Plans for a Birmingham film studio could be confirmed within weeks, with films being produced by 2021, according to the creator of Peaky Blinders. Steven Knight has been the driving force behind a scheme to create a studio with six sound stages in the region that would take advantage of the attractiveness of the UK to international television and film companies. He has been working on the idea, called Mercian, for three years and now believes a deal is “imminent”. He said: “I hope within a month we will be able to make an announcement that it is across the line and we are going to start films within two or two-and-a-half years.”
A site near Birmingham Airport – “a wheeled-suitcase walk from the international airport” – has been identified where six sound stages would be created that would cater for everyone from Hollywood studios to independent film companies. He has ambitions for the development to create a “halo” effect that would create a destination.
Knight said: “I want to make a neighbourhood that is attached to the studio that includes residential, bars and restaurants – all of those things that would become a destination for people to come who would want to be in an environment either because they are working in this industry, or because they are interested in the industry, or because they want to go to the premiere of a film that was made there.”
Speaking at the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, Knight argued the UK is “entering a golden age in film and television production” and demand is much greater than the well-known London facilities can serve.
“Everyone wants to come to the UK because of the skills of the crew and actors, the infrastructure and also the 20% tax incentive that filmmakers 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, Leavesden, Ealing are fully booked. A consequence of that is a lot of the big cities across the country are frantically converting factories into studios. What I am proposing is that in Birmingham we do it properly.”
His plans are for purpose-built stages “so they are not factories with birds nesting in the roof” that would be attractive to those people responsible for big productions.