The Wetherby area is in with a chance of turning into the ‘Hollywood of the North’ as part of a major development by a successful Yorkshire entrepreneur and the region’s leading filmmaker.
The former RAF base at Church Fenton is be transformed into a major film industry production studio called The Yorkshire Studios in a collaboration between its new owners, Makin Enterprises, and Screen Yorkshire, the film production agency.
Supported by the £21m Yorkshire Content Fund, the project aims to use the land to put Yorkshire right at the forefront of the resurgence in the British film industry.
Screen Yorkshire plans to transform over 100,000 sq ft of aircraft hangar for film and TV use in a move which should help to put Yorkshire on an equal footing with other key UK production centres.
Last year Screen Yorkshire brought renowned British actor Jim Broadbent to the streets of Wetherby to film a car chase in Leeds for Get Santa, which was released last year.
But it’s not the only major production the company has been responsible for bringing to life with the use of Yorkshire locations.
It has also been involved in a high-profile range of location-based dramas for both the big and small screen, included Peaky Blinders, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the film of Dad’s Army, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and filmed on location in Bridlington.
Sally Joynson, chief executive of Screen Yorkshire, commented: ‘’The opening of ‘The Yorkshire Studios’ is a significant landmark for the UK film and TV industry.
“The Yorkshire Content Fund has enabled us to secure some incredible projects that have made great use of our existing portfolio of studio space.
“The lack of a larger-scale production facility, however, has prevented a number of major long-term film and TV productions from basing themselves here.
“These productions hold huge potential for sustaining the industry’s infrastructure and workforce.’
The Yorkshire Studios will utilise three hangar spaces: two at 36,000 sq feet x 40 ft height and one at 30,000 sq ft x 40ft height.
The new studio complex should tie in nicely with Makin Enterprises’ other new development at the former RAF base at Church Fenton.
Having bought the site from the MoD, managing director Chris Makin has renamed it Leeds East Airport and is launching a private aviation service called Makin Air.
The new airline should make life easier for the sort of star actors who may have to visit the new studios.
The new film studios also offers the promise of potential benefits for the local economy in the Wetherby area -from sourcing the location, setting up the production, and actually arriving on set, complete with retinue of actors, directors and the cast of thousands which supports any film, whether it’s for cinema release or television.
Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “The significant new studio space at Church Fenton is incredibly welcome news, and I congratulate Screen Yorkshire in their work in helping make it happen.
“It represents a real boost the UK’s existing production infrastructure and will also be an added incentive for domestic and international productions to shoot in the area, and enable them to access the Yorkshire Content Fund.”