Mas­sive film stu­dios plan for city just weeks from ‘cross­ing line’ Peaky Blin­ders writer re­veals ex­cit­ing vi­sion is near re­al­ity

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Tom Dare Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

STEVEN Knight, the Brum­mie be­hind Birm­ing­ham-based TV hit Peaky Blin­ders, has re­vealed plans for a new film stu­dio near Birm­ing­ham Air­port will ‘cross the line’ within a month.

Knight has been pro­mot­ing the idea of a state-of-the-art film stu­dio in the city for years, re­cently talk­ing about how it could com­ple­ment the ‘cre­ative revo­lu­tion’ he feels is sweep­ing the re­gion.

This week he re­vealed that his plans for a ma­jor new stu­dio com­plex, called Mer­cian, were very real, with a vi­sion for six pur­pose-built sound stages and post-pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

Speak­ing at Wed­nes­day’s an­nual GBSLEP Con­fer­ence, the award-win­ning writer and direc­tor an­nounced that he hopes to have the pro­ject up and run­ning within the next month.

“We’re en­ter­ing a golden age in film and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one wants to come to the UK be­cause of the skills of the crew, the ac­tors, the in­fra­struc­ture, and also be­cause of the 20 per cent tax in­cen­tive that film-mak­ers get when they come to the UK.

“As a re­sult of this all of the big block­busters are com­ing here, and, as a re­sult of that, Pinewood, Shep­per­ton, Eal­ing, they’re all fully booked.

“The con­se­quence of that has been a lot of the big cities across the coun­try fran­ti­cally build­ing fac­to­ries and ware­houses to make them into stu­dios. What I’m propos­ing here is that in Birm­ing­ham, we do it prop­erly.

“What I want to do is take ad­van­tage of what Birm­ing­ham is and how it func­tions.”

Talk­ing of his plans for the six new sound stages, he said: “They’ll also be at­trac­tive to peo­ple that want to make TV, and I want to make them at­trac­tive to peo­ple mak­ing in­de­pen­dent films and small films.

“And I also want there to be a halo around that stu­dio where peo­ple will be at­tracted to that en­vi­ron­ment for post pro­duc­tion, for an­i­ma­tion, and also for build­ing sets, and all of the in­dus­tries that go with build­ing a film.”

Knight also re­vealed plans for a neigh­bour­hood at­tached to the stu­dio, that will in­clude homes, bars, and restau­rants.

He added: “I’ve had this idea for a while and it’s a dream. It could re­main a dream if you don’t in­volve the right peo­ple, and I think the right peo­ple have been in­volved over the last two and a half years.

“We’re get­ting to­wards a sit­u­a­tion where we can now be­gin to of­fer the en­vi­ron­ment to Hol­ly­wood stu­dios with a fran­chise two years away from pro­duc­tion, where we can go to them and say ‘what do you want us to build?’

“I just want to let peo­ple know that we are im­mi­nently go­ing to be do­ing this thing, and that the more col­lab­o­ra­tion and the more com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and with the peo­ple who live and work here, the bet­ter.

“And I hope within a month that we will be able to make the an­nounce­ment that things have crossed the line and that we’re go­ing to be able to start mak­ing films in two to two-and-a-half years. So, wish us luck.”

Knight also em­pha­sised the need to cre­ate an area that would be both well con­nected and a de­sir­able des­ti­na­tion for some of the big­gest film ex­ec­u­tives and stars in the world.

“The stu­dio will be a wheeled suit­case walk from the in­ter­na­tional air­port,” he said.

“It’s near to the train sta­tion and of course, soon, will be very near to HS2, which will mean it’ll be 40 min­utes away from Lon­don. It’s got ev­ery­thing go­ing for it, and for the first time in the past six months I ac­tu­ally be­lieve that it is achiev­able.”

> Steven Knight, writer and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of hit BBC drama left

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