Elstree Studios: “The creative arts are very important to our economy”

Elstree Studios: “The creative arts are very important to our economy”

For some time, the British film and TV industry has been justifiably proud of its crew and facilities, and London is currently buzzing with inward investment largely derived from American sources.

Here we talk to the managing director of Elstree Studios in order to get an overview of the state of the industry through the eyes of a studio head.


The studio

Elstree Studios’ ambitions are, as Roger Morris puts it, “to have a mixture. We don’t just look at the film industry, we look at film and TV, and have a business model that’s resilient.” He  describes the facility as “probably the most popular studio for audience  “with more than four thousand audience members welcomed on any given day.

“We’re doing Strictly at the moment, The Voice, it’s ideal,” continues Morris. “They sit on a stage for months. It’s a lovely experience.” Beyond that, markets that Morris describes as “emerging” are key. “We have a thing called The Crown,” he says, choosing words which carefully understate the value of the production. “It’s the biggest drama production ever done in the UK. It’s a £100m Netflix production.”



Positive as all this is, Morris remains cautious. “The inward investment is American. There’s no European film money coming in – it’s the big studios from California, and California is making a bite back. It’s trying to up its own tax incentives. New Mexico, too, and in the south.


The Americans are trying to fight back and keep some of their own work… then you’ve got the currency – if the dollar-pound relationship changes, it doesn’t make sense.” With this in mind, he says, the solution is that “We should be establishing a production industry. We have the most amazingly talented people but we’re a service industry.”


Are we missing a trick?

Morris is wary of relying exclusively on a source of revenue that’s  dependent on tax breaks. “It’s all very well to think about government subsidy bringing in loads of work,” he says. You have to remember that 35 stages have disappeared in the last couple of years. Bray and Teddington are gone… you’ve got a situation where studio property in central London… makes more money from housing.

“I keep reading in the press how HM Treasury is continually hitting people who are investing in films, they keep saying their tax schemes are illegal to invest in the films. But hang on, aren’t we shooting ourselves in the foot here? We probably generate more revenue from the films being made here… we should have more incentives to make films in the UK from UK production companies… who cares as long as the revenue stays in the UK and doesn’t escape the UK and employs lots of industry and pays its taxes here?”


The importance of the UK creative sector

Ultimately, Morris is thinking of the future. “There’s loads of statistics that show that the creative arts are very important to our economy. One in six people in London are employed in the creative sector.”

As chairman of the Elstree University Technical College, w

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