Representatives from the major film and TV studios across the county - Elstree Studios, Hudson Pacific (Sunset Studios), Sky Studios and Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden - came together with Creative England, Elstree Screen Arts and production company Gravity Media for the Film and TV Industry Panel’s inaugural meeting at The Grove Hotel in Chandler's Cross, Watford, on 5 July.
Convened by Hertfordshire LEP, the Panel was set up to generate further opportunities for the county for the burgeoning film/TV sector. Panellists heard that Hertfordshire is already at the vanguard of accelerated national and global investment with Hollywood’s Sunset Studios’ new £700m base locating in Broxbourne; Sky Studios Elstree expected to generate an additional £3 billion of production investment over the first five years of operation and Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden opening three new sound stages providing 83,000 sq. ft. of additional production space.
Chaired by Hertfordshire LEP Board Member David Conway, Chief Financial and Operations Officer at ITN, the role of the Panel is to drive forward Hertfordshire LEP’s Film and TV Sector Action Plan. This has identified six key outcomes to be led by industry with a shared commitment across partners in Hertfordshire: the LEP, with Hertfordshire Growth Board, Hertfordshire County Council and the district/borough councils.
These outcomes include building a reliable supply of talent; creating novel business models to boost productivity; net zero outcomes; commercial property solutions for production; outstanding digital infrastructures; and promoting Hertfordshire as a film/TV location.
Neil Hayes, CEO, Hertfordshire LEP, set out the vision for the sector – for Hertfordshire to be home to a Film and TV Production ecosystem which is operating at even greater scale and to be recognized round the world for its excellence and creativity. Already the film and TV sector is at the vanguard of accelerated national and global investment and needs to capitalize on that. This will result in:
He said: "Up until now, funding for the film and TV sector in Herts has been rather ad hoc rather than a plan in place. We want Hertfordshire to be the centre of gravity in terms of skills, continued investment and productivity and this Panel will help to deliver it."
Research for the LEP’s Film and TV Production Sector Action Plan found that the pipeline of talent is falling behind the growth in demand. The freelance model of employment for the industry means there is little “organised training”, for example structured apprenticeships, intern and traineeships, while freelances are becoming overstretched.
Panellists agreed that there were two key and pressing issues facing the industry:
The Action Plan has identified a series of interventions that will help the sector to realise fully significant new investment in studio and stage space. These include creating a specific industry skills taskforce; exploring the feasibility of a production training facility at Leavesden Park; mentoring schemes; establishing an early dialogue with Screen Skills, British Film Industry and other national bodies; investigating the possibility of local versions of national interventions targeted specifically at freelancers, for example the Skills Investment Fund; supporting local initiatives led by West Herts College, University of Hertfordshire and Elstree Screen Skills to name a few; promoting the LEP’s careers gateway, Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal (HOP), to the major studios and encourage its use linking major studios with schools.
There is also an identified need for commercial space as studio footprints tend to be large and there is on-going pressure for residential uses in Hertfordshire. The Panel will develop a schedule of potential sites for use by the film and TV production sector and to encourage Foreign Direct Investment; actively encourage planning policy statements to recognise the strategic importance and potential of sector; use the development process to help advance the wider Action Plan for film and TV production.
Following COVID-19, inward-investment from streamers such as Netflix and Amazon have pushed growth in the industry, projected to be 7.5% between 2020 and 2025. The importance of a strong, united film/TV sector was emphasised for Hertfordshire to fully tap into this opportunity.
David Conway, said: “US streamers want scale so we need to be collaborative if we don’t want to see a series of micro-initiatives that will have limited impact on the industry. This is why we have convened the Panel; to bring the industry together, overcome challenges and embrace the opportunities to position Hertfordshire as a global leader in film and TV.”
Going forward, the Panel will oversee the development of the Film and TV sector in Hertfordshire, progress the delivery of the Action Plan and commission more detailed ‘enquiries’ into progress with the action plan – and the learning from it.
The Panel will next meet in October when Hertfordshire LEP will provide progress on the delivery of Action Plan.
Up until now, funding for the film and TV sector in Herts has been rather ad hoc rather than a plan in place. We want Hertfordshire to be the centre of gravity in terms of skills, continued investment and productivity and this Panel will help to deliver it.