We take a look at how this thriving studio space in Bristol has risen from a forgotten factory site in just four years.
If you’d have driven along Whitchurch Lane in South Bristol just four years ago, you’d have seen a vast industrial site full of disused warehouses – a far cry from its past as a bustling winery and bottling plant, where it once accommodated the full production line for 3 million litres of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry per year.
Fast forward to today, and the site is bustling once more, but this time with a different kind of activity. On it now stands The Bottle Yard Studios, a busy creative hub for film and TV production, the largest production space in the West of England with 300,000 sq.ft. on offer.
The last 12 months have seen a major rise in TV dramas opting to base their shoots at the Studos, most recently UK titles Wolf Hall (BBC), Poldark (BBC), New Worlds (C4) and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (ITV) and The Mimic (C4) to name a few.
And last month it was confirmed that The Bottle Yard Studios had secured perhaps their biggest booking to date; the major US network series Galavant, a ‘musical comedy fairytale of epic proportions’, made by Disney’s ABC Studios.
So how has this new Studio complex developed into a competitive facility attracting global interest in just four short years?
“I think there are a number of reasons,” says Managing Director Fiona Francombe. “We quickly realised that the blank canvases of our cavernous warehouses are often exactly what producers are looking for; spaces that can be adapted to each individual set of needs. So we were up and running pretty much as soon as we opened.
“From that point on, every new production that came through our doors helped us grow a little more. From the outset we made sure our production offices were of the highest standard, as they are always the nerve centre of any complex shoot.
“Gradually we built a complete Production Village with dressing rooms, make up and costume areas, and installed our 90m green screen, the largest in England outside of London.
“We’ve seen a real trend of resourcefulness on the part of production teams, who often leave behind equipment they no longer need, to pass onto incoming productions to use in new ways. We’ve set up a scenery store for productions to use at no cost, to ensure things don’t get sent needlessly to landfill.”
“Of course our location is key; we’re only 15 mins from Bristol centre so we have great UK links, and the airport is so close that international links aren’t a problem. But ultimately I think the amount of space we have is the biggest pull, and also the fact that we have ceiling heights of up to 20 metres, offering great elevation.”
The volume of space certainly seems to have attracted some major contracts. Endemol’s Deal or No Deal relocated to The Bottle Yard last year, with BBC Studios and Post Production building their 3000 sq. ft. fully functioning studio and post production facility.
Roughcut TV built a full supermarket set on site to accommodate Sky1 HD’s sitcom Trollied, now filming its fourth series. And with ten onsite business tenants, the site certainly seems to have established itself as something of an ‘industry hub’.
“Creating a new centre for production was definitely our main goal when we started out in 2010 as a partnership initiative with the City Council.
“Bristol had seen somewhat of an exodus of its longest running productions to Wales, like Casualty and Being Human. To combat those losses, we wanted to attract new productions, to reinvigorate the regional industry and make sure local companies and crew could work closer to home.
So with more and more drama being made in the UK, are we likely to see this upward trend continue at the Studios?
“I hope so. The new TV tax credit is boosting the number of UK and US productions and if the London studios are full then ultimately producers are going to look elsewhere. We’ve shown that alternative spaces like ours are more than capable of accommodating major shoots, and I think producers are waking up to the opportunities available to them outside the M25.”
To find out more about The Bottle Yard Studios, visit www.thebottleyard.com.