in this part of London, is an attractive thing."

Wimbledon Studios is not the only example of a media cluster where companies benefit from locating close to each other.

In the film and television industry Pinewood Shepperton, Ealing, and soon MediaCityUK in Salford, offer economies of scale.

Dr Ben Reid, from The Work Foundation, a not-for-profit body specialising in working life, suggests media companies should work together to save costs.

"They have opportunities to network, opportunities to talent share, to share resources a lot of back office costs like finance and HR."

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