British Film Commission High-end Television Fam trip showcases the best of the UK

Last week the British Film Commission welcomed key senior decision-makers from the North American television industry, offering them an intensive and carefully-curated tour of the UK’s locations, facilities, studios and crews. It is part of the BFC’s ongoing mission to boost business and cement the country’s status as a world-class production hub.  The week-long Familiarisation “Fam” Trip saw the execs travelling the length and breadth of the UK. It was the first Fam to visit all UK regions and nations, thanks to a successful partnership with Creative England, Creative Scotland, Film London, Northern Ireland Screen and Wales Screen.

Fam guests included representatives from FremantleMedia North America, Pivot, eOne Television, Skydance Television and Universal Television.

The trip began in Wales, where guests visited one of the country’s 400+ castles, the dramatic medieval Cardiff Castle, meeting members of Wales’ high-end television production industry. Visits followed to Swansea’s Bay Studios, home of  Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz/BBC Worldwide) and the recently opened Pinewood Studio Wales, just outside of capital city Cardiff, where Kurt Suttor’s latest TV drama, The Bastard Executioner (Imagine/FX), is based.

Having taken in the Tudor splendour of Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire and meeting crew and representatives from facilities across the English regions, the Execs then travelled to The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, a former factory now hugely popular with the international television production community which recently hosted Galavant (ABC) and Wolf Hall (Playground Entertainment/Company Pictures). The studio tour continued after a short trip up the M4 with visits to Elstree Studios and Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in Hertfordshire.

The Fam trip continued into the capital with an opportunity to view London’s breath-taking architecture from the River Thames, followed by a visit to the famous Ealing Studios, home to global phenomenon Downton Abbey (Carnival Film & Television) and London’s most picturesque studio, 3 Mills Studios, home to E! Entertainment’s first scripted drama The Royals, which has been recommissioned for a second series, and ITV’s gothic drama, Jekyll and Hyde. To showcase London’s industry-leading visual effects facilities, the BFC organised a series of presentations from VFX houses specialising in high-end television, highlighting the talent and services available in the UK.

Courtesy of Elstree Studios

The Fam guests experienced Northern Ireland’s diverse locations from the air with a helicopter ride, showing aerial views of the dramatic north coast. Belfast’s Titanic Studios, production base for Game of Thrones (HBO), provided an opportunity to demonstrate the country’s enormous stage capacity and exceptional craftsmanship of local crews. Meetings with local and international producers experienced in producing high-end television in Northern Ireland completed the picture.

Scotland provided the final stop on the trip, where the first visit was to the impressively converted factory in Cumbernauld, Wardpark Studios, now home to Sony Pictures Television/Starz’ hugely successful series Outlander. The Fam guests were then treated to an aerial view of some of Scotland’s diverse locations, including the fairytale setting of Inveraray castle, historic Edinburgh and urban Glasgow, a city well known for its ability to double for the US.  The week closed with a reception in Glasgow attended by Scottish crew and talent.

As well as the versatile locations and wealth of facilities, purpose-built studios and alternative stage spaces that have provided the perfect base for high-end TV productions, the week-long trip also included a number of opportunities for the execs to network with the best of the UK’s world-famous television industry from potential co-producers to line producers and accountants, HoDs, below-the-line agents and post production supervisors as well as representatives from UK-wide facilities, locations and hotels – in fact from every area of the UK’s extensive and impressive production support infrastructure.

The trip left a positive impression on its guests, with Susan Dale Ross, SVP Production for Universal Television, commenting: “It was the trip and experience of a lifetime. I have a whole new understanding of production in the UK”, while Debra Bergman, SVP Scripted Production for Fremantle Media North America, said: “The Fam Trip provided invaluable insights into UK film and television production, showcasing their infrastructure, talented crew base, locations and regional subsidies.”

And the UK’s appeal to international producers looks set to increase even further, with the High-end Television Tax Relief minimum UK expenditure requirement lowered from 25% to 10%, along with a plan to modernise the cultural test to bring it in line with feature film.

BFC Fam Trips, in particular ones that visit four nations in a week, are a logistical feat akin to setting up a major production. But with the talent, crew, facilities, studios and locations available nationwide, and production support provided by the British Film Commission and its partners in the regions and nations, there’s no better place to host one than the UK.