Studios Spotlight – Behind the scenes of Pride Media Centre
The last Studios Spotlight of 2023 shines on Pride Media Centre in Gateshead, a “safe, welcoming space for businesses and organisations from the LGBT+ community and allies, to grow, develop and be creative”.
We chatted to Pride Media Centre’s CEO Peter Darrant about the history of the facility, the kind of productions it can accommodate and the current expansion project.
A chequered past
Stonehills Studio Complex was purpose-built in the early 1980s as ‘the’ place in the North East to make film and television. The studios cost £3million to build and at its busiest period boasted 100 creatives on site.
In its 40 years of trading, it has had an interesting and chequered history worthy of a Netflix series.
Under the direction of Stonehills, most car, kitchen and caravan adverts in the North East were filmed at the centre. And from the iconic Catherine Cookson series, that had its interiors shot in the studios, through to Robson and Jerome’s first pop videos.
The owners of Stonehills moved out and GOD TV moved in with broadcasts around the world including LIVE television and radio shows. GOD eventually relocated and the Adult channel moved in; we’ll delve no further…
Following the Adult channel’s departure, CBeebies moved in with hit shows including Tracey Beaker and Wolf Blood. When CBeebies left, the building was empty for four years and fell into ruin until Pride World Media took over the lease in October 2018, refurbishing the centre and reopening it in 2019.
The Pride Media Centre is established as a safe, welcoming space for businesses and organisations from the LGBT+ community and our allies, to grow, develop and be creative.
The Pride Media Centre now boasts three film studios including drive in spaces and green screen, two radio studios, a podcast suite, 30-seater screening room, meeting and break out spaces, kitchens and communal areas and office space. It’s currently the home to 20+ creatives including scriptwriters, film makers, voice-over artists and marketeers.
And did we mention we are dog-friendly?
No-two weeks are the same at the Pride Media Centre.
Recently in Studio 1 we had a week-long shoot with a restaurant set-build for a 12-month, multi-media advertising campaign; Studio 2 was home to a fast-food tv advert; Studio 3 streamed live football commentary to Fox Sport in LA and the Podcast Studios recorded six episodes of a new trans-awareness series.
The following week, Chatterbox took over Studio 1 for the hit tv series Charlotte in Sunderland; Studio 2 hosted an online conference streamed to Hong Kong and the US; Studio 3 broadcast interviews to South Africa and the Podcast Suite recorded four Christmas shows.
Budgets for productions range from the low thousands through to £100k+.
Any changes in recent years?
We’ve noticed the impact of COVID and the cost-of-living crisis means seasonality and forward -planning isn’t a priority anymore and hasn’t been for the past two years. We can start the month with several light bookings in calendar and end it having had a busy month.
We’ve also seen a change in production companies creating their own content for streaming rather than waiting for commissions.
What would you say is your studio’s standout offering?
Feedback from clients ranges for our spaces being flexible with easy access and favourable terms. We think it’s because we are lovely people to work with…
We are very lucky at the Pride Media Centre to be able to offer different spaces, including radio studios and offices, which gives us a range of opportunities to diversify and attract new revenue streams.
Our strategy for the next three years is to link capacity with availability by increasing bookings 20% year- on-year. We have the capacity to deliver this and the facilities. It’s now about working with partners to promote the centre and fill the calendar.
Future of production in the region
Under the new devolution proposals, seven local authorities in the North East have combined together to attract a range of investment opportunities including in the film, television and creative industry.
We’ve already seen a big investment by the BBC and North East Screen, the regional screen agency, is working tirelessly to attract productions to the region.
New studios are being built, companies are setting up offices and there is a positive buzz in the North East. The challenge will be changing rhetoric and goodwill into real deliverables however we are confident, and that’s half the battle.
A holiday would be nice.
But first we are introducing a fourth studio to our portfolio. Studio 4 will be an 1800sqft stills and photography studio with dressing room and production office. This should be completed in the spring of 2024.
We are also working with media partners to create our own content in the studios.
Did we mention a holiday would be nice?
With many thanks to Pride Media Centre's CEO Peter Darrant for taking part in this Q & A, and best wishes to the team for the future.
You can find more specific details on Pride Media Centre on p59 of World of Studios UK 2024, available to read online here.
All images via the studio team.
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