Forget Hollywood – London is the place to be.
For years, big-budget filmmaking has mainly been a Hollywood business. Even Miley Cyrus hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan. But this could all change with the £300 million film and TV studio set to be built in Dagenham, in east London – with the site being worked on over the next three years and some productions to start mid-2022. It’s set to consist of 12 sound stages, making it two-thirds the size of Pinewood.
Dagenham might not be known for its LA sun, or celebrities on every street corner. In fact, as Darren Rodwell mentioned (leader of Barking and Dagenham council), it actually used to be known for factories and Ford cars. But with the council’s estimate that Dagenham Studios will create 1,200 jobs and contribute £35million a year to east London’s economy, Rodwell believes that, in the future, it’ll be just as famous for films.
This isn’t to say the studio hasn’t already had its fair share of trouble however, since previous investors pulled out over the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Thankfully, the uncertainty of Brexit and coronavirus hasn’t put US property developer Hackman Capital Partners off the project. They already own studios renowned for having filmed Gone with the Wind and The Sopranos, so fingers crossed they can bring some more of that movie and TV magic over to the UK.
Dagenham seems to be the unsuspected light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel for film and TV production this year. What with films being pushed back again and again (*glances to a certain James Bond*), cinemas closing, re-opening… and closing – it’s been hard for any production to know whether it’s worth the risk of welcoming cast and crew back on set. Even with so many Covid safety measures in place, we’ve still seen reports of many a film having to stop production due to an outbreak.
Rodwell emphasises just what this film studio will mean to the community: “it’s about bringing in thousands of jobs, providing education and training opportunities for local young people, and giving people hope in these gloomy Covid times.”
And it’s a necessary hope indeed. But I just wonder how many years it will be before we get a Dagenham studio theme park…
Words by Harriet Metcalfe
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