Studios Spotlight – OMA V Film Studios

Studios Spotlight – OMA V Film Studios
Visualisation of the completed OMA V Film Studios

The latest in our Studios Spotlight is OMA V, due to be fully open at the end of this month in Radlett, Hertfordshire. We speak to Location Collective MD Becky Butler about the new 100,000 sq ft, three-stage facility, the company’s studio portfolio and the plans for the future.

Can you fill us in a little about the background of OMA V?

As with all our studio facilities, OMA Vis a high-specification warehouse conversion, which has become something of a specialism for us. It is our third studio facility and the fifth site within our OMA Studio Group portfolio.

V appealed to us for conversion primarily because it is in the perfect geographical location. One of the first things we did when assessing the site was look at crew accessibility, and the site is within an hour’s drive time of 80% of London’s crew base. Being located in Radlett, Hertfordshire means that V is less than 15 minutes’ drive from both Leavesden and Sky Studios Elstree, and within minutes of the M25. It’s actually the first high specification film studio facility to be created in the St Albans area, which we are very excited about.

It’s also unusual for an industrial unit, in that there is a very low ratio of building footprint to external space. This means plenty of hard-standing on site for parking, unit basing and any additional ancillary purposes production might need space for.

Visualisation of the completed OMA V Film Studios

When will the new site OMA V be fully open and can you outline the main facilities?

We designed OMA V with the aim of creating a facility that would work well for a single high-end TV show or features film looking for a fully self-contained and controllable studio solution. Although I’m sure that, as at our currently operational film studios OMA One and OMA X, there will be times when the site is a hub of activity and home to more than one show simultaneously.

Highlights include:

  • A 5 acre site
  • 64,900 sq ft of sound stages (1 x 32,500 sq ft and 2 x 16,200 sq ft), soundproofed to NR25 standard
  • 16,800 sq ft of flexible support space
  • 18,800 sq ft of production space / offices
  • A 2.2MVA power upgrade, with the entire studio running on renewable energy
  • 170 dedicated parking bays
  • Dedicated unit base and technical vehicle parking pads
  • 500+ additional overspill parking bays within 2-6 mins walk (1-2 mins shuttle)
  • Stage specification includes installed grids, heating, cooling infrastructure, red light and bell, touch access, painters’ sinks, 10GB internet

What would you say is OMA V’s standout facility?

As is our aim with all facilities, I’m very proud that through the twists and turns of another conversion project (where you never quite know what an existing warehouse building is going to throw at you!) we’ve managed to make the right budgetary decisions to create another facility which has everything productions need, in a way that can be offered to production customers at a sustainably budget-friendly rate card.

I would say that, across the OMA Studio Group facilities, what makes us stand out beyond providing great facilities at budget-friendly rates is our Studio Management Team’s hands-on approach to customer service. The team, headed up by Colin Johnson, our Studio Operations Director, are a brilliant group of individuals covering stage management, facilities, ops and admin. I feel very lucky to have them as we consistently get great feedback about the ‘white glove’ service they provide to hiring customers.

Where and how did the OMA Studio Group start?

We launched our Studio business in 2019, at a time when there was a significant shortage of studio facilities in the UK to meet production demand.

In the years leading up to that point, we found we were continually receiving briefs into our Agency business asking for alternative set build or studio space. Whilst we managed to find homes for some (including Rogue One, Bohemian Rhapsody, Morbius and Rocketman) there were many build briefs we couldn’t fulfill. Unfortunately, some of these projects ultimately ended up basing outside of the UK.

Over the years, through the Agency business, we’ve developed expertise in helping ensure productions of all types and scale are able to find the filming locations and production space they need, and so it was in our DNA to try and come up with a solution which could help get high quality studio space into the market quickly (and help ensure that projects could find the space in the UK they needed). Converting existing warehouses (with the right bone structure to become film studios) was the best solution to get space into the market fast versus traditional ‘ground up’ facilities.

OMA Studio Group leadership team (L to R: James Hanford, Head of Acquisitions; Antony Iredale, Founder; Becky Butler, Managing Director; Colin Johnson, Studio Operations Director)

Converting existing buildings also means we can deliver value for money to hiring customers, as our construction costs are lower. We deliver our studios via our own construction company, enabling us to manage every decision around specification carefully to make sure we are delivering the facilities productions need, but that we are not providing unnecessary specification which inevitably has to be passed on in our rate cards.

We secured the lease on our first site, an industrial depot in Enfield, North London, in 2019 and set about converting it into our first studio, OMA One. OMA actually stands for One Mollison Avenue which is the postal address of OMA One. It was just a project name which stuck! We started construction at OMA One the day the UK went into lockdown for the very first time with Covid, so it was a nerve wracking few months.

We weren’t sure whether our construction team would need to stay at home due to Covid rules, whether we would still be able to get materials to site, or when production activity might be able to resume again. But we made it through a 6-month construction programme and were fortunate enough to secure a full-site takeover with one of the major streamers on the other side.

OMA One, the first Location Collective studio site featuring 87,500 sq ft of sound stages

With OMA One fully occupied, OMA X, (just 700m from One) followed 9 months later as our second conversion. OMA X (as the name suggests) is much larger in scale than OMA One; double the square footage and with 44 ft working height. It’s currently the largest film studio inside the M25. OMA X was an instant hit; production activity had already started at one end of the facility whilst we were finishing the construction programme at the other.

OMA X, the second Location Collective studio site featuring 154,500 sq ft of sound stages

How is the OMA Studio Group funded?

OMA Studio Group is an independent studio owner / operator. All our projects are self-funded.

Do you have a sustainability strategy?

For us, sustainability begins with our approach to studio development. New buildings account for 49% of embodied carbon globally. OMA Studio Group was established on a strategy of refurbishing existing buildings near the end of their economic lives into high specification studio facilities, refreshing the economic life cycle of those buildings whilst meeting the need for studio facilities that might otherwise be served by more carbon heavy purpose-built space.

Alongside this, we take a data led approach to identify where we can make the most meaningful differences to our environmental impact.

Our sites run entirely from grid power which is supplied from 100% green sources, and we have policies in place to prevent generator use.

Waste is managed to ensure 0% gets sent to landfill, including partnering with local suppliers and local wood recycling schemes to ensure materials are reused and repurposed locally for good causes.

We know there is a lot more we could and should be doing; our Studio Management Team are actively working on this at the moment with guidance from sustainability consultants. We’ve recently received Albert Plus Accreditation, and are working on recommendations from that process as to where we can further improve our practices.

Tell us about the other facilities in your UK portfolio

Altogether the OMA Studio Group includes 480,000 sq ft of production facilities across 3 studio sites and 2 ancillary sites.

The breakdown of space at each is listed below.

We have been lucky enough to host a wide range of shows; 31 to date since we opened OMA One in 2020.  A full list of released credits is available on the OMA Studio Group website. Highlights include Slow Horses, Silo, Invasion, The Essex Serpent, Bad Sisters, The Son and Trying.

Studio Sites:

OMA One (Enfield, London): 4 fully soundproofed stages totaling 87,500 sqft / 19,000 sq ft ancillary space / 12,500 sq ft production offices.

OMA X (Enfield, London): 6 fully soundproofed stages totaling 154,500 sqft / 31,500 sq ft ancillary space / 27,000 sq ft production offices.

Stage A at OMA X Film Studios, 39,170 sq ft, 44.5 ft working height

OMA V (Radlett, Hertfordshire): 3 fully soundproofed stages totaling 64,900 sq ft, 16,800 sq ft ancillary space and 18,800 sq ft production offices.

Ancillary Sites:

OMA House (Enfield, London): a 22,800 sq ft office block which breaks down into 3, fully-self contained 2 storey blocks of 7,600 sq ft. The ground floor of each block has roll-in / roll-out access and so is also suitable for other production support purposes such as costume.

OMA Store (Enfield, London): a 13,800 sq ft warehouse space popular as a prop store.

What’s next?

For the foreseeable future, our number one priority is ensuring that OMA V launches successfully and gets great reviews from its first hiring productions, as well as continuing to enhance our offering, service and sustainability at OMA One and OMA X.

We are currently involved in a couple of projects looking to deliver new production space into London. We also have our ears close to the ground to understand how productions’ filming location and production space requirements might have changed post-strikes.

Our Agency business is built on sourcing and securing space as the production landscape shifts, so this might be via relationships with owners who would like to make their property available for production use, or via further Location Collective owned sites in the future. We don’t seem to stand still for long before finding something else to get our teeth into!

With many thanks to Becky Butler, managing director, Location Collective. For more on OMA Studio Group, click here.

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