Studios Spotlight – Behind the scenes at Pinewood Studios
As the latest in our series of Studios Spotlights, we talk to Pinewood Group CEO David Conway about the iconic site, including the plans for its future, the importance of inward investment projects and its sustainability strategy.
Pinewood’s heritage is well-known throughout the world; can you talk about its history and some of its iconic associations?
Pinewood Studios first opened its gates in September 1936, with sister studio Shepperton opening five years earlier in the winter of 1931. The Pinewood site has been home to 31 Carry On films, 23 of the 25 James Bond films including the first, Dr No, which was released in 1962 and the most recent, No Time To Die.
There are numerous roads, stages and buildings with names connected to the films that have been shot at Pinewood [eg the Sean Connery stage]. In addition, Pinewood has been the UK home to the Marvel franchise for the last 15 years, LucasFilm (including the Star Wars productions) for the last decade and Disney live-action since 2019.
The Sean Connery Stage and Entrance Feature
Recent [entertainment] productions recorded at our TV Studios at Pinewood include Taskmaster, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and Would I Lie To You?
Shepperton Studios was acquired by Pinewood Group in 2001 and has been home to many blockbuster films, and a favourite filming location for Ridley and Tony Scott (who also owned the studios prior to the acquisition by Pinewood Group) as well as Working Title.
Credits include Alien, Love Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and more recently Luther: The Fallen Sun as well as Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical.
CGI Aerial View of Shepperton Studios
Can you tell us about some of the recent productions you have hosted?
Recent releases shot at our UK studios include Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Little Mermaid, The Marvels and A Haunting in Venice. We operate cross-genre, from major blockbuster action movies which you might more commonly associate with being made in Hollywood and with budgets into the hundreds of millions, through to independent British films with budgets in the low tens of millions.
The recent independent film Saltburn was mixed by our post-production team.
The 2023 version of The Little Mermaid was shot on 11 stages at Pinewood Studios and included many beautiful sets including the marketplace set built on the site’s Paddock Tank. We were also delighted to welcome Jodi Benson (the actor who voiced Ariel in the 1989 animated version of the film) to shoot her cameo scene on the Paddock Tank. This was one of those special moments and a fabulous Easter Egg in the film!
Exterior Gardens and Main Admin Building Pinewood Studios
Have you noticed any changes in production activity in recent years?
The UK has been a huge beneficiary of the uptick in global content expenditure driven by the US streamers. This is due to factors such as the country’s fantastic crewing and production talent, its production facilities and the UK tax regime. This trend plays out in the clients we service across our Pinewood, Shepperton and Toronto sites including Netflix, Amazon and Disney.
Can you tell us about the current expansion plans?
Pinewood Group has followed a solid growth trajectory over recent years and will continue to look for client-focused opportunities for growth going forward, both within the UK and overseas. You will have seen our acquisition of Pinewood Toronto Studios in 2023 and planning permission was indeed granted for the expansion of the Pinewood site in 2023.
Currently the business is focussing on the expansion at Shepperton Studios which will become the second biggest in the world.
What would you say is your studio’s standout facility?
It is hard to pinpoint one thing as we aim to make the offering at our studios as broad and flexible as possible, from varying sizes and configurations of stage space, through to adaptable office and ancillary spaces such as workshops and backlots.
Pinewood Group has studios in Buckinghamshire and Surrey in the UK, as well as Toronto in Canada. Our facilities also include a large post-production department working at both Pinewood and Shepperton, with 17 audio theatres and numerous edit suites. In addition, the Pinewood site has 3 dedicated, fully- equipped, high-quality TV studios as well as the unique underwater stage and the huge 59,000 sq foot 007 stage.
The sustainability strategy
Operating sustainably makes sense on so many levels, and Pinewood Group is dedicated to contributing to a sustainable future for the screen-based industries in which we operate. For instance, the company is committed to leading the way in building and operating sustainable film and TV studios, as well as working with clients on how their production activity can be completed in a way which minimises any impact on the environment.
Aerial view Shepperton Studios
Continually striving to improve its overall environmental performance and minimise the negative impact on the surrounding environment, Pinewood is constantly striving to reduce CO2 emissions and employs a range of methods to enable production on site to be ecologically responsible.
Pinewood works with partners such as BAFTA, Film London and the BFI to make production activities sustainable, broaden environmental awareness and reduce waste, as well as assisting productions with achieving ALBERT certification.
I started as CEO for Pinewood Group in early November 2023 and have been getting to grips with a number of exciting projects we have going on around the company, as well as supporting the ramp-up of production activity following the 2023 strikes in the US.
The opening of the expanded Shepperton Studios, as previously mentioned, is a large undertaking and we are working closely with Netflix and Amazon on bringing these new production areas to life. Early feedback has been great, and 2024 promises to be a busy and vibrant year across our Shepperton, Toronto, and Pinewood sites, with some fantastic existing and new titles scheduled in.
X and Sean Connery Stage at Pinewood Studios
With many thanks to David Conway of Pinewood Group for his help in compiling this article.
All images via Pinewood Studios.
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